Just 28 seconds into the second period of Game 7 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night, the Sharks took a 1-0 lead on a Matt Irwin shot that got a piece of Jonathan Quick’s outstretched arm as it sailed into the net. As the home crowd wildly celebrated, there was a sense that Game 7 could get away from the Kings pretty quickly. As Kings fans’ nerves began to fray, Drew Doughty (as any good team leader would do), came to the rescue–rifling a shot past Antti Niemi to tie the game just under four and a half minutes later. The image of Doughty going down to one knee and pumping his fist in celebration not only reassured fans, but seemed to energize the Kings. Just before the end of the 2nd period, Anze Kopitar put the Kings ahead 2-1–Justin Williams perfectly fed him the puck as he was gliding straight ahead toward the crease and he faked Niemi out with a move to his back-hand before easily flipping the puck into the net.
Although the entire third period remained, the Kings seemed to have all of the momentum and the San Jose crowd appeared to be both stunned and anxious. When the Kings’ youngsters, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, hustled their way down the ice nearly five minutes into the third period, and a beautiful pass from Pearson led to a beautiful close-range shot from Toffoli past Niemi, both the Kings and their fans knew that they had done it–recovering from what was certainly an insurmountable 3-0 series deficit to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As we mentioned in our Game 6 preview, only three NHL teams (out of 175 since 1939) had ever won a playoff series after trailing 3-0. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were on the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers team that came back from a 3-0 deficit against the Boston Bruins. They are now the only two athletes in the combined history of the four major professional sports leagues in North America to have been on two different teams that have come back from a 3-0 playoff series deficit.
Going into Game 4, the Kings–based upon NHL history–had only a 1.7% chance of beating the Sharks and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. With that historic momentum in hand, the Kings now face their SoCal rivals–the Anaheim Ducks–for the first time ever in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While both teams have been in the playoffs at the same time on a number of occasions, they’ve never managed to face each other. Not only is this a monumental occasion for SoCal hockey–following Stanley Cup victories for the Ducks in 2007 and the Kings in 2012, and the first-ever NHL game at Dodger Stadium back in January of this year–but this is an historic opportunity for the NHL to capitalize on the most momentum, excitement, and publicity pro hockey has ever experienced in Southern California.
With that in mind, we look to the numbers behind the playoff matchup. During the regular season the Ducks pretty much dominated the Kings–winning the season series 4-0-1. However, Anaheim won two of the games by one goal only, and two of the other games went to a shoot-out. In other words, chances are that this series will go to six or seven games, and almost every game should be close, from start-to-finish. We, of course, expected a similar outcome during the Kings’ first round matchup with San Jose, but despite the series going to seven games, only one of the games was close (i.e. Game 3).
First Round Notes
- The Ducks started Frederik Andersen in all six games of their first round series against the Dallas Stars, but he was lit up for a 3.40 goals against average, and was benched for Jonas Hiller in the clinching Game 6 victory. Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau has announced Hiller as his Game 1 starter against the Kings, but the Ducks’ goalie situation will be worth monitoring on a game-to-game basis.
- Kings veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell was injured in Game 6 against the Sharks and has already been declared out for Game 1 against the Ducks. The Kings hope that he will be available later in the series, but aren’t sure at this point. The Kings turned back to Matt Greene in Game 7 after he had experienced a nightmarish Game 2 and was benched for Games 3-6. The Kings will need Greene to step up in Mitchell’s absence, as Mitchell is a key cog in the Kings’ vaunted defense.
Hampus Lindholm (D) – questionable with neck injury, but expected to be available as of Game 1
Mathieu Perreault (F) – questionable with lower-body injury, but expected to be available as of Game 1
Stephane Robidas (D) – out with broken leg
Willie Mitchell (D) – out for Game 1 with lower-body injury, but may be available later in series
Taking a more in-depth, statistical, look at the series, both teams appear to be very evenly matched (regular season statistics in parentheses):
Anaheim – Frederik Andersen (20-5 record / 2.29 goals against average / .923 save percentage),
Jonas Hiller (29-13-7 record / 2.48 goals against average / .911 save percentage)
Los Angeles – Jonathan Quick (27-17-4 record / 2.07 goals against average / .915 save percentage)
Corey Perry (43 goals / 39 assists / 9.7 offensive point shares)
Ryan Getzlaf (31 goals / 56 assists / 8.8 offensive point shares)
Nick Bonino (22 goals / 27 assists / 4.5 offensive point shares)
Mathieu Perreault (18 goals / 25 assists / 4.2 offensive point shares)
Andrew Cogliano (22 goals / 20 assists / 3.7 offensive point shares)
Anze Kopitar (29 goals / 41 assists / 6.4 offensive point shares)
Jeff Carter (27 goals / 23 assists / 4.9 offensive point shares)
Justin Williams (19 goals / 24 assists / 3.1 offensive point shares)
Marian Gaborik* (5 goals / 11 assists / 1.4 offensive point shares)
*=statistics for 19 games played as a member of the Los Angeles Kings after being traded on March 5, 2014
Hampus Lindholm*(plus-29 plus/minus rating / 4.4 defensive point shares)
Francois Beauchemin (plus-26 plus/minus rating / 4.3 defensive point shares)
Ben Lovejoy (plus-21 plus/minus rating / 3.8 defensive point shares)
Cam Fowler (plus-15 plus/minus rating / 3.4 defensive point shares)
Drew Doughty (plus-17 plus/minus rating / 6.6 defensive point shares)
Slava Voynov (plus-6 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Willie Mitchell* (plus-14 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Anaheim – 16.0% power play conversion rate / 82.2% penalty kill percentage
Los Angeles – 15.1% power play conversion rate / 83.1% penalty kill percentage
During the regular season, the Kings led the NHL in Corsi for percentage at 55.7% (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots + blocked for plus shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots against). The Ducks were seventeenth at 50.2%.
During the regular season, the Kings were second in the NHL in Fenwick for percentage at 54.9% (shots on goal + missed shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots for plus shots on goal + missed shots against). The Ducks were eleventh at 51.1%.
These statistics, courtesy of ExtraSkater.com, show that the Kings are particularly adept at maintaining possession of the puck and routinely out-shooting their opponents. Anaheim will have to neutralize the Kings’ clear advantage in puck possession in order to win this series–this will be one of the biggest keys to the series.
The Kings had four players with at least 200 hits during the regular season: Dustin Brown (246), Robyn Regehr (211), and Jarret Stoll (202). The Ducks had only one: Ben Lovejoy (215). The Kings had four other players with at least 165 hits. The player with the next highest amount of hits on the Ducks had only 145 (i.e. Mark Fistric). Neither team had even one player with more than 101 penalty minutes. Rugged play will be a key to the series, and the Kings will have to exploit this advantage if they want to win. Just as with puck possession, if the Ducks can neutralize the Kings’ advantage in this area, they will almost certainly win the series.
The Ducks won 29 games at home during the regular season–tied for second best in the NHL. They won all three of their games at home during their first round series against the Stars. The Ducks, having the higher seed, will have home-ice advantage in this series. One of the keys to the series, therefore, will be whether the Kings can steal a victory from the Ducks in Anaheim.
Kings in six games.
Game 1: Saturday, May 3rd at Anaheim; 5pm PST (NBCSN)
Game 2: Monday, May 5th at Anaheim; 7pm PST (NBCSN)
Game 3: Thursday, May 8th at Los Angeles; 7pm PST (NBCSN)
Game 4: Saturday, May 10th at Los Angeles; TBD (TBD)
Game 5*: Monday, May 12th at Anaheim: TBD (TBD)
Game 6*: Wednesday, May 14th at Los Angeles: TBD (TBD)
Game 7*: Friday, May 16th at Anaheim; TBD (TBD)