All season long we've discussed scoring chances and zone entries and how well the Kings tend to do in both areas. Today we will look at how these two pacific division heavyweights matched up throughout the season.
As a brief refresher, it's worth remembering that the Kings played extremely low-key, slow, dump-and-chase hockey for most of the season. However, at the end of the season, the Kings were a significantly different team. We'll cover that a bit more in depth in another article soon. The general idea is that the Kings went from being a well below average controlled entry team to an above average one almost overnight. It coincided very neatly with the Marian Gaborik trade, but it was a team-wide change in attack.
The reason that is worth noting is because we really don't know what we're going to get from the Kings in this series. The Kings played the Sharks five times this season, but just one of those came after the Gaborik trade. In that last game, the Kings controlled the puck on 52% of their entries while holding the Sharks to 32% themselves. Will the Sharks be able to (I cannot believe I'm typing this next sequence of words) slow down the Kings in the neutral zone? Will the Kings play a safer, heavier game? These are storylines worth watching.
As you might expect from the early-season Kings, they dumped in the puck a lot. Like. Really a lot. And they made the other team do it even more often. This is their modus operandi. The Kings controlled the puck on just 42% of their entries against the Sharks over five games. San Jose, meanwhile, controlled the puck on just 32% of their entries. Games between these two teams tend to be brutal games spent in the corners.
While the Kings did gather a larger portion of controlled entries than the Sharks, San Jose was able to generate more entries overall by an insignificant margin. San Jose owned around 51% of total zone entries against the Kings this season. However, the Kings - partly fueled by their ability to control the puck on more of their entries - generated more shots per entry than the Sharks. The Kings fired 0.54 shots per zone entry while the Sharks lobbed 0.48.
Who drove the bus for the Kings? Pretty much who you'd expect. Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Slava Voynov, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli all controlled the puck on at least 50% of their entries. Jordan Nolan actually gained the zone with control an alarming 79% of the time (!!) but the Kings still generally failed to turn those entries into offensive chances. The team secured just 0.29 shots per entry when Nolan gained the line (again, compared to 0.54 as a team).
On the offensive side of the puck, the Kings struggled. San Jose definitely had more scoring chances than the Kings, and by a fairly significant amount. There are most certainly reasons for this (and five games is a tiny sample) but them's the facts. Just six of the regular skaters on the current Kings roster saw the team log more scoring chances than the Sharks while they were on the ice. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alec Martinez, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Nolan, and Dwight King are your men.
There is some slight reason to be alarmed there. In spite of the small sample, I am genuinely concerned about Mike Richards' ability to drive play against an exceptional line at this point. The Sharks currently have two very good lines. Richards won't damage the team, but it's going to make the Kings rely on Kopitar an awful lot. Now, that is a good shoulder to lean on, but it would be nice to get more support. I would certainly consider keeping Richards and Jeff Carter apart, personally, but Darryl Sutter has gone back to them as a pair in recent days.
As far as goalies go, it's hard to get a real read. The Sharks saw all three goalies that the Kings boasted this season at least once. Martin Jones dominated them, posting a .938 SV% on scoring chances, while Quick lagged behind at .824. Both goalies played a pair of games. A pair of games is basically meaningless.
Below I'll attach all the vital information for you to sort through. Special thanks to James Nicholson for providing his zone entry log for the 12/19 game.
Kings/Sharks Underlying Numbers
|#||Player||Entries||C. Entry %||SH/Entry||C/60||S/60||T/60||SC%||EV TOI|
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