Kings @ Sharks: Grades and Analysis
That game was so much fun that I even enjoyed the shootout.
A three hour war. Eric has the game recap here.
- 1st line (Brown - Kopitar - Williams), C. Over much of the last two seasons, games between these two teams have been dictated by common themes. The home team wins, the game is close and the home team gets the match-up they want without much interference from the opposing coach. In San Jose, that means Kopitar draws the Couture line while Richards goes up against Thornton. Kopitar has often fared pretty well in these match-ups, but Couture managed to get the upper hand in this one. The Sharks controlled 57% of shot attempts with Kopitar on the ice, the third best figure by an opposing team this season. Sadly, one of the two games this season in which Kopitar has controlled the puck less often came against Vancouver just a game prior. Not a great pair of games for the top line of the Kings. The bright side is that they were solid defensively and managed to come out ahead in chances.
2nd line (King - Richards - Carter), D. Since the Sharks had the territorial edge at 5v5 play, they forced considerably more faceoffs in the Kings' end than the other way around. In spite of this, Sutter limited defensive zone starts for his top-six and managed to keep their zone starts fairly neutral (except Dwight King's). However, the Thornton line pretty well ran over the Richards line. Though the chances were fairly even, that number was carried by a crazy sequence that saw the Kings register 4 scoring chances in 2 seconds. All three forwards combined to play a weird game of 3v1 ping pong with Antti Niemi, and Niemi eventually forced Richards to knock the ball off the table. Otherwise, the Sharks mostly got the better of the second line of the Kings, notching 6 chances at 5v5 play.
- 3rd line (Carcillo - Stoll - Nolan), B-. Sutter has wavered from game-to-game on what he utilizes as hs third line. There's probably a strong case to be made for either line for San Jose's game, which I guess calls back to Sutter saying that he doesn't care much for distinct lines. While Vey and Stoll didn't get wholly different kinds of minutes, Sutter used Stoll more often. In fact, Jordan Nolan got more 5v5 minutes than Mike Richards and Jeff Carter thanks to a bevy of power play time for those two. Anyway, Stoll got extremely difficult zone starts, but his wingers were sheltered a bit. They faced off against San Jose's talented third line of Marty Havlat/Joe Pavelski/Tyler Kennedy. Stoll and Carcillo went 1-2 in shot attempt% for the Kings, while Nolan's slid a bit. They didn't do much offensively, but they had a pretty tough task. I'm still not fond of Carcillo's game, but his lines aren't doing the team much harm. Carcillo's underlying numbers have been respectable all season. His zone starts have not been sheltered and his competition has been pretty tough at times./
4th line (Clifford - Vey - Toffoli), D. Todd McLellan -- aided by solid depth -- did a very good job keeping Vey in check. After an extremely dominant performance in Vancover, McLelland did his home and sent out Pavelski's line and Dan Boyle's pairing to take care of this unit. Though their numbers weren't strong at all, this line got more comfortable as the game went along. I really, really like the make up of this line, so I hope Sutter doesn't take this molehill as a mountain.
- 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), D+. Something truly bizarre happened with Jake Muzzin in this game. Although he received 13+ minutes of ice time and 7 defensive zone starts often while playing with Drew Doughty, he wasn't on the ice for a single scoring chance at 5v5 play. For either team. There were 26 chances at even strength and somehow Muzzin missed all of them. I don't really even know what to say about that, especially considering that he was an enormous factor on the power play, but we'll get to that in a minute. Sutter sheltered Muzzin a bit but certainly not to the extreme that he has at times employed. Their minutes were tough, but the shot attempt numbers weren't bad. However, Doughty got out-chanced badly and this pairing just did not drive play. Doughty also wasn't on the ice for a Kings' scoring chance in this one (though he was on the ice for 5 chances by the Sharks).
- 2nd pairing (Regehr - Voynov), C+. While Doughty and Muzzin couldn't figure out the offensive side of the puck, Regehr and Voynov had no such issue. The two were on the ice for 8 chances for the Kings. That number is slightly bolstered by the aforementioned flurry of chances that the Richards line generated, but that just means that the Kings' second pairing still managed to find its way on the ice for 4 other chances. They had mediocre possession numbers, but didn't get an easy task with their zone starts or competition either.
- 3rd pairing (Mitchell - Martinez), C. Apparently Willie Mitchell was the recipient of every scoring chance that Muzzin wasn't on the ice for, as he was on the ice for exactly half of all of the 5v5 scoring chances in the game (+4/-9). Sutter did severely shelter Martinez's minutes compared to Mitchell's, but his zone starts were still moderately tough. Thanks to that, Martinez was one of just three Kings' to keep his head above water in shot attempts (+13/-12) and he managed to go even in scoring chances. This pairing squared off with the bottom-six of the Sharks./
- Power Play, A-. Results be damned. Unlike the Canucks a game prior, the Kings were exceedingly dangerous with the power play, generating a scoring chance per minute. Jake Muzzin was an absolute weapon on the power play, directly setting up 5 scoring chances for the Kings. Though I don't recall all of the passes being spectacular, it shows a marked improvement in an area of his game that seemed lacking a season ago. He often seemed to have tunnel vision and, at times, a shot-only mentality. He didn't have a lot of diversity to his game (to the eye) and I think it harmed him. This season he has been a much more dynamic player in a few key areas of the game. He has issues in his own end still, but his game with the puck is so much improved that he has been able to be an exceptionally valuable player to this point. One downside for the Kings were the 2 scoring chances they allowed during their power play. Neither chance was very threatening, but it was the only troublesome spot of an otherwise flawless ledger.
Penalty Kill, A. Great night all around for the special teams. While the Kings generated 10 shots on goal in their 8 PP minutes, the Sharks generated just 2 in their nearly 6. /
Ben Scrivens, A
- Much in the way that I didn't hold Jon Quick's gaffe against him, I'm not going to hold Scrivens accountable for the bizarre play that led to the go-ahead goal for the Sharks. He played another stellar game, posting a .929 SV% on the 14 chances the Sharks directed on net.
Overall Team Performance, B
This was a complete battle and perhaps the first time this year that I'd say either team could've come up with the victory and had it seem "right". Usually there is a decisive victor in a NHL game, but that was not the case on Wednesday night, and it wasn't due to lack of effort. Both teams called forth a very good game. Quite honestly, it was as much fun as I've had watching a November game in quite some time. Even the shootout was incredibly intense. Yes, the Sharks carried play at 5v5 for several segments of the game, but the whole game was very close and very competitive. The Kings had long segments of 5v5 play that they controlled as well. For instance, the Kings controlled shot attempts in "tied" situations (+22/-13). Each team got a lucky goal, each team earned a real goal and each team deserved more goals if not for the exceptional goaltending of their opponent. People throw around "playoff atmosphere" way way too often, but this was probably as close as the NHL will get for a few more months./