This Week in Kings (3/25/14)

A day late because I was busy being a fanboy. *squeals for Jeff Carter*

Your humble blogger had a long four-day weekend traveling up and down the Eastern seaboard. First I was in Boston showing people things like this, then I went all the way down to Philadelphia to see Jeff Carter do things like this. Well worth the combined twelve hours or so of driving I did in a four-day period, I think. But that did delay TWIK by a day, so I apologize for the two of you who actually read this monstrosity every week. We'll of course cover eight days this time and get back on our normal schedule next Monday.

This Week in Games

(here's all the games involving the Pacific Division from this past week. we'll talk about the LA Kings' games in great detail, while the rest will mostly just be scores, unless I have something to say about it. you'll also get links to Eric's awesome recaps which will expand on everything I'm saying in much greater detail if you missed any of them.)

Monday, March 17th

-Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Vancouver Canucks 3

-Phoenix Coyotes 4, Los Angeles Kings 3: Wow, this game took place eight days ago huh? Feels more like eight years ago right now. But yeah, I do vaguely recall a few things about this game: the Kings dominated to almost a ridiculous degree (LA had 60.2% of overall shot attempts, 62% of 5v5 shot attempts, and outshot Phoenix 27-18 at 5v5 as well) and were undone mostly by a subpar effort from Jonathan Quick. Phoenix's third goal especially stood out as pretty awful, as a relatively harmless-looking point shot ended up going off Quick's glove and in the net. It was definitely not a good game at all for him, but Quick has been pretty great since the Olympic break so you could perhaps forgive him for this one. Still, since this was LA's third loss in a row at the time, all against inferior teams they had dominated (the first two came against Toronto and Anaheim, if you don't recall), it probably stung a little extra to lose this one, especially after coming back from 2-0 to take a 3-2 lead and then blowing it and not even getting a point like they did. (recap) (gamethread)

Tuesday, March 18th

-Calgary Flames 3, Buffalo Sabres 1

-Edmonton Oilers 5, Nashville Predators 1

-Washington Capitals 3, Anaheim Ducks 2: Bruce Boudreau's old team came into the Ponda and did to the Ducks what the Ducks have done to plenty of other teams (including the Kings, several times this year), which is of course get heavily outshot and win in regulation anyway. The Ducks outshot the Caps a stunning 45-30, but Jaroslav Halak stood on his head for his new team and stopped 43 of those shots to lead the Caps to victory. If you're wondering how the Ducks, who are not particularly good, dominated the Caps so badly, the answer is that the Caps are kind of garbage. Anaheim's 50.2% FenClose is certainly not great and puts them at only 16th in the league, but that's still well ahead of Washington, who are a dismal 48.5% and sit in 22nd. The big difference in their two records? Washington's sporting a 99.9 5v5 close PDO, while Anaheim has a sky-high 103.8. Not to say that Washington is totally unlucky, though; they've played a league-high 17 shootouts (tied with San Jose), winning 9 of them, to help artificially inflate their point total up to 79. It still likely won't be enough for them to make the playoffs, even in the East. Meanwhile, Anaheim will hopefully continue to regress until they regress themselves right out of the playoffs in the very 1st round.

-Florida Panthers 3, San Jose Sharks 2: Speaking of the Sharks, woof was this an awful loss. Losing to the Panthers, who are basically done, at home, would be bad enough under any circumstances, but the Sharks are in the middle of a race with the Ducks for the division banner (and we all know how much they love their division banners). The Ducks lose to a slightly inferior Washington team at home, opening the door for the Sharks, and the Sharks....lose in regulation to Florida. Ouch. Now, let's of course mention that the Sharks outshot Florida 54-24 (!!!), but Roberto Luongo made the most of an opportunity to play the team who swept him out of the 1st round last year.

Wednesday, March 19th

-Vancouver Canucks 2, Nashville Predators 0: Amazing to think this was a 2nd round playoff matchup in the West less than three years ago (and a pretty fun series at that). Now Nashville is basically done in mid-March and the Canucks are just barely holding on to their faint playoff hopes.

Thursday, March 20th

-Buffalo Sabres 3, Edmonton Oilers 1: "Man, losing at home 3-1 to the Sabres? This is the most embarrassing thing that will happen to us this week." said an Oiler fan who should have known better.

-Phoenix Coyotes 2, Florida Panthers 1

-Los Angeles Kings 2, Washington Capitals 1 (SO): The way my weekend journey went, I would be leaving for an overnight drive to Boston right after this game ended (because, y'know, priorities). So I was less than thrilled when the Kings coughed up another 3rd period lead, this time with about seven-and-a-half minutes left to play, as I figured the game was now going to overtime AND a shootout just to make sure I left as late as possible. And guess what? I was exactly right. The only silver lining is the fact that we at least got the job done in the shootout to send me off in a good mood. The Kings outplayed their opposition yet again (58.1% of all shot attempts, 58.8% of 5v5 attempts) and at least managed to get 2 points for their troubles for the first time in a while, breaking that three-game losing streak in dramatic fashion. (recap) (gamethread)

-San Jose Sharks 3, Anaheim Ducks 2: Obviously this was an enormous game in the Pacific Division standings, with the Ducks & Sharks locked into a battle for 1st place. Anaheim fought back from an early 1-0 deficit to score two unanswered goals, with Teemu Selanne's eight (lol) less than 2 minutes into the 3rd giving them their first lead of the game. But the Sharks answered right back, tying things up about 6 minutes later with a goal by Joe Pavelski and then taking back the lead with under four minutes to go thanks to Brent Burns' 20th of the year. The Ducks put only 18 shots on goal (compared to San Jose's 28), and without yet another subpar performance from Antti Niemi (who's got only a .914 sv% on the year, down a full tenth from his .924 he put up in the lockout-shortened year and more in line with the .915 he had in 2011-12), probably weren't even really in this one. But in the end, the Sharks got the job done anyway to move into 1st in the division.

Friday, March 21st

-Nashville Predators 6, Calgary Flames 5

Saturday, March 22nd

-Los Angeles Kings 4, Florida Panthers 0: I swear to god my exact thought process about this game was: "this is like the third game this season I won't be able to see at all and it's against a crappy team, so watch the Kings actually just have a one-sided blowout for once in their lives." Yep, nailed it. Kings beat the crap out of Luongo (who I'm sure is happy to only have one game at Staples per year going forward now) and the Panthers, scoring 4 goals on just 29 shots, and Jonathan Quick had a 24-save shutout to earn the LA franchise record for wins by a goaltender in style. Good going guys. Really looking forward to the day I'm actually able to watch a Kings blowout. (recap)(gamethread)

-Boston Bruins 4, Phoenix Coyotes 2

-Calgary Flames 8, Edmonton Oilers 1: Drunk!John is walking around Boston. Drunk!John looks down at his phone to check NHL scores. Drunk!John sees this score. Drunk!John almost falls down on the sidewalk laughing.

-Washington Capitals 3, San Jose Sharks 2 (SO): Not a good loss for the Sharks, even getting a point, against a bad Washington team. This was a weird week for them: they beat Anaheim in regulation, which was obviously their most important game, but lose to a couple of crappy Eastern teams, both at home. If they don't end up pulling out the Pacific (and as you'll soon see it's going to be awfully close), they can look back at this game and the Florida loss as huge missed opportunities.

Sunday, March 23rd

-Vancouver Canucks 4, Buffalo Sabres 2

-Anaheim Ducks 6, Florida Panthers 2

Monday, March 24th

-New York Rangers 4, Phoenix Coyotes 3 (OT): Talk about a tough loss for a team trying to lock down a playoff spot. Phoenix blew a 2-0 lead, got back in front 3-2, then watched their starting goalie Mike Smith (who has stood on his head for this team of late- he had stopped 25 of 27 in this game, 22 of 23 against Florida, 36 of 39 against LA, and 29 of 31 against Calgary) go down with an injury, as NYR forward Derick Brassard appeared to get pushed backwards into him by a Coyote and landed right on his leg. Smith had to leave the game and is now listed as day-to-day. To top it off, his replacement Thomas Greiss coughed up the tying goal with under 3-and-a-half minutes to play in regulation and the Coyotes lost the game in overtime. Ouch.

-Los Angeles Kings 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2: The last time I saw the Kings play in Philadelphia was extremely early in the 2011-12 season. Mike Richards had just been traded and most of the Flyers fans there were not yet of the mind to boo him, instead giving him a standing ovation when the Flyers actually honored the guy they had just traded away. And not only was Jeff Carter not yet a King at all, but the man who he would eventually be traded for, Jack Johnson, scored the overtime winner. My, how things can change. This time around, even though Carter & Richards both still had their supporters in attendance, they were loudly booed every time they touched the puck. Yes, as if it was their fault they were traded from the team they had taken hometown discounts to sign with (thanks again for that, Philly) and in fact had even requested no-trade clauses to stay in Philadelphia (Homer simply traded them right before those clauses would have kicked in, because of course he did). Needless to say, there was no one happier than me when Jeff Carter scored for the Kings. The first two periods went pretty damn well for LA: they dominated in puck possession and scoring chances, and held a 2-0 lead. I have to say, if you ever have the chance to watch the Kings play live, a high-up vantage point from somewhere close to center is the way to go. I was right above the LA attacking blue line, and when the Kings are on their game like they were through the first two, they are a joy to watch. Provided you're into little things like how well they forecheck, how strong their breakouts typically are, and how quickly they're able to get to loose pucks, you'll really enjoy yourself. What doesn't often come across on television is just how insanely well-positioned the Kings are to make things happen quickly; throughout the first two periods, the Kings would have someone go to quiet ice almost immediately in the defensive zone, the player with the puck would get it to him quickly even if that position is a spot that would normally be considered dangerous (for example, a defenseman always seemed to get right in front of his own net with no one else around him and be ready to take the puck off the boards, and that's how the Kings would get their breakout started with a ridiculously high success rate), and boom, puck is out of the defensive zone. The Flyers also had no answer for their forecheck, turning the puck over in their own zone time and time again. It got to the point where the fans around me were literally groaning more than they were cheering. But the Flyers, to their credit, did play much better in the 3rd and get a couple of wacky deflections past Quick to tie the game 2-2. Rather than go into panic mode over blowing yet another 3rd period lead, the Kings quickly got it back, as Slava Voynov made up for his boneheaded turnover on the Flyers' tying goal by making a deft play to send the puck off the boards past two Flyers, quickly move around them and get it back, and set up Dwight King on essentially a gimme goal on a 2-on-1. The Kings would then hold on to win 3-2 in an immensely satisfying and fun game. And I will say this for the Philly crowd: other than the occasional ignorant statement, they were good sports, fun to go back-and-forth with (especially about Jeff Carter), and certainly more well-behaved then the Manhattan crowd was during that LA-NYR game I attended earlier this year. There was an older gentleman sitting in front of us who even turned around and congratulated us on the victory, which I thought was pretty neat (and not something I can ever recall happening at any other LA road game I've attended). (recap) (gamethread)

-Calgary Flames 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (SO): Woof San Jose. Yes, they got a point again, but it was against the Calgary Flames. They may just have opened the door enough for Anaheim to walk right through it and take the division crown after all, which would be most unfortunate.

This Week in Standings

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. San Jose-x 73 46 18 9 101 36 222 175 +47 26-5-5 20-13-4 1-1-2
2. Anaheim 71 46 18 7 99 44 228 180 +48 25-7-4 21-11-3 1-2-0
3. Los Angeles 72 41 25 6 88 34 177 151 +26 21-13-3 20-12-3 3-1-0
4. Phoenix 72 34 26 12 80 29 199 205 -6 21-12-3 13-14-9 2-1-1
5. Vancouver 73 33 30 10 76 28 176 196 -20 18-11-6 15-19-4 2-1-0
6. Calgary 72 30 35 7 67 24 183 211 -28 15-16-3 12-18-4 3-1-0
7. Edmonton-e 72 25 38 9 59 22 171 224 -53 12-16-3 12-20-6 1-2-0

Ah yes, now we're really getting down to the nitty-gritty, as we have our first little x to signify a team has clinched a playoff spot. The Sharks were a .500 team this week, getting 4 of a possible 8 points, but that was enough for them to leapfrog the Ducks into 1st in the Pacific and punch their ticket to the dance, officially (as if they were going to miss anyway). However, as mentioned they squandered a real chance here to put a cushion between them and the Ducks, losing games to such luminaries as Florida, Washington, and Calgary. That one win over Anaheim certainly helped, but they are still just two points ahead of the Ducks, who have 2 games in hand on them, so the Ducks ultimately still control their own fate here. The Sharks are going to have to hope the Ducks continue to struggle- they went just 1-2-0 this week, with their only win coming over the aforementioned Panthers- if they want to lock down that top seed in the Pacific and avoid the Kings-Sharks 1st round matchup that I think we'd all rather not happen, at least not so soon.

Meanwhile, the Kings went 3-1-0 to increase their gap over Phoenix to 8 points, with both teams having just ten games left to play. A quick glance at Sports Club Stats shows that the Kings have put themselves in a great position to lock down that 3 seed, as they will finish in 3rd in over 98% of the remaining scenarios put through the simulation. Even some mediocre record over their last 10 games like 6-4-0, 5-4-1, 5-3-2, etc. will still see them finish in 3rd a vast, vast majority of the time.

Let's switch gears and take an updated look at the Wild Card standings. Top two get in, the rest have to argue with Flyers trolls on Twitter all summer long.

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. Minnesota (C) 72 37 24 11 85 30 180 178 +2 23-8-5 14-16-6 2-2-1
2. Phoenix (P) 72 34 26 12 80 29 199 205 -6 21-12-3 13-14-9 2-1-1
3. Dallas (C) 71 34 26 11 79 31 201 203 -2 20-10-7 14-16-4 2-2-0
4. Vancouver (P) 73 33 30 10 76 28 176 196 -20 18-11-6 15-19-4 2-1-0
5. Winnipeg (C) 73 32 32 9 73 26 202 213 -11 17-15-6 15-17-3 1-3-0
6. Nashville (C) 72 31 31 10 72 30 173 213 -40 15-17-4 16-14-6 2-2-0
7. Calgary (P) 72 30 35 7 67 24 183 211 -28 17-17-3 13-18-4 3-1-0
8. Edmonton-e (P) 72 25 38 9 59 22 178 236 -58 13-18-3 12-20-6 1-2-0

Minnesota had a .500 week as they continue to close in on their 2nd straight trip to the postseason. Below them, the big move was Phoenix, as they went from 3rd (though technically tied in points with Dallas) last week up into the 2nd spot in the Wild Card, making them the eighth and final playoff team from the West. However, that position is far from secure, as Dallas sits just one point back with a game in hand (the Columbus game that to my knowledge still hasn't been rescheduled yet), as well as an advantage in the ROW tiebreaker. It looks like it's going to come right down to the wire between those two teams. The Canucks went 2-1-0 as they at least were able to keep themselves somewhat in the conversation, though 4 points behind Phoenix (who has a game in hand on them) and three behind Dallas (who has two games in hand on them) is probably a little too much ground for them to make up with just 9 games remaining. Certainly they're going to need to keep getting results AND have both teams in front of them falter a bit if they want to get in.

Below Vancouver, there's not much going on. Winnipeg's dismal 1-3-0 week probably closed the book on their already weak playoff hopes. And Edmonton has the little e next to their name indicating that, yes, they have been officially eliminated. Even the worst mathematician should be able to figure out that Edmonton could go a perfect 10-0-0 to finish the year (lol) and still finish with just 79 points....or one point behind Phoenix, the current 8th place team in the West. Yep. Enjoy yet another early summer, Edmonton. I'm sure your latest top 3 pick will be the one that takes you ~over the top~.

This Week in #fancystats

(all stats are total attempts, not percentages. thanks to extra skater. also, as an experiment I'm going to now list the best & worst Corsi for the opponents, so you can see who contributed- positively and negatively- to their effort as well, because why not?)

Coyotes 4, Kings 3
Corsi: Kings 65-Coyotes 43 (overall), Kings 44-Coyotes 27 (5v5, 45.0 mins), Kings 27-Coyotes 16 (5v5 close, 31.8 mins), Kings 17-Coyotes 11 (5v5 tied, 20.1 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 52-Coyotes 35 (overall), Kings 35-Coyotes 23 (5v5, 45.0 mins), Kings 25-Coyotes 13 (5v5 close, 31.8 mins), Kings 17-Coyotes 9 (5v5 tied, 20.1 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Gaborik/Kopitar/Mitchell/Doughty (tied, +8). Worst: Stoll (even), Pearson (+1), Voynov/Regehr (tied, +2)
PHX Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Klinkhammer (+3), Chipchura/Vrbata (tied, +2). Worst: Korpikoski (-18), Vermette/Boedker (tied, -12)

Kings 2, Capitals 1 (SO)
Corsi: Kings 68-Capitals 49 (overall), Kings 47-Capitals 33 (5v5, 50.0 mins), Kings 35-Capitals 28 (5v5 close, 41.6 mins), Kings 12-Capitals 9 (5v5 tied, 19.8 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 48-Capitals 38 (overall), Kings 33-Capitals 24 (5v5, 50.0 mins), Kings 23-Capitals 20 (5v5 close, 41.6 mins), Kings 6-Capitals 5 (5v5 tied, 19.8 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Toffoli/Pearson (tied, +9), Gaborik/Voynov (tied, +8). Worst: King (-5), Richards (-3), Brown (-1)
WSH Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Orlov (+5), Ward (+1), Brown (even). Worst: Hillen (-10), Alzner/Kuznetsov (tied, -9)

Kings 4, Panthers 0
Corsi: Kings 56-Panthers 48 (overall), Kings 48-Panthers 33 (5v5, 33.2 mins), Kings 15-Panthers 11 (5v5 close, 13.2 mins), Kings 9-Panthers 6 (5v5 tied, 9.0 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 43-Panthers 41 (overall), Kings 37-Panthers 26 (5v5, 33.2 mins), Kings 10-Panthers 8 (5v5 close, 13.2 mins), Kings 5-Panthers 3 (5v5 tied, 9.0 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Richards/Clifford/Carter (tied, +10). Worst: Williams/Gaborik/Kopitar (tied, -7)
FLA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Gomez (+2), Hayes/Barch/Trocheck/Fleischmann (tied, +1). Worst: Olsen/Bjugstad (tied, -11), Boyes (-9)

Kings 3, Flyers 2
Corsi: Flyers 68-Kings 65 (overall), Kings 54-Flyers 45 (5v5, 43.4 mins), Kings 43-Flyers 23 (5v5 close, 30.4 mins), Kings 26-Flyers 12 (5v5 tied, 18.1 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 52-Flyers 47 (overall), Kings 45-Flyers 32 (5v5, 43.4 mins), Kings 36-Flyers 17 (5v5 close, 30.4 mins), Kings 19-Flyers 8 (5v5 tied, 18.1 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Toffoli/Mitchell (tied, +10), Carter (+8). Worst: Brown (-4), Clifford/Lewis/Regehr (tied, -3)
PHI Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Hartnell (+6), Raffl (+5), Voracek (+4). Worst: Grossman (-16), Simmonds (-9), Lecavalier (-8)

Next Week in the Pacific

(this is exactly what it sounds like: the next week's schedule for all 7 Pacific Division teams. all times are pacific because, um, duh.)

Team 3/24 3/25 3/26 3/27 3/28 3/29 3/30
(3-2 W)
@WSH (4:00) - @PIT (4:00) - vs.WPG (7:00) -
(2-1 SOL)
@EDM (6:30) - vs.WPG (7:30) - @COL (12 pm) -
ANA - - @CGY (7:00) - @EDM (6:30) @VAN (7:00) -
(4-3 OTL)
@PIT (4:00) - @NJ (4:00) - vs.MIN (6:00) -
VAN - - @MIN (4:30) @COL (6:00) - vs.ANA (7:00) -
(2-1 SOW)
- vs.ANA (7:00) - vs.NYR (6:00) - @OTT (2:00)
EDM - vs.SJ (6:30) - - vs.ANA (6:30) - vs.NYR (5:00)

In the interest of getting this out during the 1st intermission of this Caps-Kings game (that we're losing 2-0 wahhhh), no prolonged analysis of the schedule this week. But there it is, everything laid out in front of you, and we'll see you back on our regular day next Monday!