Kings @ Blackhawks: Grades and Analysis
Chicago shut the door in the third period to stunt a previously strong Kings effort.
Unlike the last meeting between these two powerhouses, both teams had plenty of rest heading into their Monday night meeting in Chicago. The game didn't disappoint, but Chicago came away with the 1-0 victory in a very tight affair. Eric has the recap here.
- 1st line (King - Kopitar - Carter), B+ Perhaps no line reflected the true nature of this game -- and what would pass for success in it -- than the Kings' top line. The trio faced tough competition (as most of both rosters did) and zone starts, but managed to dominate possession. On top of that, they allowed zero scoring chances against at 5v5 play. This line also reflected the attempts and failures at creating a free-flowing style of play. This line gained the zone with control 68.4% of the time, but didn't turn it into a lot of tangible offense. While they were +3 in chances at evens, their opposition (mostly Jonathan Toews) was able to keep them to just 3 scoring chances. A strong game, but I think we'd like to see some more offense./
- 2nd line (Brown - Richards - Williams), B+. Similar to the top line, the Kings' second line found some success in trying to gain the line with control. They gained the opponent's zone with control 52.6% of the time. Unlike the top line, the top line generated several scoring opportunities and just weren't able to cash in. Dustin Brown created 5 scoring chances of his own while Richards and Williams each contributed to a pair of chances themselves. Unfortunately, they didn't net a goal, and Mike Richards even (in my opinion undeservedly) took a lot of flak for Chicago's game-winner. Strong night overall, though, and probably the best game we've seen from either Richards or Brown in a while./
3rd line (Lewis - Stoll - Toffoli), D. Do I even need to write it up any more? It's a Lewis line. They created next to no offense during moderately tough minutes. A bright spot for this line is that Lewis and Toffoli each carried the puck into the zone on all of their entries. A dim spot would be the fact that this trio gained the offensive zone just 5 times in total (19 for each of the top two lines, for comparison's sake). I'm not sure I like the makeup of this line or using Toffoli in such a role. I'd probably swap Brown for Lewis and then Lewis to the 4th line for Clifford.
- 4th line (Clifford - Fraser - Nolan), F. The 4th line saw predictably soft minutes but had little to no success. In limited minutes, the line went -2 (+1/-3) in EV chances and did so mostly against Chicago's 4th line. Aside from a strong play by Nolan to create a scoring chance in the early-going, not a very strong game from the Kings' depth forwards./
- 1st pairing (Regehr - Doughty), B. I wasn't sure if we'd see this day, but Sutter finally decided to reunite his much maligned early-season top pairing. They weren't too shabby. Sutter gave them tough average zone starts, but their competition was extremely strong. In spite of that, they came out ahead in scoring chances and possession. Regehr avoided his early-season head-scratchers and played a good, quiet, stay-at-home game. More importantly, to me, Doughty didn't change his game. I don't think he played the strongest game he can play, but he didn't sacrifice any of his offensive zone presence in order to make up for his playing partner./
- 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), B-. Considerably better effort from Voynov in this one. In similarly tough minutes to some recent performances, Voynov performed much better. He avoided the big mistakes that have been plaguing his game from time to time. On the other side of things, Mitchell was the lone Kings' defenseman to drift below 50% in shot attempts. While Voynov was +2 in chances, Mitchell was dead even (+6/-6). /
- 3rd pairing (Muzzin - Greene), C. While Muzzin and Greene achieved their usual territorial success during soft-ish minutes, Muzzin's mental mistakes almost deserve a post of their own on a game-to-game basis at this point. While he's still growing as a player and he has lots of upside and that upside shows itself quite often, the mental mistakes that cost the Kings penalty time or goals against are frustrating to deal with. On Monday, he tried to carry the puck in over the blue line when, perhaps, a dump in was the better choice. As a result, the Hawks were able to instantly turn the puck back up ice for a 2-on-1 and, eventually, a goal. One of the things that is very impressive about Doughty and some of the other puck-movers in the league is the ability to properly pick a spot. Obviously this game isn't the most shining example of that from Doughty, but it's a skill Muzzin will have to learn as he takes his game to the next level. He also rather inexplicably tried to join a rush that Drew Doughty was already leading (with plenty of forward support to boot) and caused it to go offside. In Muzzin's case, I'm willing to take the good with the bad because the good is usually very good, but I don't think this was his best game./
- Pretty much just repeat the common refrains we've uttered all season. The Kings' PK was strong but it was abused and it relied a bit too much on the goalie. The Kings' PP struggled to gain the zone or generate offense (even in scoring chances [+1/-1]) and we didn't see it much anyway. Standard stuff./
Martin Jones, A.
- Jones basically did everything asked of him. The Kings' played an elite defensive game against one of the best offenses in the league, but Jones came up with some big saves (particularly in the third) to keep the Kings alive. You'd like to see him come up with the first goal in an ideal world, but it wasn't really his fault./
Overall Team Performance, B.
- This was rather close to what a playoff game will feel like. It was tight-checking, hard-hitting, and low-scoring. We saw solid goaltending at both ends of the ice. However, the Kings just couldn't do enough with their chances to get back to even. In the third, Chicago took over with one of the most domineering performances that I've seen this season. That was puck control on puck control on puck control. If it wouldn't have been against my favorite hockey team, I'm betting it would've been a treat to watch. Anyway, let's talk about some positives here. The Kings held the best offensive team in the league to very little real offense. Chicago secured a good-luck 5-on-3 to create their best pressure of the night, but the Kings were the better 5v5 team for most of the night. They got excellent performances out of their best players and most of their defenders. Chicago played more than well enough to win, but so did the Kings. I'll take that effort from the Kings any time./
- Extra Skater.
- Robert's on vacation, so no matchup Corsi for this game or tonight's at least. He'll be back soon./