I have been claiming all season that the Kings were poised to make a deep run in the playoffs this year. I was even claiming this during the darkest of times when the Kings were looking up at teams like the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Standings. That being said, I would have called you a delusional freakjob if you had told me the Kings were going to start the playoffs 8-1 against both the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues.
These last two games transcended numbers, as one of the most villified Kings' squads in recent history quickly became the most loved and celebrated.
But for the sake of continuity, here are the charts:
- The shot differential numbers for Game 3 have to be viewed with score effects in mind since the Kings jumped out to an early lead and had the Blues playing catch-up all game. Nonetheless, note that the Backes line was held in check in spite of that and this time it wasn't just Kopitar's line doing the heavy lifting it was also Richards. Richards is finally having the impact everyone envisioned he would when he was acquired from the Flyers.
- Also in Game 3, Sutter gave Mitchell the bulk of the ES minutes and gave Doughty a bit of a break. Thus, for that one, we have Mitchell listed as D1 for Game 3. Even with the slightly limited minutes Doughty has never looked more dominant than he has of late.
- Shattenkirk has taken some heat in this series but his Corsi numbers look pretty good. Maybe he should have been accorded a slightly bigger role at the expense of Russell.
- Pietrangelo did appear to make an impact in his return in Game 3. That impact seemed to be minimized in Game 4.
- In our series preview we stated that the Stoll line needed to play conistently well. They have done more than that and were arguably the Kings most effective line at controlling the play over the last two games.
- It was interesting how deployment changed over Games 3 & 4. In Game 3, Stoll saw most of his time versus Berglund (L2) whereas in Game 4 he was matched against Sobotka (L3). It looks like, with the Kings' concerned with protecting a lead in Game 3, they made sure Backes didn't carry them back into the game and exclusively sent out Kopitar/Richards against them. They then relied on Stoll to help control the 2nd line. In Game 4, Sutter took a more traditional approach and the Stoll line rewarded him with a dominating performance. In addition, with Richards shutting down Backes, the Kings saw fit to give Kopitar more time against L2.
- I'll have a preview ready as soon as we know who the Kings face in the Conference Finals. Until then it is: