Often this season, circumstances have seemed to line up in a way that would present an easy path to victory for the Kings. Not often this season have they been able to do so. In fact, just a game prior, a win seemed like a more-than-reasonable expectation. While the Kings played more than well enough to win against Minnesota, they fell in the shootout.
When the Kings took the ice against the Bruins, they were heading into battle against an injured team in the middle of a western swing. Finally, the Kings earned the gifts that their circumstances had promised them. Eric has the game recap here.
- 1st line (King - Kopitar - Carter), A. It's pretty important to understand context for this game. Though the Bruins were able to move the game within a pair of goals on two separate occasions, this game was never even that close. Boston's first goal, almost exactly at the halfway point of the game, marked their second scoring chance of the game. The Kings surged to a 3-0 lead on the wings of a 12-1 scoring chance advantage. After the 3-1 goal, Boston steadied their game and mounted a mediocre attempt at a comeback. So, while most of the scoring chance numbers look close to even, the game was not, and that's not reflected anywhere better than it is with the top line. All three players were on the ice for a minimum of 4 even strength scoring chances, but the best +/- figure of the three belonged to Dwight King at +1. Their shot attempt numbers were solid, sitting close to a 60% corsi for the game. They mostly faced the David Krejci line and dominated it. All three players, even Dwight King, are contributing to this line's success right now.
- 2nd line (Brown - Stoll - Williams), B. When this line was first put together, they played a few games exactly like this: thoroughly dominant puck possession but mediocre offensive output. The line controlled over 70% of shot attempts in the game, but mustered just a pair of scoring chances. Thankfully, one of those two chances found the back of the net. This line did most of its solid work against Patrice Bergeron, albeit with soft zone starts.
3rd line (Frattin - Richards - Toffoli), C-. Much quieter night for this line after a short string of quality play. Frattin was noticeably less involved (not bad, but not good) and Richards was below average. As much as I agree with the people that said (source: a few people on twitter based on my memory) Toffoli had a solid night, he still is not a play-driver in this league and his poor acceleration and general footspeed makes it unlikely that he ever will be. While he isn't a bad skater at top speed, it takes him far too long to get there. His speed is never going to kill a rush that begins closer to his own zone, but if he's the one driving play into the zone, his line probably isn't going to be producing enough shots. Toffoli turned in over half of his line's zone entries, but the Kings generated just 0.46 shots per entry from that line (compared to 0.62 shots per entry as a team). Toffoli entered the zone 7 times, but with control just twice.
- 4th line (Clifford - Fraser - Lewis), C+. Aside from Kyle Clifford's hilarious glove drop prior to his fight, not a whole lot occurred with this trio on the ice. Both teams generated about a shot attempt per minute while this line was out there. The bright side is that the fourth line was able to get the (slight) upperhand in scoring chances (+2/-1). Yes, they were quiet; thankfully they were also moderately effective.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), B. Another night where Sutter opted to use Situational Usage as Doughty's d-partner. Muzzin drew the majority of the minutes, but Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell both saw over a full minute opposite Doughty. In fact, Jeff Carter's goal came with 8/33 on the ice. Anyway: no one on the Kings saw tough zone starts because, once again, the Kings tilted the ice toward the Boston zone and rarely left it. Doughty received soft zone starts and Muzzin's were considerably more sheltered. Doughty still went +2 in chances despite both score effects and tough competition. Muzzin was dead even in significantly fewer minutes.
- 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), C+. Again, no one saw very tough zone starts. In fact, not a single player saw more defensive zone starts than offensive ones. Voynov's were almost neutral, but still pretty much just straight up soft. Not a lot happened with him out there. The two teams shared a pair of scoring chances while this unit was on the ice. Voynov and Mitchell matched up with the Krejci line more than anyone else.
- 3rd pairing (Regehr - Martinez), A. The Kings' third pairing took advantage of their minutes and completely dominated possession, controlling close to 70% of shot attempts while they were out there. Not a whole lot to analyze. Soft zone starts, decent competition, but throttling puck possession.
Power Play, C. They scored a goal and generated 3 scoring chances, but the process was decidedly mediocre again. The Kings reverted to some old tricks after a very, very brief stretch of improved neutral zone play on the power play. At some point, they have to stop standing at the opposing blue line and waiting for Doughty to try and meander into the zone. I'd even settle for some well-placed dump-ins at this point. Of course, this seems like a weird complaint given that their one goal was a result of an excellent zone entry, but it was a lone occurrence and the result of a different strategy than their typical one. Voynov skated up ice with speed, passed to a forward in stride and that forward was able to pierce the defense. Far too often lately, the Kings are standing around and waiting for one player to make a play. Either the system that calls for such a play needs to be tweaked or the players need to be more active. Regardless, it has to improve.
- Penalty Kill, A. Very strong. Not much to analyze.
Jonathan Quick, A.
- Though the Kings were in control for the entirety of the game, Quick assured the outcome with some excellent saves down the stretch. Ideally, he'd not give up a pair of goals, but I am a beggar that will refuse to be a chooser for at last a game.
Overall Team Performance, A.
- Much like the Vancouver performance just two games prior (and, honestly, the Minnesota game as well), repeat this effort every game, please. The Kings were dominant in all areas of 5v5 play when it mattered and only allowed Boston to play their game after it was decided.
- Extra Skater
- Everything is included today! We got your zone entries, your scoring chances and your matchup corsi. #wow
- Apologies for any typos, I don't have time to proofread and am bad at doing that anyway!