The Kings played a great opening two periods last night and withstood a barrage of shots in the third to hold off the Sharks and take the opening game of the series.
As expected, the opener was not without drama as Jarret Stoll took a hit from Raffi Torres that caused him to miss the final period the game. It appears that Torres is likely facing a suspension, while the Kings may have lost their 3rd line centerman for an indefinite period of time.
This could be a big loss for both teams, but especially L.A. Stoll was at the center of some interesting in-game strategy used by the Kings coaching staff last night. We’ll take a look at that strategy and more below.
If you'd like to see some of the important stats behind last night’s game, I’ve collected them here.
- 1st line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams), Grade: B. The Kings top line was hard-matched against the Couture line and while they registered slightly more zone time against them, it was a very low event matchup with very few quality scoring chances being registered. Yet, one impressive fact was that they started 16 of their shifts in the defensive zone as compared to only 2 in the offensive zone. So it seems like they were being counted on to limit the offensive effectiveness of the Couture line—which they did. Another interesting thing to note, they spent most of their time against San Jose’s third pair of Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. This is a weak spot for the Sharks and it appears as if Darryl Sutter spotted it and was attempting to exploit an easy matchup. No real headway was made against them in this game, but it will be interesting to see if this trend continues into game 2. Overall, a solid game for this unit, but they still don’t look like the dominant force we’ve seen them be in the regular season.
- 2nd Line (King-Richards-Carter), Grade: A. Easily the Kings best line of the night, but it didn’t start off that way. In our series preview, we showed that Richards has struggled mightily against Joe Thornton over the last two seasons. In the early goings of the first period, this seemed to be holding true. Thornton was in fact dominant against everyone, registering large amounts of possession time overall. As the game, progressed, Sutter eased off from hard-matching Richards to Thornton in order to help generate more offense and diverted more of his third lines’ minutes in that direction. The results were great as the Richards line dominated the Sharks 3rd and ended up registering the most shots and scoring chances of any Kings forward unit—not to mention being on ice for both goals.
- 3rd Line (Penner-Stoll/Fraser-Lewis/Toffoli), Grade: C. The big story for this line was Raffi Torres’ hit on Jarret Stoll which knocked him out of the game. They played very well through the first 2 periods in a largely defensive role and played their matchups against the Thornton and Pavelski lines to a draw. They started the game matched against Pavelski but, as we mentioned above, they were switched over to the Thornton line. They had slightly more success them than the Richards line but once the unit lost Stoll, they began to bleed a lot more shots and scoring chances. It’s tough to say how much that had to do with score effects rather than just losing Stoll, but it’s definitely not a good sign. The loss of Stoll could be pretty significant for L.A., especially when considering they had just made an in-game adjustment to his deployment that worked vey well.
- 4th Line (Nolan-Fraser-Toffoli), Grade: C. They played a solid low event game mainly against the opposing 4th line. They spent 48% of their minutes against the Sharks 2nd pair of Dan Boyle and Matt Irwin, presumably because the Sharks wanted to try and generate offense. And while this resulted in some added zone time for San Jose, no scoring chances came of it.
- Regehr-Doughty, Grade: A. Robyn Regehr had an active game in the offensive zone as he registered 7 shot attempts. He also again limited his turnovers in the defensive zone and defaulted to allowing Drew Doughty to lead the breakout. Doughty again had an excellent game in this regard, having a copious amount of touches in the defensive zone without a turnover. Also, they drew very tough matchups and spent 80% of their time against the Sharks top 6 (51% against Thornton). Making the fact that they were +8 in shot attempt differential, when the score was close, all the more impressive.
- Scuderi-Voynov, Grade: B-. Slava Voynov had the game winning goal and an assist to go along with leading the team in ice time. So a big game for him in those respects. On the other hand, the pair finished the game with a huge gap in puck possession numbers and gave up the most scoring chances. So while Voynov deserves a lot of credit for his offensive contributions, their defensive zone coverage was spotty and Jonathan Quick deserves a lot of credit for keeping pucks out of the net when they were on ice. Most of the damage against them was done by the Thornton line (and especially in the third period with a 2 goal lead), but they were in fact more heavily matched against the Couture line. They did a good job at keeping Couture at bay in what was the primary assignment.
- Muzzin-Martinez, Grade B. A solid effort in limited minutes as Alec Martinez played the right side for what I believe is the first time in his NHL career. They spent 61% of their minutes against the Sharks 3rd line and finished +7 in shot attempts against them. Overall, they finished the game with both positive chance and possession numbers in a very sheltered role.
- Power Play, N/A. The Kings only had one power play for 2 minutes with no chances or shots. No grade due to limited minutes.
- Penalty Kill, B 4 shots and 3 scoring chances allowed in 6 minutes. The Sharks only really had one effective power play out of three, which was first one early in the game. After that the Kings penalty kill effectively shut down the Sharks man-advantage, allowing them only one shot on goal.
- Grade: A. Quick stopped all 11 scoring chance shots and finished with a shutout. Not much more needs to said about that. His stellar play continues.
Overall Team Grade: B.
- A strong opening game for the Kings where they outplayed the Sharks for the first two periods and beat back the swarm in the third to preserve the shutout. Even though the Kings deserved this victory there were a couple points of concern.
- The main one being that the Thornton line was nearly unstoppable. Thornton finished the game +18 in shot attempt differential to go along with 3 scoring chances for and none against. A lot of Thornton’s edge in those possession numbers were the result of playing from behind in the third, but even still those numbers go a little beyond score effects. The Kings had found a strategy that worked by putting the Stoll line on him, but now that Stoll may miss some time, L.A. will have to go back to the drawing board.
- Even though Slava Voynov was the hero, it was a bit concerning to see how much the Sharks peppered the Kings with shots with him and Scuderi on the ice. Even before the score affected third period, they were getting out-attempted 17 to 11. In our series preview, we noted that Voynov has had a hard time against the Sharks. We’ll see if he can turn some of those shot numbers around as the series progresses.
- There is a lot of to feel good about, though, in Kings-land. The brightest of which is the play of the Richards line who, like Voynov, had struggled in recent years against San Jose. In addition, rookie Tyler Toffoli had a strong game and Darryl Sutter even entrusted him with some late game minutes. I don’t think it can be understated how much this means with regard to how Sutter felt about Toffoli’s game. He usually reserves those minutes for players he trusts the most. Now, with Stoll possibly out, we will probably see Toffoli with an increased role in game 2. He played on the the right side of Penner-Lewis in that late shift. I think that is a great line and hope we see it for game 2 if Stoll is out.
- Another thing to feel good about is the fact that Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan are a defensive pair on the San Jose Sharks. They were awful last night. They started 11 of their shifts in the offensive zone to only 2 in the defensive end, yet still finished the game with negative possession numbers. And the fact that Sutter appears to be using his top line to go after them is a reason for Kings’ fans to rejoice.
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
|PERIOD||ATTEMPTS FOR||ATTEMPTS AGAINST||ATTEMPT +/-||CHANCES FOR||CHANCES AGAINST||SCORING CHANCE +/-|
For more game 1 numbers than you could shake a stick at: Click Here.