Fate Up Against Your Will (WCF Game 5 Breakdown)

April 29, 2002. I had been trying to make my way from California to New York City. I took all the money I had and bought a rusted, grey station wagon. I was going to drive it to New York, sell it and use that money to get an apartment. I was doing this for unknown reasons.

Somewhere in Virginia, I was watching Game 7 of the Kings-Avs West Quarterfinals. The Avs were up 2-0 and I was on my second Ruby Tuesday’s Megarita. Patrick Roy was looking indomitable, the crowd chanting his name as he calmly surveyed his Kingdom. Felix Potvin on the other hand was very domitable, after forcing a Game 7 with miraculous back-to-back shutouts, he had nothing left.

My car outside had long since given up, although the thick smoke that had been pouring out from under the hood had dissipated. As I took a long sip from my Megastraw, Milan Hejduk bounced a puck off Mattheu Schneider. It rolled right to Alex Tanguay who ripped it past Potvin’s stick side. 3-0. I had no money, was stuck in Virginia and the Kings were about to be eliminated by the Avs for the 2nd straight year in Game 7.

A decade of futility later, the Kings are on the verge of winning their first Championship in franchise history and may have to come to my longtime home of New York to do so. Everything is going according to plan.

Western Conference Championship clinching game breakdown after the jump:

    Line Matching Heat Map

  • Early in the broadcast, Brian Engblom commented that the Kopitar line's ability to possess the puck had been held in check over the last few games. If you are following these breakdowns you know that was a ludicrous claim. The Kings 1st line had another thoroughly dominant performance (60.8% ZSAC) and were hard matched against the Vermette line (74.6% ITA). This was a break from Tippett's Game 1 and 2 strategies where Kopitar was matched evenly across in GM 1 and against the Gordon line primarily (L3) in Game 2.
  • The Hanzal line was matched against the Richards line. They were dominant early but their effectiveness trailed off as the game progressed. Their effectiveness basically traces the Coyotes line in the Shot Timeline.
  • The Stoll line got back to form and outclassed the Langkow line. A 57.2% ZSAC rating after a poor 40% in Game 4. The Stoll line dominating possession has been a huge, subtle key to the King's success this post-season.
  • Interesting that Doughty saw most of his time versus Vermette yet was played to a draw. I would guess that his rating against Vermette would match Kopitar's but saw a barrage when out against Hanzal.
  • Another secret to the Kings success is the Martinez/Greene pairing. Martinez is used mainly in offensive zone situations and against weaker competition. In that role he has been dominant. He continues to make life miserable for the opposition's bottom 6.
  • A lot is being made about the Kings ability to win on the road in the Playoffs. The reason for this is their incredible balance across all 4 lines in being able to possess the puck. They are a matchup nightmare for every team in the league. The reasons teams have an advantage at home is not just the creature comforts of sleeping in your own bed and being cheered on by your hometown. More so, you can more easily hide your weaknesses and expose the other team's in terms of line matching. The Kings right now are a team with no weakness at even strength.

Even Strength Line Combinations:

Kings Forwards:

  • L1 = Brown-Kopitar-Williams
  • L2 = Penner-Richards-Carter
  • L3 = King-Stoll-Lewis
  • L4 = Richardson-Fraser-Nolan/

Kings Defense:

  • D1 = Scuderi-Doughty
  • D2 = Mitchell-Voynov
  • D3 = Martinez-Greene/

Coyotes Forwards:

  • L1 = Whitney-Hanzal-Vrbata
  • L2 = Boedker-Vermette-Doan
  • L3 = Korpikoski-Langkow-Pyatt
  • L4 = Pouliot-Gordon-Chipchura/

Coyotes Defense:

  • D1 = Rozival-Ekman-Larsson
  • D2 = Yandle-Morris
  • D3 = Klesla-Aucoin/

* ZSAC - Shots attempted at even strength and adusted for zone starts.

** ITA- Even strength ice time against.

Others in the series: Preview, Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 and Game 4.
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