This Week in Kings (3/31/14)

Literally nothing to complain about. Except the Sharks, I guess.

The Kings can be a frustrating team to be a fan of sometimes. It's not fun to watch your team dominate puck possession and yet almost inexplicably struggle to score. Often, it can become easy to lose perspective and forget just how much better our favorite team is than almost everyone else in the league. But when the Kings do put together a stretch of games like this, it reminds us all that the underlying numbers usually catch up with the results eventually (another good reminder of that would be your 2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs). So the next time the Kings put together a string of 58-plus-percent Corsi games without anything to show for it, just remember: math (and the puck) are both on our side.

As a reminder, last week's TWIK was a day late and covered 8 days, through last Monday, which is why we're starting off with Tuesday this week.

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.)

Tuesday, March 25th

-Phoenix Coyotes 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2: If you'll recall, Mike Smith went down to injury after a collision with Derick Brassard of the Rangers (and is still going to miss some more time, though should be able to return before the playoffs), so this was Thomas Greiss' first test as he attempted keep the Desert Dogs in their playoff spot. Greiss, who has been a great backup for Phoenix all year (currently sporting a .924 save percentage), got the job done, stopping 23 of 25 and holding onto a 1-goal lead from about midway through the 2nd to pick up a huge 2 points.

-Los Angeles Kings 5, Washington Capitals 4 (SO): This was a weird game. The Kings had played the night before in Philadelphia and came out about as flat as flat could be, allowing the Caps to get out to a quick 2-0 lead off of power play goals. Of course, relying on their power play is nothing new for the Caps- they are a dismal 24th in 5v5 goals per 60 (2.06, just slightly better than LA's own dismal 2.03), but lead the league by a mile in goals per 60 on the 5v4 power play (9.52, with second place Pittsburgh at 8.15)- so putting them on the power play repeatedly early on was probably not a great idea. But the Kings rebounded and played a stronger 2nd (albeit it one where they failed to generate any scoring chances at evens), so you could see things starting to turn a little even as they ended it still down 2 goals, now 3-1. The Kings immediately came out and scored just 45 seconds into the 3rd, as Dwight King put home a juicy rebound off a Dustin Brown shot. That would start a run of 3 unanswered goals for LA, as a two-goal lead for Washington was turned into a 1-goal lead for the Kings in about 13 minutes. But because this is the Kings we're talking about and nothing can be that simple, Mike Richards was hauled down heading for the empty net and the automatic goal that's supposed to be awarded in that situation inexplicably wasn't (the referee claimed the Capital player pulled him down from the side and not from behind, which isn't even a requirement to award the goal but okay sure), and the Capitals of course scored a shorthanded goal with the goalie still pulled to tie it in the last minute. But the Kings made quick work of Washington in the shootout anyway, as Kopitar & Carter both scored in the first two rounds while Quick shut the door on the Caps. In the end it was a satisfying comeback victory, as the Kings pulled out 4 out of 4 points on the road back-to-back. (recap) (gamethread)

-San Jose Sharks 5, Edmonton Oilers 2: Even as the Sharks are in the midst of a Kings-like streak of controlling possession against inferior teams and losing anyway, the Oilers still lost, because they are the Oilers, I guess.

Wednesday, March 26th

-Vancouver Canucks 5, Minnesota Wild 2

-Anaheim Ducks 3, Calgary Flames 2: The Flames, who have been playing much better hockey of late, were coming off an upset of San Jose in a shootout on Monday. When they scored to take a 2-1 lead on the Ducks with just 26 seconds remaining in the 2nd, it looked like another upset was about to happen, but alas the Ducks managed to tie the game just 5:32 into the 3rd and then with about five-and-a-half minutes left took the lead on Andrew Cogliano's 21st of the season. Thanks, Calgary, that was sure helpful.

Thursday, March 27th

-Phoenix Coyotes 3, New Jersey Devils 2 (SO): Not only are the Devils 0-10 in shootouts this season (which is horrendous enough already, don't get me wrong), but they've also scored exactly one shootout goal all year! I know the shootout is mostly luck and in some way New Jersey deserves this for all the shootouts they had won a few years back (with Kovy & Parise both on the team, mind you), but jesus. If the Devils had won exactly half of their shootout games, went 5-5 instead of 0-10, they'd be tied with Columbus for the last Wild Card spot. Instead, they're five points out and according to Sports Club Stats have only a 14.3% chance of making the playoffs (which is at least better than Toronto's, I guess). SCS is kind of funny to look at for the Kings right now, by the way; if you're wondering what kind of record the Kings would need to drop out of a top 3 seed and end up in the Wild Card, it actually happens less often in their simulation than the Kings climbing up to 2nd in the division! That happens about 1% of the time, which granted is pretty slim, but that's better than the 0.0501% of the time LA drops to the 1st Wild Card (even if you add that together with the 0.0202 they fall to the 2nd Wild Card and the- swear to god- 0.00223 they fall out of the playoffs completely, it's still less). It would take a record of like 1-4-2 or 2-5-0 to send LA below 3rd in the division. And even then it doesn't always happen! Fascinating. Anyway.

-Los Angeles Kings 3, Pittsburgh Penguins 2: After somewhat-inexplicably not starting Martin Jones in the second half of a back-to-back, Sutter thankfully went with Jones here in a 3rd-game-in-4-nights situation. The Penguins, too, started their backup, ex-Monarch Jeff Zatkoff, giving us Monarch-on-Monarch violence in the nets. Anyway, remember how Pittsburgh was 2nd in the league in goals per 60 on the 5v4 power play? Well, the Kings gave that team seven power plays. I don't know if they were actually ahead of Washington in the goals per 60 rate at 5v4 before this game, but they were ahead of them in traditional power play percentage, and by the end of this game they weren't anymore, as LA somehow killed off every last one. Jones deserves a lot of credit, stopping 35 of 37, even though he also let in a pretty awful goal to Taylor Pyatt at even strength late in the 2nd. But the Kings got a third goal off a Drew Doughty slap shot less than 4 minutes into the 3rd, and it's a 3-2 league so the Kings held on for the victory. As you've probably heard a million times by now, this was their 8th straight road win, tying a franchise record. (recap) (gamethread)

-Colorado Avalanche 3, Vancouver Canucks 2 (OT): The Canucks had been on a modest little run entering this game, winning 3 straight (against such luminaries as the Predators, Sabres, and Wild mind you) to kind-of-sort-of-but-not-really put themselves back into the playoff conversation. They did get a point here against the fake-good Avs, but at this point they probably needed to win out just to give themselves even a half-decent shot of getting in, and they obviously failed to do that.

-Winnipeg Jets 4, San Jose Sharks 3: Yes folks, the Sharks lost at home to the Winnipeg friggin' Jets. In regulation. Sigh. At this point we should probably just all start accepting the inevitability of an LA-SJ 1st round series. I think the Kings probably do win that series, but it goes without saying that it's a much tougher draw than the Ducks. Oh well.

Friday, March 28th

-Calgary Flames 4, New York Rangers 3

-Edmonton Oilers 4, Anaheim Ducks 3 (OT): Hey, maybe there's hope after all!

Saturday, March 29th

-Colorado Avalanche 3, San Jose Sharks 2: #nope

-Minnesota Wild 3, Phoenix Coyotes 1: The Wild were struggling greatly entering this game (1-3-1 in their previous 5) while the Coyotes were surging (3-1-1 in their previous 5), leading many Yotes fans having visions of passing Minnesota and thus climbing into the top Wild Card spot. And for a while in this game, it looked like they might just pull it off- a win here would've given Phoenix 86 points, while the Wild would have been stuck at 85, and the Yotes had a 1-0 lead dating all the way back to Mikkel Boedker's 19th of the year just 3:16 into the 1st. Instead, the Wild tied the game 8:03 into the 3rd on Parise's shot right off a clean face-off win by Mikko Koivu, took the lead on a Jared Spurgeon slapper less than five minutes later, and sealed the comeback with an empty net goal to move 3 points clear of the Yotes.

-Anaheim Ducks 5, Vancouver Canucks 1: The fat lady isn't singing for the Canucks just yet, but let's just say she's warming up the 'ol pipes after this one.

-Los Angeles Kings 4, Winnipeg Jets 2: When it's your first game back home after a lengthy road trip, and in fact you only had one day off before getting back at it, there's few things more welcoming than awful goaltending. The Kings were good, but not dominant by any stretch- Nick had chances at 7-5 Winnipeg at the end of the 1st- but they ended the period up 3-0, thanks to Ondrej Pavelec stopping just 13 of 16 shots (one of the goals coming from Trevor friggin' Lewis, at an awful angle to boot). Winnipeg switched goalies and made a few token efforts at getting back into the game, narrowing the lead to 2 a couple of times, but that was as close as they would get, as the Kings cruised to a relatively easy victory. I know, when do we ever do that?! (gamethread)

Sunday, March 30th

-Ottawa Senators 6, Calgary Flames 3

-New York Rangers 5, Edmonton Oilers 0: The #fancystats in this game were so horrendous for the Oilers it gives me a little amusing story to tell: at more than halfway through the game, the Oilers' had so few shot attempts (14 I believe?) that when my girlfriend Nicole asked me something about them, I legitimately thought she was referring to a player on the Oilers and not the entire team. Yep. Their score-close stats in this game are so amazingly terrible that they probably shouldn't even be theoretically possible: they had just 25.7% of all shot attempts and 28.6% of unblocked attempts at 5v5 before the game got out of control. Even after score effects kicked in, they were only able to get up to 38.2% of shot attempts and 37% of unblocked attempts at 5v5. Amazing. You are amazing, Oilers of Edmonton.

This Week in Standings
(friendly reminder that the "last week" section actually only covers 6 days, since again last week's TWIK covered 8)

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. Anaheim-x 74 48 18 8 104 46 239 187 +52 25-7-4 23-11-4 2-0-1
2. San Jose-x 76 47 20 9 103 37 232 184 +48 26-6-5 21-14-4 1-2-0
3. Los Angeles 75 44 25 6 94 36 177 151 +26 21-13-3 20-12-3 3-0-0
4. Phoenix 75 36 27 12 84 30 206 212 -6 21-13-3 15-14-9 2-1-0
5. Vancouver 76 34 31 11 79 29 184 206 -22 18-12-6 16-19-5 1-1-1
6. Calgary-e 75 31 37 7 69 25 192 223 -31 18-18-3 13-19-4 1-2-0
7. Edmonton-e 75 26 40 9 61 23 184 249 -65 14-20-3 12-20-6 1-2-0

The big (and only) movement came at the top of the standings, as Anaheim quickly regained their top position after briefly giving it up to the Sharks, going 2-0-1. The Sharks went 1-2-0, not good at all in the midst of a division title race, and now they've put themselves in a very tough spot, trailing the Ducks by a point while Anaheim holds 2 games in hand. It's certainly not impossible for the Sharks to catch the Ducks, but it would definitely have to be considered unlikely at this point. The Kings went a perfect 3-0-0, lowering their "magic number" to clinch a playoff spot to just 5 points (either won by the Kings or lost by the Coyotes). Phoenix, who did have a good 2-1-0 week, can only get up to 98 points, and unless there's a huge turnaround in ROWs they probably can't catch LA in the first tiebreaker, either. Essentially their real magic number is 4, but mathematically we need to pretend there's still a shot Phoenix can catch us in ROWs, since it's still at least theoretically possible. Anyway, let's switch gears and look at the Wild Card. Top 2 get in, the rest have to listen to Kevin Poulin's theory of analytics.

Team GP W L OTL Points ROW GF GA Diff Home Away Last Week
1. Minnesota (C) 75 38 26 11 87 31 186 189 -3 23-9-5 15-17-6 1-2-0
2. Phoenix (P) 75 36 27 12 84 30 206 212 -6 21-13-3 15-14-9 2-1-0
3. Dallas (C) 74 36 27 11 83 33 214 212 +2 21-10-7 15-17-4 2-1-0
4. Vancouver (P) 76 34 31 11 79 29 184 206 -22 18-12-6 16-19-5 1-1-1
5. Nashville (C) 76 33 32 11 77 31 190 229 -39 17-17-5 16-15-6 1-0-2
6. Winnipeg (C) 75 33 33 9 75 27 208 220 -12 17-15-6 16-18-3 1-1-0
7. Calgary-e (P) 75 31 37 7 69 25 192 223 -31 18-18-3 13-19-4 1-2-0
8. Edmonton-e (P) 75 26 40 9 61 23 184 249 -65 14-20-3 12-20-6 1-2-0

Minnesota went 1-2-0 on the week, but their one win was a huge win, defeating Phoenix to retain their top spot in the Wild Card standings. Phoenix's 2-1-0 week was good but obviously their one loss stings quite a bit. Dallas trails them by 1 point, has the ROW tiebreaker, and does have a game in hand (but again, that game in hand is the suspended Columbus game they will start trailing 1-0, so that can't be looked at with the same value as a normal game-in-hand). It's worth noting at this point that Phoenix and Dallas will play on the last day of the season- Sunday April 13th- and if things stay this close up until then, it could easily be a win-and-you're-in, lose-and-you're-out situation.

Below Dallas, no one else is really in this. Vancouver had an average 1-1-1 week, certainly well below what they needed to really stay in the race. They're 5 points back of Phoenix and have played one more game on top of it, so at this point it's going to take a near-miracle for them to get in. Nashville passed Winnipeg in the standings, although that's not worth much more than bragging rights as they're still 7 points out. Finally, Calgary is the latest team to add the depressing little bold e next to their name, as they join their Alberta rivals in being officially eliminated from playoff contention.

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?)

Kings 5, Capitals 4 (SO)
Corsi: Kings 75-Capitals 43 (overall), Kings 51-Capitals 24 (5v5, 47.5 mins), Kings 21-Capitals 9 (5v5 close, 20.4 mins), Kings 8-Capitals 3 (5v5 tied, 5.8 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 55-Capitals 36 (overall), Kings 39-Capitals 19 (5v5, 47.5 mins), Kings 16-Capitals 8 (5v5 close, 20.4 mins), Kings 8-Capitals 3 (5v5 tied, 5.8 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Doughty (+23), Kopitar (+14), Muzzin (+13). Worst: Carter (even), Martinez/Voynov (tied, +2)
WSH Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Ovechkin/Brown (tied, -1), Penner/Hillen/Backstrom (tied, -3). Worst: Orlov (-14), Wey (-13), Ward/Fehr/Beagle/Alzner (tied, -11)

Kings 3, Penguins 2
Corsi: Penguins 64-Kings 52 (overall), Kings 44-Penguins 35 (5v5, 39.7 mins), Kings 28-Penguins 25 (5v5 close, 26.4 mins), Kings 16-Penguins 14 (5v5 tied, 16.6 mins)
Fenwick: Penguins 48-Kings 42 (overall), Kings 35-Penguins 28 (5v5, 39.7 mins), Kings 21-Penguins 19 (5v5 close, 26.4 mins), Kings 11-Penguins 11 (5v5 tied, 16.6 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Muzzin/Kopitar (tied, +12), Williams (+11). Worst: Clifford (-6), Regehr (-5), Voynov (-4)
PIT Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Maatta (+6), Neal (+2), Goc/Sutter/Scuderi (tied, +1). Worst: Stempniak/Bortuzzo/Orpik (tied, -9)

Kings 4, Jets 2
Corsi: Kings 59-Jets 55 (overall), Kings 50-Jets 45 (5v5, 50.1 mins), Kings 11-Jets 6 (5v5 close, 5.9 mins), Kings 6-Jets 2 (5v5 tied, 2.7 mins)
Fenwick: Kings 45-Jets 45 (overall), Kings 39-Jets 37 (5v5, 50.1 mins), Kings 11-Jets 5 (5v5 close, 5.9 mins), Kings 6-Jets 2 (5v5 tied, 2.7 mins)
LA Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Carter/Martinez/King (tied, +6). Worst: Lewis (-5), Muzzin (-4), Richards/Gaborik/Doughty (tied, -3)
WPG Indv. Player Corsi 5v5- Best: Pardy (+7), Ladd/Frolik (tied, +6). Worst: Ellerby (-10), Peluso (-9), Jokinen (-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 3/31 4/1 4/2 4/3 4/4 4/5 4/6
LA vs.MIN (7:00) - vs.PHX (7:30) @SJ (7:30) - @VAN (7:00) -
ANA vs.WPG (7:00) - vs.EDM (7:00)
vs.NSH (7:00) - @EDM (5:00)
SJ - vs.EDM (7:30) - vs.LA (7:30) - vs.NSH (7:30) -
PHX - vs.WPG (7:00) @LA (7:30) - vs.EDM (7:00) - -
VAN - vs.NYR (7:00) - - - vs.LA (7:00) -
CGY - @TOR (4:00) - @TB (4:30) @FLA (4:30) - -
EDM - @SJ (7:30) @ANA (7:00) - @PHX (7:00) - vs.ANA (5:00)

It's a packed 4-game week for the Kings, as they'll host the Wild tonight, the Coyotes on Wednesday, travel up to San Jose for a tough back-to-back game on Thursday, and then wrap up their week in Vancouver on Saturday. The Kings could clinch the 3rd seed in the Pacific (and thus a playoff spot) with almost any record, depending on what Phoenix does in their three games (including their head-to-head meeting). Anaheim gets a ridiculously soft schedule as they try to close in on their 2nd straight Pacific division title, as they'll play the Oilers two more times (one home, one away) as well as host Central non-playoff teams Winnipeg & Nashville (both who could be officially eliminated this week). The Sharks, meanwhile, do get meetings with those same Preds & Oilers, but also host the Kings.

Phoenix will host the Jets tomorrow before traveling to LA to face the Kings the next day, and then their only other game of the week is Friday's home meeting with the Oilers. They will get 3 days off afterwards, not playing again until next Tuesday, and you have to think they're happy to take that in the midst of a tight playoff race (especially with their starting goalie still out). The Canucks have only two games this week, hosting the Rangers (and ex-coach Alain Vigneault) on Tuesday and the Kings on Saturday. And the eliminated teams from Alberta will play some games. Whatevs.

That's all I've got for you this week. See you next time!