Photo by Nichole Gaze via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Nichole Gaze via Wikimedia Commons
It has been a year since I first started tracking scoring chances and I have yet to see a team run over their opponent like the Los Angeles Kings did to the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Finals. It may have taken them five games to win the series, but this could have easily been done in four because Phoenix was completely outmatched both at even strength and on special teams. They were outchanced by 41 overall and by 30 during five-on-five play alone. The Coyotes have made a habit out of riding the Mike Smith train to victory this season but not even Henrik Lundqvist can carry his team through a series when the team in front of him is getting destroyed.
It’s been a nice run for the Coyotes but it was evident in Game One that they were on life support and didn’t have the talent up front or on defense to compete with a team like the Kings in a series.
Los Angeles Kings – Phoenix Coyotes Series Scoring Chances
LA’s chances are in grey, Phoenix’s are in maroon. This is from LA’s perspective
The only weak point for LA was their 5-on-4 play as they created only 17 scoring chances in about 43 minutes but luckily for them, the Coyotes’ powerplay was about five times worse as they created seven fewer chances with three more minutes of powerplay time. To make things worse, the Kings had half as many shorthanded chances as the Coyotes had with the man advantage. It’s really hard to be competitive when you are getting crushed at even strength and can’t make up for it on special teams, which is why Mike Smith should have just been given the Conn Smythe if Phoenix somehow managed to win this series. Alas, the better overall team prevailed and the Kings are heading to the Stanley Cup Final.
Kings Individual Scoring Chances
Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown ran wild and shredded everything that the Coyotes tried to use against them. The play from Kopitar in general was just phenomonal. He led all forwarsd in scoring chances for, gave up less than half in his own end and was also terrific on special teams. The only game where he wasn’t a positive player in scoring chances was Game 5, in which he was even. Everyone knows that he is an all-world talent but his performance was on another level this series.
Aside from Jarret Stoll, every Kings player was positive in scoring chances at even strength, which shows how badly the whole team outplayed the Coyotes. They appear to be in good shape heading into the Stanley Cup Final. Stoll’s line appears to be a concern, but take note of how much better his linemates (Lewis and King) were away from him.
Kings Chance Differential per 15 minutes
SCF 15 = Number of LA scoring chances that the player was on ice for per 15 minutes, SCA 15 = Number of PHX scoring chances the player was on ice for per 15 minutes, Diff/15 = Scoring chance differential per 15 minutes. Chart sorted by scoring chance differential
Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov were actually the Kings best defense pairing and outperformed both Doughty and Scuderi. Both pairings spent a considerable amount of time against Phoenix’s top-six but Mitchell & Voynov gave up much fewer chances relative to their ice time than Doughty & Scuderi did. Those two were also creating slightly more, as well. Matt Greene and Alec Martinez also heavily outchanced their opponents but they received the easier matchups and zone starts.
Stoll was the only player who didn’t have a positive differential but that’s likely because he didn’t create many chances. The Kings’ third line was hard matched against Phoenix’s first line for a few games this series and their primary task was to defend. All three (Lewis-Stoll-King) could have done better in that regard but they didn’t surrender nearly as many chances as the Carter-Richards-Penner line. It’s a good thing those three made up for that with their offense.
Coyotes Individual Scoring Chances
Mikkel Boedker was the only Coyotes player to have a positive scoring chance differential and there were only a few players who had a respectful showing. One of them was Phoenix’s terrific young defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He played most of his minutes against Kopitar’s line and managed not to be completely buried despite that. What turned things around for him was Dave Tippett taking Rostislav Klesla off his pairing and replacing him with Michal Rozsival. Rozsival still got outchanced but he wasn’t nearly as bad as Klesla. Ekman-Larsson was overmatched against Kopitar but he did his best to not get destroyed by that unit.
Unfortunately for Phoenix, everything postiive done by Ekman-Larsson and Rozsival was erased by their “top defense pairing” of Keith Yandle and Derek Morris. Those two were simply atrocious in their own end and weren’t even matched up against Kopitar’s line. LA’s second and fourth lines saw the most time against that pairing and they were creating chances left and right against Yandle & Morris. I would love to see a reason for Tippett giving these two so much ice-time at even strength because they were not getting the job done even with sheltered minutes and hurting the team. Yandle’s puck-moving skills are a major asset for this team but he was still spending too much time in his own end despite that.
Coyotes Chance Differential per 15 Minutes
SCF 15 = Number of PHX scoring chances that the player was on ice for per 15 minutes, SCA 15 = Number of LA scoring chances the player was on ice for per 15 minutes, Diff/15 = Scoring chance differential per 15 minutes. Chart sorted by scoring chance differential
It is easy to see how much better Ekman-Larsson and Rozsival were compared to the rest of the defense and how awful Yandle & Morris were. General knowledge would lead one to believe that Morris could be dragging Yandle down but Yandle’s numbers here are actually a lot worse than Morris’. A scoring chance WOWY for both of them would be interesting to see. Rostislav Klesla was also a wreck defensively and it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out why he was bumped off the shutdown pairing in favor of Rozsival.
Relative to the team average, Doan, Vermette and Boedker had a good showing and why Taylor Pyatt was promoted initially to the first line instead of Boedker is a good question. Boedker actually played the majority of his minutes against the Kopitar line and still came out in the black in scoring chances. If Boedker not being promoted wasn’t bad enough, Tippett also bumped him down to the third line so that Ray Whitney could stay in the top-six. Nevermind that Whitney was completely ineffective and Phoenix was in need of forwards who were capable of driving the play.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The head-to-head numbers reveal that Ekman-Larsson & Rozsival were actually beaten down by the Kopitar line and did most of their damage against almost every other line and defense pairing from theKings. Their performance against the Mike Richards line compared to Yandle & Morris is very impressive. On that note, take a look at what the Kings fourth line did to those two. Depth players being able to outchance a defense pairing that plays 20+ minutes a game like that probably means that said defense pairing shouldn’t be playing that many minutes.
Vermette’s line also did a solid job against the Richards line but that is completely cancelled out by the fact that the Kings fourth line beat them badly. How that managed to happenis beyond me. Boyd Gordon’s line was also dismantled by the Kopitar line as Tippett tried to use a shutdown approach by matching Vermette & Gordon against them. Martin Hanzal being suspended in Game Three probably affected how he uses his forwards because he is usually deployed against other team’s top forwards. Both of Hanzal’s linemates being ineffective at even strength likely had something to do with that, as well.
Head-to-Head Ice Time at Five-on-Five
One thing that should jump out is that Tippett constantly made changes to his lineup while Darryl Sutter used the same lines & defense pairings throughout the series. The only change he made was inserting Kyle Clifford in the lineup in place of Colin Fraser for Games Two & Three. Tippett tried just about everything to give his team a spark and even went to desperate tactics by dressing Paul Bissonnette so that he could play a total of three minutes and two seconds.The only changes which had somewhat of a positive impact was having Rozsival and Klesla switch places and replacing Gilbert Brule with Marc-Antoine Pouliot on the fourth line.
As far as matchups go, Ekman-Larsson & Rozsival vs. Kopitar’s line is the obvious one here. OEL spent over half of his ice-time against the Kopitar line and judging by the head-to-head numbers, he payed a huge price for it. Sutter, on the other hand, wasn’t as extreme with his matchups as Doughty, Scuderi, Voynov & Mitchell played most of their minutes against the Coyotes’ top-six. He did protect Greene & Martinez, though as those two played most of their minutes against Phoenix’s bottom two lines.
Head-to-Head Scoring Chances per 15 Minutes
Ekman-Larsson’s performance against the Kopitar line looks a little more reasonable here but he still gave up over three chances for every 15 minutes he played that line. Although, that isn’t nearly as bad when you compare it to how bad the forwards played against them. This also shows how bad Yandle & Morris were against the Kings’ fourth line. Holy smokes.
Scoring chance data for this series was compiled using Vic Ferrari’s Time On Ice scripts. Time on ice data was also compiled using Ferrari’s time on ice site.