Series physicality – and discipline – draws notice
The Kings-Blues series is now five games deep and continues to draw the fascination of those who have held it at in high regard due to the level of intensity compared other series that may offer more space on the ice and a greater frequency in defensive and systematic breakdowns.
Darryl Sutter continued to answer questions about the series’ physicality while pointing towards the scarcity of penalty minutes distributed – at least compared to several Eastern Conference series. Most notably is the Ottawa-Montreal affair that has produced 293 penalty minutes, 236 of which came in a fight-filled Game 3. Of the seven teams that have recorded the fewest penalty minutes, only the New York Rangers hail from the Eastern Conference.
“Both teams check so well. That’s the thing,” Sutter said. “Both teams try and forecheck, and they’ve probably spent more time in our zone than we’d like, but it’s been like that. It’s been a banging series, but it’s also the least penalized series, if you look at it, of the two [conferences]. So that tells you that both teams – the style they play and the discipline they play, and that’s why it’s a long series, and that’s why I think it’s a good series.”
Technically, a few decimal points separate Kings-Blues (15.6 PIM/game) from Blackhawks-Wild (15.0 PIM/game), the series that has produced the fewest combined penalty minutes per game. The point is academic; if the Kings’ too many men on the ice bench minors are removed, Los Angeles averages a paltry 6.8 penalty minutes per game. It’s a remarkable statistic considering the rivalry bridged by a pair of playoff series over the span of a calendar year.
“I know everybody talks about this ‘physical’ series, but I don’t think it’s that,” Sutter said. “I think that there’s a lot of oohing and aahing when there is a hit, but I watched the Toronto-Boston game this morning, and it was really similar to ours. I watched it because I enjoyed watching it. So I don’t think it’s any more physical at all, quite honest. I think that there’s a lot of work done along the boards, and that’s sort of what playoffs are.”
In other words, physicality doesn’t necessarily translate into penalty minutes, and Kings-Blues doesn’t necessarily translate into “physicality,” though the territorial battling remains at a high level.