Reducing chances against while maintaining the pace
The Kings are scoring goals at an accelerated rate – and they’re also conceding more goals than they’re accustomed to.
Los Angeles’ 3.42 goals per game is .23 goals per game more than any other playoff team. They scored in 10 consecutive periods ending with last night’s third period, and their power play is operating at a 25.4% clip.
On the other hand, they’re allowing 2.74 goals per game. While the pace of play appears to have taken a step forward – and they’re facing a team with elite offensive firepower – the Kings’ average of 30.0 shots against per game is only a slight increase from last year’s average of 29.3 shots against per game.
“We don’t want that many chances against. We’re giving up way too many goals,” Drew Doughty said. “We don’t give up goals like that. We’re a team that plays very good defensive hockey. When we’re trading chances…against Chicago, we’re not going to win that battle. They just have more goal scorers and they have more talented, I think, offense as a whole. We have to play our style of game to win.”
Jonathan Quick, who posted a .946 save percentage in 2012 and a .934 save percentage in 2013, has posted a .909 save percentage this go around. After stopping 91.4% of San Jose’s shots and 91.6% of Anaheim’s shots, his save percentage is below the .900 mark at .894 against Chicago.
To be fair, Anaheim finished first in non-shootout goals per game in the regular season, Chicago finished second and San Jose finished tied for sixth. The quality of offenses that Los Angeles has faced this season far surpasses those from the last two postseasons, and the Sharks’ offensive struggles in 2012-13 should be taken into consideration in the comparison with last year’s numbers.
“I mean, I don’t think it’s through-the-roof high scoring,” Anze Kopitar said of the Western Conference Final. “You know, there’s obviously been some goals scored. We haven’t had too much trouble scoring goals in the playoffs. They’re obviously the highest-scoring team, I believe they were in the regular season. So maybe that’s bound to happen. Usually when you give up three goals or more in the game, that usually gets you in trouble. We want to focus on that, too.”
While the Kings would like to cut down on chances against, that doesn’t necessarily translate to “slowing the game down” in an effort to neutralize the Blackhawks’ attack.
“I wouldn’t say ‘slowing the game down,’ but you definitely don’t want to trade chances with them. They’re that type of team where if you did that, it’s usually not going to end well,” Kopitar said. “We’re known not to play that kind of hockey. This time of the year, that doesn’t work usually. We’ve got to get back to playing our game.”
There’s also the issue of the Brandon Saad – Andrew Shaw – Patrick Kane line, which combined for nine points in Game 5. As great as Doughty was, Saad was likely the best player on the ice and created match-up issues.
“I think the guys that played against them last night were not on top of their game, and that’s the answer,” Darryl Sutter said.
The question was then posed as whether there is a challenge in curtailing the line’s production, given that Sutter isn’t a coach fiercely set upon searching for particular line match-ups while at home.
“Actually, we do match lines,” Sutter responded. “The adjustment was we couldn’t keep up with Saad.”
Marian Gaborik, on whether curtailing the Andrew Shaw line’s production is key:
Yeah, I think they played a very good game. I think for the fans, it was unbelievable to watch. But for us it wasn’t the type of game we wanted to play, you know, trade chances, trade odd-man rushes. We don’t want to play that way. We want to make sure we stay tight on those guys, not give them a lot of speed through the neutral zone, just not give them time and space.
Anze Kopitar, on the challenge posed by Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane:
Yeah, those two did some damage last night. We’ve got to check them better, obviously. There’s really not a special format. You just got to eliminate time and space ’cause when they do start carrying the puck all over the ice, it’s hard to catch them. They’re good players and they’re going to make plays.
Kopitar, on whether it’s easy to be pulled into trading chances when they’re generating quality looks off the rush, as they did in the second period:
Yeah, that’s what is usually the case. When everything goes well, you’re trading rushes back and forth…Again, that’s not going to get you too far. We have to tighten it up and get back to playing our game.