The Blues were dominant on the puck for pretty much the entire game. Puck possession in this series was heavily influenced by the score. Whatever team was losing pretty much began to win possession as they tried to even it up. That was evident in last night's game as well.
That being said, the Kings won despite some heavy pressure from the Blues. Let's take a look at how the Kings were able to do that.
- 1st line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams), Grade: C. After both coaches went away from the power vs power matchup strategy (a strategy where coaches match their best players against the other teams best players) over the last two games, Darryl Sutter went back to it for game 6. Anze Kopitar saw most of his time against David Backes. There is lots of speculation that Kopitar is playing at somewhat less than 100% and it definitely seemed like it last night. They were hemmed in their own zone for large stretches of the game for the second time in a row. It's strange to see that happening to this unit which has been one of the more dominant possession lines in the NHL over the last 6 years. For their part, even though they were stuck playing defense for most of the game, they managed to suppress quality chances. The Blues only had 3 decent scoring opportunities with them on ice. Offensively, Dustin Brown was the only real threat. He recorded 2 scoring chances. Kopitar was held without a shot and Justin Williams only managed 1.
- 2nd Line (King-Richards-Carter), Grade: B. Similar story for the 2nd line except they were a little sloppier in their defensive zone coverage. They also had even a tougher job than the Kopitar line. Whereas the Kopitar line benefited from some easier minutes when not matched to Backes, the Richards line spent pretty much all of their time against the top 6. In addition they started 11 of their shifts in the defensive end as opposed to only 4 in the attacking zone. So they were being used primarily in a defensive capacity. They managed to keep St. Louis off the score sheet but did give up 5 quality scoring opportunities. For their part, even with their heavy defensive role they managed more shots and scoring chances than any other Kings forward unit.
- 3rd Line (Penner-Stoll-Lewis), Grade: D. This line had been really solid of late but were peppered last night. They were matched against the Blues third line which was one of the more dangerous third lines of any team in the post-season. They accorded them a tremendous amount of zone time and scoring opportunities. Luckily for them, Hockey God decided to bless Dustin Penner with a fluky goal in the closing milliseconds of the 2nd period (although Penner deserves credit for absorbing a check right beforehand and staying on the puck in the neutral zone). Otherwise, a rough night.
- 4th Line (Nolan-Fraser-Toffoli), Grade: A. Jordan Nolan was a last minute addition to the lineup for the injured Kyle Clifford. Nolan had been having a rough series and had become a regular healthy scratch. He added some freshness to the lineup and seemed to have an added jump to his game. Overall, this line put up the most productive numbers for the Kings. They were played to a draw in puck possession but didn't allow the Blues any scoring chances while recording a couple themselves. They also were great in the neutral zone, with Toffoli and Fraser frequently gaining the zone aggressively. One such occurrence resulted in the first goal of the game. Fraser carried the puck in and made a well timed drop pass to Doughty, who had joined the rush; he potted the goal on a perfectly placed shot.
- Regehr-Doughty, Grade: D. Aside from Doughty's pretty goal, this pair was primarily used in shutdown role. Regehr only started 4 shifts in the offensive end as opposed to 11 in the defensive zone. They were also matched against St. Louis' top unit and had a hard time suppressing zone time and quality chances. Doughty had a really rough time moving the puck and had 5 defensive zone turnovers. And in general he had a harder time successfully exiting the zone, something he rarely struggles with. A lot of credit for this has to go to the Blues, as their strong forecheck found another level. Overall, Regehr-Doughty were out-chanced 0-4 (Doughty's goal was scored with Martinez as his partner) with a goal allowed.
- Muzzin/Scuderi-Voynov, Grade: D. They spent nearly the entire game in the defensive end in their matchup against the 2nd and 3rd lines. Slava Voynov was on ice for 1 chance for and 4 against as he faced heavy pressure from a Blues team desperate to tie the game and extend the series. In the face of a ramped up forecheck, he struggled to move the puck out and had more defensive zone turnovers in this game than any other in the series.
- Martinez-Scuderi, Grade B. When Alec Martinez was on ice, the Kings got more scoring chances than they did with any other player. Martinez-Scuderi were matched primarily against the 2nd line and had a lot of success against them. Again, Martinez allowed a lot of scoring chance relative to ice time but overall the team was able to out-chance the Blues 6-4 with him on ice.
- N/A. The game was played almost entirely at even strength. Neither team recorded a chance or scored a goal on the power play.
- Grade: A. Goaltending was the difference again. Jonathan Quick stopped 7 of 8 scoring chance shots and 21 of 22 overall. On the other hand, Brian Elliott only faced 16 shots and allowed 2 goals. Jonathan Quick took a lot of heat for his two flubs in games 1 and 2, but his performances these last two games are why the Kings are moving on instead of cleaning out their lockers. Quick's save percentage for the series was .944.
Overall Team Grade: C+.
- As Justin Williams stated after last night's game, the Kings won the series without being at their best. On the other hand, the Blues deserve a lot of credit for that. They were one of the strong puck possession teams heading into the playoffs. The Kings were one of the stronger possession teams over the last several years. The result was an evenly played series where all 6 games could have gone either way.
If you're unfamiliar with shot attempts and scoring chances, check out these links to see why they are important: Corsi -Scoring Chances.
Even Strength - Team Stats
PERIOD ATTEMPTS FOR ATTEMPTS AGAINST ATTEMPT +/- CHANCES FOR CHANCES AGAINST SCORING CHANCE +/-
Even Strength - Team Stats
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