Exactly two weeks ago, in preparation for what was sure to be a deep playoff run, I decided to track how teams targeted Los Angeles Kings defensemen throughout the postseason...
Thank you, Kings, for saving me some work! If you're not sure what I mean by targeting, read this primer or see how the Caps attacked Rob Scuderi during the regular season. Anyway, here's the collected 5v5 data for the first round; let's focus on the per 20 minutes data and keep in mind that we're looking at a very small sample size:
|5v5 TOI||Controlled Entries (Carry-Ins, Passes)||Uncontrolled Entries (Dump-ins)||Break-ups (Break-ups, Offsides)||Controlled Entries Allowed/20||Uncontrolled Entries Allowed/20||Break-ups/20|
There are probably no surprises here. Schenn was attacked by an inordinate number of controlled San Jose Sharks entries in this series, while he and Scuderi were heavily targeted by uncontrolled entries, or dump-ins.
Obviously, Schenn and Scuderi's lack of footspeed made them vulnerable to these dumps. And while their regular partners, Doughty and Muzzin, were usually more than able to retrieve the puck with their own speed, that meant LA's best offensive defensemen, more than you'd like, had to initiate the attack 200 feet away from Martin Jones. This also gave San Jose additional time to set up what would prove to be a stifling 5v5 defensive minefield.
The Sharks had a plan and the (sea?) horses to execute it. What could Los Angeles have done to counter this?
Short of cloning Doughty and Muzzin, not a lot. Obviously, Martinez's Game One injury greatly impacted the Kings defensive hierarchy.
I suggested using Doughty and Muzzin like the 2007 Stanley Cup-winning Ducks deployed Hall of Famers Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer—essentially, make sure you have at least one of them on the ice at all times—but that is close to what Darryl Sutter tried, as both saw their overall minutes increase markedly in the postseason. Pairing Muzzin and Doughty, as the Kings did with so much success in the previous three seasons, was another option.
But in either scenario though, you run into the same problem: Schenn and Scuderi rounding out the top four. Indeed, Sutter probably chose the lesser of two evils. Would you rather have Doughty and Muzzin protecting Scuderi and Schenn...or Muzzin-Doughty as your top pairing and Scuderi-Schenn as your second pairing?
Of course, there were options. Besides trusting McNabb more, plenty if you're willing to go further back: Break in Kevin Gravel during the regular season. Try harder to trade for Dan Hamhuis. Prioritize the re-signing of Andrej Sekera. Just to name a few.
When Martinez went down, the Kings had few defensive options, but it was LA—both Sutter and Lombardi—who put themselves in that hole.
|Game One||5v5 TOI||Break-up||Dump-in||Carry-in||Pass||Offside|
|Game Two||5v5 TOI||Break-up||Dump-in||Carry-in||Pass||Offside|
|Game Three||5v5 TOI||Break-up||Dump-in||Carry-in||Pass||Offside|
|Game Four||5v5 TOI||Break-up||Dump-in||Carry-in||Pass||Offside|
|Game Five||5v5 TOI||Break-up||Dump-in||Carry-in||Pass||Offside|
Penalty Kill Clears & Zone Entries
Catherine Silverman (@CataCarryOn) suggested tracking zone entries for penalty killers. While I collected way too little data to draw any conclusions, check out LA's Game Three PK zone entries. This was the game where the Kings held the Sharks' power play scoreless on five opportunities.
In short, gaining the zone often as penalty killers, as you might guess, is probably a good thing. And more time-consuming than a PK clear into the defensive zone? A PK zone entry. If the PK has the puck, that means the PP doesn't.
|Game One||PK TOI (PPG Allowed)||NZ Clear||DZ Clear||Failed Clear||Zone Entries|
|LAK||6:18 (1)||Carter, Kopitar, McNabb, Lecavalier, Doughty, Quick, Lewis||Muzzin, Muzzin, Martinez, Kopitar, Muzzin||Kopitar, Scuderi, Doughty, Quick, Muzzin, Schenn||Lewis, Lewis (carry-in)|
|SJ||4:38 (1)||Spaling, Martin, Braun, Tierney||Burns, Burns, Vlasic, Martin||Burns, Burns, Vlasic, Braun||Spaling (dump-in)|
|Game Two||PK TOI (PPG Allowed)||NZ Clear||DZ Clear||Failed Clear||Zone Entries|
|LAK||6:29 (1)||Scuderi, Lewis, Muzzin, Muzzin, Doughty||Doughty, Kopitar, Doughty, Toffoli, Muzzin, Muzzin, Schenn||Doughty, Doughty, Scuderi||Brown (dump-in)|
|SJ||7:22 (1)||Ward, Marleau||Nieto, Vlasic, Burns, Martin, Braun, Burns||Braun, Dillon, Vlasic||Ward (dump-in)|
|Game Three||PK TOI (PPG Allowed)||NZ Clear||DZ Clear||Failed Clear||Zone Entries|
|LAK||10:00 (0)||Brown, Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, Brown, Lewis, Quick, Kopitar, Carter||Doughty, Schenn, Muzzin, Pearson, Lewis, Muzzin, Muzzin, Doughty, Schenn||Schenn||Muzzin, Toffoli, Kopitar, Toffoli (carry-in)...Pearson, Lewis (dump-in)|
|SJ||4:20 (1)||Marleau, Burns||Braun|
|Game Four||PK TOI (PPG Allowed)||NZ Clear||DZ Clear||Failed Clear||Zone Entries|
|LAK||4:24 (3)||Kopitar, Brown||Muzzin, Kopitar, Carter, Scuderi||Kopitar, Scuderi|
|SJ||4:00 (0)||Karlsson, Nieto, Wingels||Tierney, Burns, Vlasic, Martin||Martin, Karlsson, Nieto, Wingels (carry-in)|
|Game Five||PK TOI (PPG Allowed)||NZ Clear||DZ Clear||Failed Clear||Zone Entries|
|LAK||4:16 (0)||Kopitar, Doughty, King, Lucic||Kopitar, Doughty, Kopitar, Muzzin||Muzzin, Doughty, Doughty||Kopitar, Pearson, Lecavalier (carry-in)|
|SJ||2:00 (0)||Vlasic, Couture, Burns||Tierney (dump-in)|