Kings vs Sharks Mid-Series Review

Thearon W. Henderson

Let's catch up on some of the underlying numbers for the Kings in the series thus far.

The Kings lead the series 2-1, and were close to taking a commanding 3-0 lead in game 3. That being said you would think that their underlying numbers for this series have been solid. Unfortunately for L.A., that hasn't been the case.

L.A. finished the regular season with the best possession numbers of any team since the Cup winning 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. There is a pretty strong correlation between hefty puck possession numbers and winning championships. In the first 3 games against the Sharks, the Kings haven't played like the team that posted those gaudy regular season numbers and have been out-played by the Sharks for long stretches. They've only owned 46.5% of all shot attempts at 5v5 in this series which is paltry when compared to their regular season pace of 56%. Some of this can be attributed to score effects. The Kings have had a slight edge in possession numbers in a small sample of minutes when the score has been tied. Yet, the rate at which they're getting out-shot when ahead is alarming and bucks their regular season trend of being strong on the puck no matter the score.

There is reason to be optimistic. The Kings lead the series in spite of playing far from their best hockey. They are capable of playing at a higher gear and if they can find it they should be able to earn the two victories they need to advance. Let's catch-up on the individual numbers and see if we can figure out what's been going right and what's been going wrong for L.A.


Even Strength - On-Ice Forward Stats

Player Goals For Goals Against Goals +/- Attempts For Attempts Against Attempt +/- Chances For Chances Against Chances +/-
M.RICHARDS 3 0 3 43 62 -19 8 12 -4
A.KOPITAR 0 0 0 51 60 -9 7 14 -7
J.WILLIAMS 0 1 -1 42 51 -9 1 11 -10
T.LEWIS 1 1 0 27 31 -4 5 4 1
D.BROWN 1 0 1 43 53 -10 4 12 -8
C.FRASER 0 1 -1 16 22 -6 2 4 -2
D.PENNER 1 1 0 35 24 11 7 2 5
J.STOLL 0 0 0 7 9 -2 1 1 0
J.NOLAN 0 0 0 9 11 -2 1 4 -3
T.TOFFOLI 1 0 1 29 22 7 5 4 1
D.KING 2 0 2 39 58 -19 6 11 -5
J.CARTER 3 0 3 49 64 -15 9 11 -2
B.RICHARDSON 0 1 -1 19 6 13 4 1 3
T.PEARSON 0 0 0 5 3 2 0 1 -1
  • Anze Kopitar has spent 75% of his minutes in this series matched against the Sharks top 6. He and his linemates have pretty evenly split those minutes between the Logan Couture and Joe Thornton lines. In our series preview, we noted that the Kopitar line had been dominant over the past two seasons against the Sharks. And that, coming off a mediocre series against the Blues, they'd need to regain their form against the Sharks. As the numbers above show, they haven't. They've been out-shot and heavily out-chanced.
  • A similar story for the second unit. They've gotten peppered by shots at even strength. Against Joe Thornton, they've only managed 2 shots on goal while allowing 18. Their numbers against Couture are much better (+9/-7). It might be a good idea for the Kings to keep Richards away from Thornton as much as they possibly can. For their part, the second line has been able to suppress scoring chances relative to the amount of zone time they've allowed. They've also recorded a lot of chances. So far they've been good at counter-punching and have been buoyed by the stellar work of Jonathan Quick between the pipes. Yet, this is not a sustainable strategy. They need to start moving the dial forward.
  • Given the difficult matchups among the top 6, we suspected the battle between third lines was going to be crucial. Jarret Stoll was lost to injury in Game 1 and so that seemed to put this matchup in peril. Trevor Lewis has mainly been accorded the third line center role in lieu of Stoll and he has thrived. In game 1, while winging Stoll, Lewis was a -8 in shot attempts. In the two games since, he has been a +8. A lot of credit for that has to go to rookie Tyler Toffoli. When Lewis and Toffoli have been on ice together the Kings have owned 65% of all shot attempts. Dustin Penner shouldn't go unnoticed either. He has the best underlying numbers among any Kings forward.


Even Strength - On-Ice Defenseman Stats

Player Goals For Goals Against Goals +/- Attempts For Attempts Against Attempt +/- Chances For Chances Against Chances +/-
J.MUZZIN 1 1 0 39 23 16 7 2 5
R.SCUDERI 3 1 2 47 76 -29 10 16 -6
D.DOUGHTY 0 0 0 60 58 2 7 15 -8
S.VOYNOV 3 1 2 48 80 -32 8 16 -8
A.MARTINEZ 0 2 -2 17 15 2 3 4 -1
R.REGEHR 0 0 0 52 60 -8 3 15 -12
K.ELLERBY 1 0 1 13 7 6 2 1 1
  • Drew Doughty has managed to stay above water in possession in spite of some very tough minutes. His main matchup has been Thornton and, just like against everyone else on the Kings, Thornton has won that matchup (+9 attempts vs. Doughty). Against the rest of the Sharks, Doughty's possession numbers are well in the black. The problem is that the Kings have had a hard time registering scoring chances with him on the ice. The same has been true of his partner, Robyn Regehr who has been out-chanced 15-3.
  • The main drags on the Kings possession numbers have been Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi. In 17:30 of ice time, the Kings have only attempted 9 shots while the Sharks have attempted 44 when Thornton has been on ice against Scuderi-Voynov. That's pretty much as bad as it gets in terms of possession numbers. Yet, they've only allowed 1 goal and have limited scoring chances relative to all of those attempts. Still, this is the biggest area of concern in this series right now for the Kings. The 2nd pair can't keep getting pounded like this and relying on Quick to bail them out.
  • Jake Muzzin has the best underlying numbers among defensemen and that is largely due to the fact that he has been playing sheltered minutes. He has been kept away from the Sharks top 6 and seeing a lot of his shifts start in the offensive zone. Still, even in those relatively soft minutes it is more than encouraging to observe that the Kings have only allowed 2 scoring chances when he's been on ice.

Conclusion

Most of the Kings underlying numbers are not so hot, namely those of their top 6 and their 2nd pair. Joe Thornton has wreaked havoc against LA, yet that hasn't translated into goals. A lot of credit for that has to go to Jonathan Quick who leads all goaltenders in save percentage at even strength in the playoffs. He has bailed the team out while it's played sub-par hockey (sub-par by its standards, anyway). If the Kings are unable to start playing better, it's unlikely that Quick will be able to sustain these stratospheric numbers and they could be in real danger of squandering the series. Yet, if L.A. rights their ship and takes the load off their goaltender's shoulders, then they should have no problem moving on to the next round.

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