Stanley Cup Final Preview: Part 3 - Line Matching (LA Kings)

May 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter looks on

In our last part of the preview we looked at how the Devils deploy their lines against their opponents. This may give us a glimpse as to what to expect on Wednesday night.

Now we'll turn our attention to the way the Kings have deployed their lines. We'll make a few brief observations, but won't attempt to make any predictions based on this. That is because by the time the series shifts to LA, matchups will probably be more affected by whatever happens in New Jersey rather than whatever the Kings have done thus far in the playoffs. This chart will mainly be most useful in conjunction with the upcoming possession part of our preview, along with using it as a reference when breaking down games in the Final to use as a point of comparison. Nevertheless, it does reveal a few unexpected trends in Darryl Sutter's line matching strategy.

Here is the chart:

Laplayoffheatmap_large

Observations

  • Darryl Sutter has used his top line pretty evenly against the top nine, while giving the tougher shutdown minutes to the Richards line. This pretty much corresponds to what the usage chart is telling us.
  • Who will Sutter use the Richards line against in their shutdown capacity? The Devils have two dangerous lines in Ponikarovsky-Henrique-Kovalchuk and Parise-Zajac-Zubrus.
  • The Stoll line is used to pitch in a lot against top six competition. Doing so frees up Sutter to use the Kopitar line to exploit easier matchups.
  • The real shocker here is how often Sutter uses his 4th line against the opposing top line. This shows just how deep the Kings are and one real advantage they've been able to exploit against their opponents. They can comfortably roll four lines which frees up space for their top line and also keeps the team full of fresh legs.
  • It'll be interesting to see if the Kings continue to use their depth lines in such a heavy capacity when the series shifts to LA.
  • In an upcoming part of this series we'll look specifically how teams possession numbers have looked in these home games. Was the Fraser line was able to sustain their excellent possession numbers even in games where Sutter had them routinely facing top flight players?
  • Drew Doughty is relied upon for shutdown minutes, but what is surprising is how similar Mitchell's usage is to Doughty's. They basically have two shutdown pairings and a bottom pair that is accorded the lion's share of soft minutes.
If anything jumps out at you from these charts that I might have missed, please feel free to comment.

For our next part of the Preview we'll take a closer look at possession results for each team in the playoffs.

Previous entries in the series: Part 1 (Bubbles!) and Part 2 (How has NJ approached matchups?).

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