Kings Blackhawks Western Conference Preview: Matchups
The Kings and Blackhawks have played 11 games over the last two seasons including the playoffs. In those 11 games, the Kings have only been able to win two. Despite that huge disparity in wins and losses, possession number suggest the two teams are closer than what the results have shown. In fact, they are the top two possession teams over the past two seasons and are separated by a very thin margin.
Let's take a quick look at the two teams deployment strategies in these past 11 games to see where Chicago may have gained an edge and what to look out for as the series progresses.
Possession and Zone Starts
Kings vs Blackhawks at Evens '12-14
|Player||Corsi+/-||O/D Start %|
Blackhawks vs Kings at Evens '12-14
|Player||Corsi+/-||O/D Start %|
- Overall, the Kings strategy has been to roll their lines pretty evenly, while giving the Stoll and Richards lines the share of the defensive zone starts. That is pretty much in line with how they play everybody. The Blackhawks seemed to deviate a bit from their norm in how they approached the Kings. Usually, they do an extreme amount of zone-matching. They'll give their 4th line pretty much all of the defensive zone starts which frees up lots offensive starts for their top six. Against the Kings however, it seems as though they were more focused on hard-matching Toews to Kopitar rather than zone-matching.
Kopitar has indeed seen most of his time against Jonathan Toews as could be expected. The interesting thing is that when we look at the home and road splits, Kopitar sees more time against Toews in Chicago than vice versa. A lot of this was driven by last year's playoffs where Kopitar was having a tough time staying above water versus Toews. Toews has been nothing short of dominant against the Kings these last two seasons. He has a +47 Corsi over that span while seeing most of his time against Kopitar and just a 52% ozone start ratio (much lower than his norm over the last two seasons). In order to have better luck against Chicago this time around, LA will need Kopitar to do better at limiting Toews possession time.
In addition to needing Kopitar to come up big, they'll also need their 2nd pair to keep up their momentum from the final two games against the Ducks. It appears as though Joel Quenneville has also tried to keep Toews away from Doughty when the Hawks have last change, which means more time against Jeff Schultz (or Willie Mitchell) and Slava Voynov who have had their share of struggles this post-season.
If the Kings can't keep Toews under wraps, the play of the Kings new look second line will be a huge factor. Sutter is not a coach who has traditionally relied heavily on zone matching in the past, but the presence of two rookies playing prominent minutes has changed that. With Jeff Carter now centering rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, Sutter has given them the vast majority of the teams offensive zone starts. Given that Chicago gives Marcus Kruger and the 4th line an incredible amount of defensive zone starts, this will likely be a pretty significant matchup. Kruger has had an incredible season defensively, and the Kings second line will need to figure out how to produce against him in order to increase their chances of advancing. /