May 14 2012 05:11PM
Photo by Nichole Glaze, via Wikimedia Commons
With the scoring chance project growing in popularity this season, it is only appropriate that we carry this analysis into the playoffs. I, along with a few other bloggers, have been tracking chances for various playoff games this post-season. However, the Western Conference Finals series between the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes will be the debut of the scoring chance project on NHLNumbers.
For those who are not familiar with this system, a scoring chance is an unblocked shot directed at the net from what is defined as a "dangerous scoring area," which is represented by this diagram. Scoring chances are tracked because they give us a better idea of who is creating and preventing the most opportunities for their team than shots alone can. Stats like corsi (aka. even strength shot attempts) give us an idea of which players are controlling possession, but scoring chances give us a better idea of who is creating more offense for their team.
This entire project was made possible by Vic Ferrari and his fantastic Time On Ice site that let's anyone log scoring chances for any game.
As for this game, most people who watched it will tell you that the Kings dominated about 80% of the contest en route to a 4-2 victory and the underlying numbers don't disagree. LA was blowing away Phoenix shot-wise and outchanced (+7) at even strength and (+8) overall.
The real story is how dominant Los Angeles' top line was. They looked as good as any unit in the playoffs this year and are going to be huge trouble for Phoenix if they keep it up.
A closer look at this game is coming after the jump.
Game 1 Scoring Chances*
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
*Los Angeles' chances are in grey, Phoenix's are in maroon. This chart is from LA's perspective.
Phoenix's second and third period weren't too bad, but they were run over in the first and could have easily been down by at least two goals had it not been for Mike Smith (and Derek Morris getting incredibly lucky on his goal). The Kings did more than enough to get the job done at even strength though as they produced 17 chances in the first 40 minutes alone and let their defense do the rest when they took the lead.
One thing that I have been monitoring is how bad Phoenix's powerplay has been this post-season and how it didn't come back to haunt them against Nashville. The three 5-on-4 chances they produced last night was only one short of their series total (!) against the Predators and they also handed the Kings two shorthanded chances on top of that.
If Coyotes powerplay continues to be this bad, I could see this being a very quick series.
Kings Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Anze Kopitar +9
Worst EV Forward: Dustin Penner -4
Best EV Defenseman: Willie Mitchell +5
Worst EV Defenseman: Alec Martinez -1
Straight-up domination from the Brown-Kopitar-Williams line as they produced almost half of the Kings' even strength scoring chances while not giving up much at the other end. Their performance is even more impressive when you consider that they started the majority of their draws in the defensive zone. No one on the Coyotes had an answer for them, so that unit could carry Los Angeles through this series if they start converting on more of their chances.
The only line that wasn't very good for the Kings was the second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner but Kopitar's line was so good that it made up for these three having a less-than-stellar game.
On the back end, Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov were the Kings' best defense pairing but both Doughtly and Scuderi also played very well.
Coyotes Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Lauri Korpikoski & Mikkel Boedker +1
Worst EV Forwards: Gilbert Brule, Ray Whitney & Boyd Gordon -4
Best EV Defenseman: Derek Morris +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
It is pretty easy to tell which defense pairing ended up having to face Kopitar's line for most of the game. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had a great series against Nashville but he looked way over his head playing against Kopitar and Brown. It didn't help that his partner Rostislav Klesla was equally bad, if not worse. In their defense, Rozsival and David Schlemko didn't fare much better and they were facing significantly weaker competition.
Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata were behind for most of the games in the Nashville series, but they were producing points so not many people noticed it. Things will probably be a lot different after this game where they were held in check and stuck in their own zone for most of the game. Ray Whitney had a very disappointing game, too.
The only line that was showing some life was the Boedker-Vermette-Doan trio. They were able to at least break even when playing five-on-five. The Doan unit have quietly been very good in the playoffs and it was a good thing they showed up in this game with the top-line being completely ineffective.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Click to enlarge picture
You see how badly the Kopitar dominated Phoenix's tough minutes guys. The Hanzal line, Boyd Gordon, Ekman-Larsson and Klesla were all blown away by this line at even strength. When you look at the other matchups, you'll notice that not many of the Kings lines or defense pairings were able to dominate the Coyotes in the fashion that they did. Voynov and Mitchell did put a crooked number up against the Ekman-Larsson/Klesla pairing, though.
The only thing I would be a little concerned about if I was a Kings fan was the seocnd line having a very poor game. The Kopitar combination did more than enough to make up for it, but Richards, Carter and Penner have to play a lot better than they did last night.
On a similar note, Keith Yandle and Derek Morris were technically Phoenix's best defense pairing, but a look at the head-to-head script shows that Dave Tippett kept them away from the Kopitar line and they were able to feast on the Richards line instead.
Event Table - Kings/Coyotes Game 1
|LAK||1||16:07||Kopitar - GOAL||7||8||11||14||23||32||16||19||23||41||50||89||5v5|
|LAK||2||11:58||King - GOAL||10||22||26||32||33||74||6||8||22||24||32||41||5v5|
|WES||2||1:55||Boedker - GOAL||7||8||10||25||32||77||3||19||41||50||53||89||5v5|
|LAK||3||17:49||Brown - GOAL||11||14||23||26||32||33||16||19||23||41||50||89||5v5|