Kings @ Blues: Grades and Analysis
The Kings and Blues played a real, bona fide hockey game on Thursday night. Eric told you all about it here.
- 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Carter), B. If the Vancouver game was a war, then this was at least a conflict. Both teams dug in defensively and refused to surrender very much. In fact, both teams were as effective at limiting shot attempts as any team has been in a Kings game this season. Anze Kopitar's line was only able to generate about 8 shot attempts in the entire game and they allowed around the same. In fact, just about every single matchup was close to even. Only a few head-to-head battles were separated by more than 3 shot attempts and none more than 5. No one was able to get a firm upper hand. The top line of the Kings drew the best of the best from the Blues and was able to just barely out-chance their opposition at evens./
- 2nd line (Frattin - Richards - Williams), D. Much like the Kopitar line before them, not a whole lot happened with this group on the ice. Though their minutes were similarly divided amongst tough competitors, the Richards line saw slightly easier zone starts. In spite of this, they had team-worst shot attempt numbers. They also went -1 in chances. /
- 3rd line (King - Stoll - Lewis), C+. Perhaps nothing is more damning of the performance by the Richards line than the moderate success of the Stoll line. With very similar minutes and zone starts, the third line was able to trend close to even in shot attempts and scoring chances. Dwight King was on the ice for a forward-high 5 scoring chances for the Kings at evens. Jarret Stoll generated 3 scoring chances of his own. Trevor Lewis's even strength goal was good fortune, but hey, with Trevor I'll take what I can get.
- 4th line (Clifford - Fraser - Nolan), A. For all of the verbal fellatio provided to Ryan Reaves and the fourth line of the Blues, the Kings' group absolutely outperformed them. Reaves, Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy were the worst possession players on the Blues while the Kings' fourth line was near the top of the list for their team. On top of that, the depth forwards of the Kings were able to create a small handful of scoring chances while allowing nothing against. Ryan Reaves and NBC can have their pointless narrative, I think the Kings and their fans will take raw success.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), C-. Jake Muzzin's mercurial season continued with a bizarre performance in St. Louis. On top of delivering a near-suspension-worthy hit, Muzzin failed to even be on the ice for a Kings' scoring chance. On the other hand, Drew Doughty was on the ice for 4. Doughty spent 12 of his 17.5 minutes glued to Muzzin's hip. In 5 minutes away from Muzzin he was able to generate 4 scoring chances while allowing none against. Normally Muzzin has been a boost to Doughty, but this game was not his best. Also an odd thing worth noting: Drew Doughty didn't generate a single zone entry.
- 2nd pairing (Mitchell - Voynov), C+. Getting a 'C' during this game is not an indictment, I guess. Although his zone starts were slightly sheltered, Mitchell was able to put up team-best numbers against pretty stiff competition. Voynov dipped a bit possession-wise, but was just -3 while receiving slightly tougher zone starts. Mitchell was +2 in chances while Voynov was just even./
- 3rd pairing (Regehr - Martinez), B-. Over the long-haul, scoring chances generally line up with possession. However, a one-game sample can be affected by individual performances and, more significantly, competition. Regehr and Martinez drew a heavier dose of the Blues' ineffective fourth line than any other pairing and were able to reap some of the statistical benefits on the scoring chance sheet. While they were out-possessed overall, the Blues weren't able to muster any scoring chances against this pairing. /
- Power Play, lol. Though it was as unproductive as ever, I think some of the process-y things looked better. Especially in the first period, the Kings were able to gain the zone with far more success than they have in recent games. They weren't four men standing pat while one man asks for cover fire because he's going in. They were five men working as a unit to gain the zone. I didn't notice the neutral zone drop pass as often (which is not a bad tactic necessarily, but I think the Kings have been over-using it in their struggles). I saw a lot more passing to the wings with all five skaters continuing to move. Much less static in their entries. The end-zone play needed a lot of work, but the Blues are tough./
- Penalty Kill, A+. Trevor Lewis scored the kind of goal that should be commemorated on a poster or something./
Jonathan Quick, A.
- Strong results. Quick was able to come up with a couple of big saves as the Blues were trying to work their way back into the game and, most importantly, looked healthy while doing it./
Overall Team Performance, A.
- I know it's confusing to see all of those C's and so few A's and see an A here, but bear with me for a minute. The Blues are an excellent team. Though they had a little dip in possession-play last month, they've been back on the rise lately. This was not a thrilling game with back-and-forth action, but it was a more true example of the type of "war" that I can actually stomach watching. Until Jake Muzzin's completely inept attempt at physicality with two and a half minutes left, the game was clean, hard-nosed and physical. This game was a couple of elite powers standing toe-to-toe. If not for a pretty weak performance by Jaroslav Halak, it probably goes to overtime. The numbers tell largely average stories, but we know that the Kings' performance was not an average one. Very close game and both teams played very well.