The Kings played their strongest game of the series and brought home a win. Darryl Sutter decided to dress 7 defensemen and rotate right wingers on the 4th line. This was an unexpected move that had very positive effects.
Jonathan Quick played an error free game and probably put up his strongest performance of the year, but how did everybody else fare?
- 1st line (Brown-Kopitar-Williams), Grade: C. Anze Kopitar's job description has stayed consistent as the scene has shifted back to home ice. His line was again matched heavily to the Backes line and the top pair. We have yet to see this line dominate at the level they have in the past. But it's not for want of trying, at least not on Justin Williams' part. He's been incredible in the neutral zone this entire series and last night may have been his best effort in that regard. So far through the 3 games, he has gained the zone with possession of the puck at an incredible 82% rate. In a series that is being played so tight and physical, that number is staggering. Still, in spite of Williams' effort they were played to a draw last night. As a unit they were only able to generate a single scoring chance and were played evenly in the possession game.
- 2nd Line (King-Richards-Carter), Grade: A. Arguably the Kings best line in game 2 and unarguably the best in game 3. They weren't matched against any line in particular but did most of their damage against soft competition as they shelled St. Louis's fourth line. They were also the main offensive threat as they generated the most chances while also soundly denying them. Dwight King is the most confusing player on the Kings. He consistently fails the eye test, yet the lines he plays on often seem to play an elevated game. And the third line has struggled since he's been off it. Jeff Carter had very strong game in the neutral zone. It seems like the Kings found a lot of space on the right side of the ice as the Blues were focusing on clogging up the middle and making life difficult for the centers.
- 3rd Line (Penner-Stoll-Lewis), Grade: C. Better, but not great. They saw most of their time against the bottom 6 and were hard matched against the Shattenkirk-Leopold pair. They played low event hockey for three periods with zone time slightly tilted against them.
- 4th Line (Clifford-Fraser-Mix), Grade: A. Darryl Sutter benching Nolan and rotating RWs on the fourth line may have been a master stroke and could very well turn the tide in the series. Before last night this line had been getting pounded in very limited minutes. But now with a mix of Williams, Carter and Lewis on wing they've become a dangerous unit. It allowed Sutter to feel comfortable hard matching them against the Blues 2nd line which in turn freed up some time for other line combos (i.e. the 2nd) to get softer minutes. The 4th line spent nearly half their time against the Berglund line and dominated the possession battle.
- Regehr/Ellerby-Doughty, Grade: B. Again drew (no pun intended, I swear!) the most difficult assignments on the backend. This time Sutter stuck with Regehr on this unit instead of splitting his time with Jake Muzzin by using him on o-zone draws. Even though they were played evenly in the possession game, they were able to cut down on St. Louis' ability to create chances. Regehr had a very strong game in the defensive end. Perhaps his strongest since the trade and was very effective in filling the role he was brought over to fill. He again struggled moving the puck but this didn't translate to many chances for the opposition. It also seems like Doughty is recognizing that he has to be even more aggressive on breakouts and is shouldering more of the load. There were a few times late in the game where he could have made an easy d to d pass over to Regehr but instead decided to take a more creative approach to getting the puck out.
- Muzzin/Scuderi-Voynov, Grade: A. Another strong game. Slava Voynov has bounced back well from his awful effort in game one. He did have one poor turnover on a breakout that lead to a chance for David Backes, but his overall game more than made up for it. In addition to scoring the game winner, the team won the possession and chance battle with him on ice.
- Martinez/Ellerby-Scuderi, Grade A. FREEDOM! Alec Martinez was finally let loose and he had big impact on possession. The Kings logged more zone time with him on the ice than any other player. He was shaky in the defensive zone, though, and allowed a lot of chances relative to his ice time. But his ability to keep the puck in the offensive end made up for it. I hope Sutter sticks with this 7 defenseman strategy because it worked really well. He was able to use Ellerby situationally ( on defensive zone draws and on the penalty kill) and also cut back on the workload of the old horses on the backside.
- Grade: F. Wow. This may have been the worst game for any power play unit of any Kings team I've ever seen. Nearly 7 minutes of power play time and only 2 shots. That's not so great. But what is even worse is that in addition to creating zero scoring chances, they allowed 4 to the Blues. So they were outchanced on their own power play 4 to 0. Yikes. They also had a miserable looking 5v3 advantage. They would have been better off declining penalties in this one.
- Grade: C. 8 minutes of penalty kill time, 5 shots and 3 scoring chances allowed. Robyn Regehr lead the way in PK time with almost 5 minutes. Jonathan Quick was their best penalty killer.
- Grade: A+. Quick's best game of the series. In fact, his best game of the year and when the team needed it most. He stopped all 13 scoring chance shots. His save percentage for the series is now .959. My heart still stops when he leaves his net to retrieve a puck.
Overall Team Grade: A.
- They finally put it all together for a solid game for a full sixty minutes. The third period seemed to be four hours long but in all truth it was a rather low event period compared to the first two. The defense did an excellent job suppressing shots in that frame as St. Louis was trying desperately to even it up. The fact that Sutter was able to keep his back-enders fresh played no small part in that.
- They'll need another effort like this to even up the series. St. Louis is showing no sign of letting up and played their third strong game of the series. For their part the Kings still have room for improvement as the first line still has yet to bring their A game.
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
*scoring chances at all strengths.
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 +/-|
|Total||42||37||+5||12 (12)*||10 (18)*||+2 (-6)*|
For more numbers than you could ever dream of: click here.
I've decide to keep the rest of the numbers in a separate post to keep this one less busy. I've also added a couple other things like the shot chart and zone entry numbers for the stat-heads among us.