The Kings played a two game set against the Coyotes and were lackluster in both but came away with a pair of wins. They were helped along by some poor goaltending from Mike Smith and an undisciplined Coyotes team that couldn't stay out of the box. Luckily, the power play and Kings goaltenders showed up to play. Still, L.A. can't continue to play this poorly at even strength and expect to come away with wins -- even if they are playing with the lead. That being said, we don't expect them to continue to play this poorly, they've been a dominant team at even strength and will probably continue to be.
For analysis of the first of this two game set against Phoenix: click here.
- 1st line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams), Grade: C. Their time was pretty evenly spread out against each line, with a little more going against the Doan-Vermette-Boedker line (L1). They allowed a lot of zone time to the first line and the Yandle pair (D2). In addition, they saw significant minutes against the 4th line, but weren't able to do much with it. Although they were generally out-played, they were the unit that generated the most offense. With Kopitar on the ice, the Kings recorded 1 goal, 8 shots and 6 scoring chances.
- 2nd Line (Toffoli-Richards-Carter), Grade: D. Usually this line gets pretty tough match-ups, but either because of some fading confidence or an attempt to exploit a soft match-up, they got easier minutes. They were against the Lombardi line (L3) which featured Raffi Torres. They potted a goal, but outside of that the ice was heavily tilted against them. To their credit, they didn't allow many quality chances and were only -1 in that area in spite of flailing in possession. So when they were in the attacking zone they were dangerous, they just weren't there enough. Toffoli took a bad holding penalty and sat half of the third. Will Nolan (or dare I say Richardson) be back in against Dallas?
- 3rd Line (King-Stoll-Lewis), Grade: D. Given the stopper role. They were matched against the Vermette and Hanzal lines. They also started 87% of their shifts in the defensive zone (as compared to the offensive zone). They gave up many quality opportunities relative to their ice time and generated no offense whatsoever. When up against Hanzal and Ekman-Larsson they basically looked like this.
- 4th Line (Clifford-Fraser-Penner), Grade: B. Another solid game from the 4th line in very limited minutes. It's not a coincidence that they've been playing better with Penner (1 goal, 3 shots) and without Nolan. Even so, Sutter doesn't feel that comfortable giving them crucial minutes as a unit. Fraser only saw 6 minutes of even strength ice time and Penner had a 60% o-zone percentage.
- Muzzin-Doughty, Grade: A. Like most Kings, they started the majority of their shifts in the defensive end. Doughty was unable to block a shot even though he faced 23 attempts. Muzzin only blocked 1. They were edged in possession while matched mainly against Doan-Vermette-Boedker. That being said they did well in the scoring chance battle. Muzzin lead all Kings with +2 in chances. He was also constantly being targeted by the Coyotes for a falsely perceived knee-on-knee hit against Doan. He was able to keep his cool in the face of this and stayed out of the penalty box. In addition, Doughty scored a goal and they were on ice for both and gave up none at 5v5.
- Scuderi-Voynov, Grade: F. Yikes. -14 in shot attempts, -7 in chances and a goal against. They should buy Jonathan Bernier Stanley Cup replica rings for all of his fingers after last night.
- Martinez-Ellerby, Grade D. They turned the puck over 4 times and were stuck in their zone for much of the game as well. Ellerby was a little more active than usual offensively. He gained the zone with possession twice and helped generate 3 shots on those. Also, he didn't take a penalty which is a big plus for him these days.
- Grade: A. 7 shots on goal, 5 chances and a goal in 7.5 minutes. Outside of goaltending, the power play was the saving grace for the Kings in this series against the Coyotes.
- Grade: A. They got a scoring chance while shorthanded and only allowed one chance against. So basically, they played better shorthanded than at even strength.
- Grade: A. Bernier saved 16 out of 18 scoring chance shots on goal. Overall, he stopped 40/42 shots for a .952 save percentage. He is 7th in the NHL in save percentage among goalies with at least 10 games played.
- Goaltending and special teams are what won this game for the Kings. Also, the Coyotes undisciplined play and a shaky Mike Smith helped a lot. Sound familiar? The Kings Anaheimed the Coyotes in both of these games. They played lackluster hockey yet still came out with wins.
- What was most interesting to me from this game was a neutral zone tactic employed by Dave Tippett. As we've shown throughout the year, the Kings have been a dominant possession team. They've done so by owning the neutral zone. They gain the offensive zone by any means necessary and as much as they possibly can. They deny entries with tight defensive gap control. Tippett, recognizing what a nightmare L.A. makes it for opposing teams to gain the zone, had the Coyotes shoot the puck on net from the neutral zone as much as possible. This forced either an offensive zone faceoff or Bernier to try and play the puck to a defensemen who then saw heavy pressure from the Coyotes forecheck. Either result was often good for them as most of the Kings defensemen had a hard time being decisive with the puck. Also, the Coyotes ran some very effective set plays on faceoffs which resulted in them getting an average of half a shot off on each draw. The league average is somewhere around .3.
- Total chances were 16-20 in Phoenix's favor. Phoenix out-gained the zone 51-43, and had 22 offensive zone faceoffs to the Kings' 7.
If you're unfamiliar with shot attempts and scoring chances, check out these links to see why they are important: Corsi - Scoring Chances.
Opposing Chart - Kings Lines - Phoenix Lines (note: I considered the Ekman-Larsson pair to be D1)
Even Strength - Forwards
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Even Strength - Defense
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Even Strength - Kings Team Totals
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