Sharks @ Kings: Grades and Analysis

Logan Couture was once again right in his analysis: the Sharks would not have beat the Kings no matter what.

The Kings came from behind three times to snag a pair of points in overtime.

Eric has the game recap here.

Forward Lines

After making a mistake on the opening shift, Kopitar became a machine. L.A. allowed 2 5v5 shot attempts for the rest of the game when he was on ice.
  • 1st line (King - Kopitar - Williams), A-. It's hard to call this game anything other than a weird one. While both teams limited chances, I'd hesitate to call the game a defensive deadlock (as is evidenced by the score). It was more a well-executed game, and I don't know if any single player personifies that more than Anze Kopitar. After making a mistake on the opening shift, Kopitar became a machine. L.A. allowed 2 5v5 shot attempts for the rest of the game when he was on ice. The Kings were out-chanced 8-5 at full strength, but Kopitar still managed to go +1. This line saw a lot of the Couture line from San Jose, but came out on top of all of its match-ups.
    2nd line (Richards - Carter - Lewis), C-. Continuing on the weird theme: Darryl Sutter shuffled his lines an awful lot. Mike Richards belonged to 8 different line combos at various points in the night while Jeff Carter belonged to 9. Unfortunately, not a lot seemed to work for those two. Lewis was alright, handily winning possession while he was on the ice. Richards and Carter were acceptable, but got worked over a bit defensively. Both lagged behind in scoring chance differential. On the bright side, Richards created 3 chances of his own; unfortunately, just 1 came at 5v5 play./

3rd line (Carcillo - Stoll - Brown), C. Like they did in the Edmonton game last Sunday, the Kings largely controlled zone-time against San Jose. There were just 6 faceoffs in the Kings' zone, and the Stoll/Brown combo was on the ice for 3 of them to lead LA forwards. However, that was off-set by weaker competition overall. Stoll's line mostly saw the 3rd line of the Sharks. While they came out a bit ahead in possession, they didn't fare particularly well relative to the rest of the team. Clifford also saw significant time on this line, and it was a better line for it. Possession-wise, Carcillo was one of the worst forwards on the team. Clifford, on the other hand, controlled two-thirds of the shot attempts while he was on the ice.
4th line (Clifford - Fraser - Frattin), B-. Sutter severely limited the 4th line's ice-time in spite of it being the second game of a back-to-back, which makes perfect sense given that these three wound up ahead in scoring chances and possession. It also makes sense to have Clifford and Frattin on a line with Fraser while offensive luminaries like Trevor Lewis and Dan Carcillo occupy spots in the top-nine. While I understand (to an extent) that Sutter is working more long-term with both players than any fan is willing to give him credit for, it's sometimes hard to see a method to his madness when lesser players receive rewards they haven't really earned. In fairness to Sutter, he did give Clifford a handful of shifts on other lines.
Defensive Pairings

The Doughty/Muzzin pairing was reunited against San Jose, and they were outstanding.
  • 1st pairing (Muzzin - Doughty), A. Finally! The Doughty/Muzzin pairing was reunited against San Jose, and they were outstanding. What few defensive zone starts that were there to be had were had by this pairing. They saw strong competition, mostly playing against the Couture line. And they were great! Doughty wound up +1 in chances and Muzzin broke even. Remember that the Kings managed just 5 chances at 5v5 play. These two were also terrific territorially as both players wound up with near team-best shot attempt margins.
  • 2nd pairing (Regehr - Voynov), C. While everyone (except Matt Greene) was solid with regards to possession, these two were a bit underwater in terms of scoring chances. Unfortunately, that's coupled with soft minutes against San Jose's 3rd and 4th lines. Though San Jose has a pretty strong bottom six (how weird does THAT sound?), it's safe to expect more from these two.
  • 3rd pairing (Mitchell - Greene), B. Assuming Sutter sticks with them, and assuming that opposing teams ever get the puck out of their own zone against the Kings, it will be interesting to see how he uses this pairing going forward. If he uses them as a true shutdown pairing, it could free up the Kings' offensive defensemen to exploit opposing teams. He used them against the top nine of the Sharks 77% of the time, with most of that time coming against the Thornton line. However, the Kings had so few defensive zone starts overall that it's tough to get an exact read on what he wants to do with this pairing. It's worth noting that he used his best puck-movers to start shifts in the defensive zone. Maybe Sutter reads us after all./

Special Teams

  • Power Play, B+. The process wasn't great early. The Kings continued a recent trend of struggling to gain the zone and, again, often resorted to chips and dumps to gain the zone. When they did gain the zone with control of the puck, they were effective. That was generally how they created their 3 scoring chances at 5v4 play. They got better as the game went along, and that culminated in the game-tying and game-winning goals. Kopitar notched 3 chances and set up 2 others in the game, and all of those came during Kings' power plays.
  • Penalty Kill, C. They've still got some kinks to work out, but they weren't bad against San Jose. While Couture did score, that can be traced back to one failed clear by a man who will probably wind up being one of the most used penalty killers in the entire league. Willie Mitchell flubbed his chance to ice the puck and in a matter of seconds the puck wound up behind a sprawled out Jonathan Quick. Other than that, they were alright. A bit loose, and we still saw them more than we should've in a game that the Kings' dominated, but they were mostly solid./

Jonathan Quick, B

  • Hard to fault him for any of the goals against. The Kings want their goalies to be aggressive toward shooters. Every once in a while it bites them, and Wednesday night was one of those nights. San Jose managed to take advantage of Quick's aggression on all three of their goals as they sent passes around or through defenders. This left Quick with little to do except scramble, and he wasn't able to come up with the highlight-reel save in those instances./

Overall Team Performance, B

  • The Kings were once again a dominant possession team. They seem to have found their identity, as they've been stellar since losing the possession battle in Nashville. They're up to 4th in the league in Fenwick Close, a stat considered one of the best predictors of future success. They've controlled 56.9% of all shot attempts so far this season, trailing just the team that ended their playoff run a season ago. No, they aren't generating offensive chances like we want them to yet. However, chances tend to correlate with possession over time. We've seen this roster figure it out before, and they will probably do it again./

The Numbers

  • Extra Skater
  • Here's Fear The Fin's scoring chance summary. Once again, it appears that I may be conservative. That's fine. I do think it's kind of funny that both sites are telling the story from the perspective of a team that lost the scoring chance battle. Clues you in to just how tight this game was in that regard. The general story told was the same, especially in the later stages of the game. They also have a nice scoring chance head-to-head table. Check it out!/

Below are our own numbers. Corsi table is courtesy of Robert, as always. One note: the EV total does not include 4v4 play.





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