It's hard to imagine that the guy who scored two of the most pivotal goals in a historic first-round comeback two years ago...
... is also the same guy whose most noticeable impact in this year's rematch has been... a roughing penalty.
what happened to you?
So what has happened to Tyler Toffoli? Even Anze Kopitar, who was equally maligned through two games, got himself on the scoresheet on Tuesday with a power play goal. Let's first take a look at what he's done in the past against the Sharks. In the regular season, he's played at least 30 total minutes at even strength against the Sharks' five most prolific forwards, and he's come out ahead against all five. Against the team as a whole, he's feasted.
Tyler Toffoli vs. the San Jose Sharks (2013-16 Regular Season)
(stats via Puckalytics)
The playoffs have been more of the same for Toffoli. In this series, however, he's struggled. The Los Angeles Kings are generating fewer shot attempts, allowing more shot attempts, scoring fewer goals, and allowing more goals with Toffoli out there against the Sharks in these playoffs than at any time in Toffoli's tenure.
Tyler Toffoli vs. the San Jose Sharks (2016 Playoffs)
(stats via War on Ice)
That Corsi For%, the only "bright side," is misleading too; his score-adjusted Corsi For% is 47.1%, meaning that the positive possession results have only really come with the Kings losing. Needless to say, it's been a frustrating series for Toffoli, who has no points and only four shots on goal through three games.
Darryl Sutter's usage of Toffoli has been very consistent, as he's played 16:24, 16:24, and 16:37 in the first three games. It doesn't seem like we're in danger of watching Toffoli get held off the ice for large stretches, but since hitting a post and being one of the better Kings in Game One, he hasn't threatened.
Reuniting Toffoli and Jeff Carter with Milan Lucic probably gives Toffoli the best chance of succeeding in this series, but he also might need some friendly deployment from Darryl Sutter. In Game 3, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer hard-matched Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun against Toffoli's line, and the Sharks' shutdown pair did a number on their opposition. (visual via hockeyviz.com)
The line also struggled against Joe Thornton's line, which wasn't going head-to-head with Kopitar's as much as it had in Games 1 and 2. And did I mention he started in his own zone twice as much as he started in the defensive zone? So it's probably okay to blame Toffoli's disappearance in Game 3 on a tough situation.
That can't be an excuse two games in a row, though, especially with LA's even strength struggles in this series. Peter DeBoer's strategy isn't going to change all that much, and even though Vlasic and Braun were outplayed for large stretches against LA this year, they'll be tough nuts to crack. Toffoli might not get a lot of opportunities, so it's on him to seize the chances he does have. In past years, he's scored against the Sharks on steals, rushes, and moves which created just enough space; if he's passive, he won't find the net any time soon.