The opening period of last night’s game may have been the darkest of the season for the Kings. L.A. was dominated in every facet of the game and appeared to have no answer for Joe Thornton as they couldn’t even attempt a shot while he was on ice. Things did get a little better for the Kings as the game wore on and, for the first time in a while, seemed to find their game in the third.
One thing of note came from TSN’s broadcast from last night’s game. They interviewed Kings’ assistant Bill Ranford at the break and asked him what stats he found most disconcerting following the first period. His answer was Corsi. We’ve suspected for a while that the Kings look at shot-based metrics, but this is the first time we’ve encountered anything on record.
Let’s take a look at how those metrics played out for the rest of last night’s game.
- 1st line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams), Grade: F. They saw nearly all of their time against the top 6 and were slaughtered in the scoring chance battle. L.A. was out-chanced 0-7 when Anze Kopitar was on ice. As this line goes, so goes the fortune of the Kings. At this point, it is becoming more and more clear that there is something wrong with them beyond a slump. If undisclosed injuries are what’s hampering them, it might be a good idea to break them up. For their part, they were the only line that was able to stay above water against Thornton in the possession battle.
- 2nd Line (Penner/King-Richards-Carter), Grade: C+. Richards spent the vast majority of his minutes matched against Joe Thornton. They’ve been getting crushed in this match-up so far. Yet, last night they fared much better. Thornton only out-chanced them 3 to 2, while they also ended up even in zone time. Part of this has to do with the Sharks falling back into a “defense first” mentality while playing with the lead, but the Kings need to take their victories wherever they can get them. One truly encouraging sign was how much of a boost Dustin Penner provided to this line. When Penner got bumped up to the 2nd line, the Kings out-attempted the Sharks 12-3. Again part of this can be explained by score effects, as he was bumped up in the 3rd period, but encouraging nonetheless.
- 3rd Line (Penner/King-Lewis-Toffoli), Grade: B. They were primarily matched against the Sharks 3rd line of Sheppard-Gomez-Wingels. Over the last 2 games, they had been coming out ahead in this matchup. Last night, they weren’t able to get much going as they had a hard time generating sustained pressure in the offensive zone. They were solid defensively, having given up nearly no quality chances. They were also the only line to finish ahead in the scoring chance battle.
- 4th Line (Clifford-Fraser-Richardson), Grade: C. Colin Fraser took two bad penalties, otherwise this line would have received higher marks. They were matched against the opposing 4th line and were they only unit that was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone over the first two periods. This didn’t result in any scoring chances as there is limited offensive talent on this line. If they can play like this and stay out of the box then they’ll be doing all that could be asked of them.
- Regehr/Muzzin/Scuderi-Doughty, Grade: B-. Every left-sided defenseman saw time on this pair as Sutter is trying to find something that works. Overall, Doughty was hard-matched against Joe Thornton and was able to stay ahead in possession. But as his been a problem all series, the Kings have a had a hard time generating chances even when the do log a lot of zone time. Among all of Doughty’s 3 defensive partners what worked the best? When Doughty was on the ice with Jake Muzzin, the Kings had 11 attempts for, 3 against. Doughty with Scuderi: +1/-6. Doughty with Regehr: (+6/-6). So the Kings logged by far the most amount of Zone time with Muzzin-Doughty as their first pair. Will we see more of that in game 5?
- Scuderi/Muzzin/Regehr-Voynov, Grade: C. Same story with Slava Voynov. All left-defensemen were rotated on this pairing. Overall, Voynov saw most of his minutes against the top 6 and struggled against them. How did Voynov fare with his various partners? When Voynov was paired with Muzzin: Kings had 10 attempts for and 2 against. Muzzin with Regehr: +2/-9. Muzzin with Scuderi: +6/-7. So it looks like there’s trend here. Jake Muzzin provided a boost to the Kings top 2 defensemen. Very little has worked for the Kings on the backend thus far in this series. Given Muzzin’s performance in game 4, it seems like he should be accorded a bigger role in game 5.
- Scuderi/Muzzin-Greene, Grade C. Matt Greene was a mixed bag in his first playoff game. He saw most of his time against the Gomez line and didn’t allow them a chance and came out slightly ahead in zone time. He also did the best job among all other d-pair against Joe Thornton, but that came in limited time. In limited time against Couture, he got peppered and allowed 3 scoring chances.
- Power Play, A. On the power play for 5:32 and managed 1 goal on 2 shots and 4 scoring chances. The power play was the only reason the Kings were in this one at all.
- Penalty Kill, C They were on the Kill for a whopping 6:41. They allowed a goal, 5 shots and 2 scoring chances. Taking a lot of bad penalties has plagued them in this series and is likely a result of being stuck in the defensive end for long stretches.
- Grade: B+. Jonathan Quick stopped 11 of 13 scoring chance shots. Also a .913 save percentage overall. Another quality start.
Overall Team Grade: D.
- Right now, the primary concern for the Kings has to be the play of their first line. Remember that tired adage of “your players needing to be your best players”? Well, it’s often an overused and non-insightful cliche, but in this case it is apt. The Kings’ best are far from being at their best and the team is really struggling. They could easily be down 3-1 in this series. It’s likely that game 5 will feature some pretty big adjustments to the line combinations in an effort to jumpstart the offense.
- On the bright side, the Kings played their strongest period in a while in the 3rd period. Some of that obviously had to do with playing from behind, but it is encouraging nonetheless. Take game 1 for instance. The Kings out-played the Sharks for 2 periods and then down 2 goals in the 3rd the Sharks really took it to L.A. They’ve pretty much carried play ever since. Maybe the 3rd period is something the team can build on heading into game 5.
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 - On-Ice Player Stats
|NAME||ATTEMPTS FOR||ATTEMPTS AGAINST||ATTEMPT +/-||CHANCES FOR||CHANCES AGAINST||CHANCE +/-|
|MATT GREENE (A)||11||11||+0||1||4||-3|
|ANZE KOPITAR (A)||17||18||-1||0||7||-7|
|DUSTIN BROWN (C)||12||15||-3||0||6||-6|
Even Strength - Team Stats
|PERIOD||ATTEMPTS FOR||ATTEMPTS AGAINST||ATTEMPT +/-||CHANCES FOR||CHANCES AGAINST||SCORING CHANCE +/-|
|Total||47||44||3||5 (10)*||12 (15)||-7 (-5)|
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