The Kings and Sharks have played an incredibly even series after 6 games. Both teams have won 3 games. Both have scored 21 goals. The Kings have only the slightest edge in possession as they’ve owned 51% of all attempts at evens.
Three games ago the series seemed pretty far from close, yet the Kings have clawed their way back in it one game at a time. And the biggest reason they’ve been able to do so has been the play of Drew Doughty.
Through six games, Doughty has played in 40% of all of the Kings even strength ice time. In that time, they have owned 57% of all 5v5 attempts with Doughty on the ice. Without Doughty, that number falls precipitously to 49%.
That is while facing some pretty tough competition.
Doughty has spent about 70% of his even strength minutes on ice against the Couture and Thornton lines.
In addition to Doughty’s stellar possession numbers in those tough minutes, his on ice scoring chance numbers are even more impressive. As a team, the Kings have only owned 41.5% of all scoring chances at even strength*. An astoundingly low mark. Yet, when Doughty’s been on , they’ve owned a much improved 54% of the chances.
The Kings biggest problem over the first few games was allowing an incredibly high amount of scoring chances. In fact, they allowed over 20 chances in each of the first four games, which was the first time they allowed that many chances in four straight all season.
In the Kings 3 losses, Doughty had rough numbers as LA was out-chanced 12 to 19 with him on the ice. Since then, however, the Kings have out-chanced the Sharks 16 to 5 with him on. That’s right, 19 chances against with Doughty on ice in the first 3 games. Only 5 chances against over the last 3 and that’s in 61 minutes of even strength ice time.
One contributor to the disparity between the first three games and the last three has seemed to be zone starts. The Kings are great at generating more offensive zone faceoffs than their opponents. This series has been no different as they have started 60% percent of their zone starts in the offensive zone as compared to the defensive zone.
The Kings have traditionally shied away from zone-matching. Yet, after 3 awful games to start the series, it seems like LA began to try it out with Doughty.
Over the first three games of the series, Doughty started 17 of his shifts in the offensive zone as compared to 12 in the defensive zone. Over the last three games, 35 offensive zone starts to only 9 defensive zone starts.
The Kings have started optimizing Doughty’s minutes and it has seemingly paid off. But even aside from zone starts, which can only help your shot differential so much, Doughty has been a force over these last three games and is likely the main reason the Kings have been able to claw their way back to even.
*We have scoring chance numbers for the series thanks to Nick.