Still searching for answers
photo by Michael Wifall via Wikimedia Commons
After the dominant showing from the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1, especially from the Kopitar line, many people were wondering two things; 1. How would the Kings follow up that performance and 2. How would the Coyotes respond? The Kings topped Sunday’s performance with a 4-0 shutout and had every player in their top-six get a point including a hat trick from Jeff Carter.
A little over one-third of this game was played on special teams, so Los Angeles didn’t beat down the Coyotes at even strength as badly as they did in Game 1, but they still outchanced them 25-16 overall and scored twice on the powerplay. I am sure they are fine with that.
As for Phoenix’s response? Well, they came out of the gates just as poor as they did in Game 1, weren’t on the receiving end of many breaks and took some bloody awful penalties that just worsened the issue. They weren’t outchanced at even strength by much, but with nearly half of this game being played at special teams, that doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Trailing 2-0 in the series, there aren’t many positives about this series that the Coytoes can take with them as they are about to go on the road. Maybe we can find some if we take a closer look at the scoring chances for this game? Worth a shot.
GAME 2 SCORING CHANCES
*Los Angeles’ chances are in grey, Phoenix’s are in maroon. This is from LA’s perspective
The powerplay is where the Kings did most of their damage, mostly when they had the two-man advantage as they performed a shooting gallery on Mike Smith whenever they had a 5-on-3. They scored two of their goals on the 5-on-3 and recorded six of their scoring chances, so they were definitely taking advantage of the opportunities the Coyotes gave them. Phoenix, on the other hand, did little to nothing with their eight minutes of powerplay time and actually recorded more chances shorthanded. It should be noted that their three shorthande chances are mostly due to score effects since the Kings already had a 4-0 lead during then and were sitting back for the most part. Mike Smith might be able to save the Coyotes from getting torched on the PK by posting a .927 shorthanded save percentage but there is nothing they can do about this horrendous powerplay.
As for even strength play, the Coyotes had a few good sequences in the second period and actually looked like they were going to make a game out of this. Unfortunately for them, Jeff Carter scored a little under five minutes into the second period and the Coyotes took three consecutive penalties (one of which was a five minute major) which destroyed any life they had. The Kings numbers on the powerplay should tell the rest of the story. Oh, and I should mention that they got manhandled in the first period again which put them into this hole to begin with.
Kings Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Mike Richards, Jordan Nolan, Dustin Penner & Justin Williams +3
Worst EV Forwards: Trevor Lewis, Jared Stoll & Dwight King -4
Best EV Defenseman: Rob Scuderi +4
Worst EV Defenseman: Willie Mitchell -4
Unlike the last game, this was a much more balanced affair for the Kings forwards as everyone in their top-six created more chances than they gave up and it was the second line that led the way this time. Penner, Richards and Carter had a bit of an off game on Sunday but they reboudned nicely last night and Carter did some serious damage on the powerplay with his two goals. That will be the performance that everyone remembers, but everyone on this line had the wheels clicking.
While we are on the subject of off-nights, can we consider Kopitar’s performance an “off-night” by his standards? Only a +2 with two assists, Anze? Tsk, tsk. Kidding aside, he and his linemates had another solid night. It’ll probably be awhile before we see another performance like Game 1 again. The forwards who did have a bad game were everyone on Jarred Stoll’s line, who were hard-matched against Martin Hanzal and they obviously lost that battle. More on that in a bit.
Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov also struggled at even strength last night, which is a stark contrast to how they performed for most of the post-season but I guess everyone has bad games now and then. Mitchell at least made up for it by being a rock on the PK and their even strength performance didn’t hurt the team that much. Doughty, Scuderi, Martinez and Greene all had great games and helped pick up the slack. The latter two were protected big time, though.
Coyotes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Radim Vrbata +6
Worst EV Forward: Antoine Vermette -4
Best EV Defensemen: Rostislav Klesla & Michael Stone +4
Worst EV Defensemen: Derek Morris & Keith Yandle -4
Dave Tippett switched up his lines a little bit and put Taylor Pyatt on the first line with Martin Hanzal & Radim Vrbata while Ray Whitney was bumped down to the second line with Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette. Whitney was one of the Coyotes better players at generating chances, so it made sense to put him on what was the team’s best line, until tonight that is. Vrbata finally woke up as he was on-ice for over half of the Coyotes total scoring chances and was their best overall player tonight. It’s too bad that Martin Hanzal had to get himself ejected, and likely suspended, for boarding Dustin Brown because he was playing well up until that point.
Aside from Daymond Langkow, the rest of Phoenix’s forward corps was pretty bad. Antoine Vermette may have been 65% effective at the faceoff dot but Mike Richards’ line was able to keep him in check for the entire game. Doan getting ejected just added salt to the wound because neither Gilbert Brule nor Mikkel Boedker performed well in his place. Speaking of Brule, both him and Kyle Chipchura were being boasted as one of the better fourth lines in the league coming into this series.
Chipchura played less than six minutes, was somehow on-ice for nine of the Kings’ even strength shot attempts, one goal against, two Phoenix shots and zero scoring chances. Interesting to see their performance now that they aren’t being used in favorable situations.
Another change that Tippett made was taking Rostislav Klesla off the shutdown pairing after his disastrous showing in Game 1. That part of the plan worked as Klesla and Michael Stone played well with protected minutes. Klesla was very active at jumping into the play and helped create a few chances for Phoenix.
The part of the plan that didn’t work was that Michal Rozsival had to play on the shutdown pair now and he didn’t fare much better against the Kings first line.
Ekman-Larsson is still very young and not ready to carry the heavy lifting by himself and Klesla is too banged up to play the toughs at the moment. Tippett’s hands are tied right now because Adrian Aucoin is still hurt and the Coyotes don’t have a lot of defensemen who can play the toughs with Ekman-Larsson, so Rozsival remains the guy for now.
Morris & Yandle’s performance tonight against the Richards line should tell you that they wouldn’t be very good.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-FIve
Like I said earlier, Tippett was able to get the Hanzal trio out against Stoll’s line for most of the game that worked out quite well. I have to wonder if this is the result of the line juggling if Tippett might be frustrated with Hanzal’s performance in the playoffs.
He was getting outchanced heavily and struggling to drive possession against Nashville and wasn’t good in Game 1 either. The Coyotes are going to need all the help they can get offensively, so I guess it makes sense for him to protect his first line a bit while Boyd Gordon handles the tough minutes. The drawback with this is that Gordon vs. Kopitar is a pretty big mismatch on paper.
Another note in the matchup game is that Tippett elected to keep Yandle & Morris on the Richards line after they shut him down in game 1. You can see that lightning didn’t strike twice and the Yandle/Morris unit got abused. The Vermette line didn’t play well against them either. I said after Game 1 that the Richards line needed to be better and they delivered on that front.
|LAK||1||6:45||Stoll – GOAL||7||8||22||28||32||74||8||16||22||24||26||41||5v5|
|LAK||2||15:13||Carter – GOAL||7||8||10||25||32||77||3||13||19||41||50||53||5v5|
|LAK||2||1:12||Carter – GOAL||8||10||11||14||32||77||15||16||41||53||5v3|
|LAK||3||7:08||Carter – GOAL||8||10||11||23||32||77||15||23||32||41||5v3|