A lot of hockey folks are pointing out that the Los Angeles Kings are undefeated in their previous three Game 2 road playoff games and therefore are due for a loss tonight in Game 2 of the SCF.
Besides highlighting their lack of understanding for basic statistics (Game 2’s from series to series are independent events with little to no correlation between each other, just like game 56 of the regular season has little to do with game 56 the previous year) they are also overlooking the most useful predictor of tonight’s outcome; the Kings have been playing extremely well in their Game 2’s, just as they have in their Game 1’s, Game 3’s and Game 5’s where they are undefeated as well. Let me repeat that: The Kings have not lost a Game 1, Game 2, Game 3 or Game 5 this postseason, going 12-0! There’s your useful stat folks. Darryl Sutter has these boys playing good hockey, really good hockey. The number behind the “Game” doesn’t really matter (I’m conveniently avoiding the number 4 today…we can talk about that later).
But for fun why don’t we look back on the Kings Game 2 triumphs over the past few weeks and look for what might help New Jersey avoid going down 2-0 as Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix did before.
Game 2, Western Conference Quarterfinals: Kings 4, Vancouver 2
After surprising everyone and stealing Game 1 in Vancouver, the prognosticators gave the 8th seeded Kings little to no chance in Game 2. The Kings came out and matched the Canucks energy in the first period outshooting Vancouver 11-10 and getting a late shorthanded goal from Dustin Brown after a timely takeaway by Anze Kopitar deep in the Canucks zone. If ever there was a predictor for the Kings play this postseason, this was a goal that foreshadowed a team with a knack for “timely” goals that shift momentum dramatically.
Vancouver came out hard in the 2nd and scored an early goal just 17 seconds in and were on the power play moments later after a Willie Mitchell holding penalty. A few seconds into that power play Dustin Brown sped past a fallen Dan Hamhuis for a breakaway shorthanded goal that gave the Kings a lead they would never give back. Jarrett Stoll would follow with a power play goal in the 3rd and Trevor Lewis iced it later with a rap around goal with about five minutes to go.
The Kings were outplayed by Vancouver but a +3 special teams advantage will win you most any game. Timely goals, good goaltending and few quality chances given up.
Game 2, Western Conference Semifinals: Kings 5, St Louis 2
The Blues lost Game 1 against San Jose in the opening round but rebounded to win Game 2, so most were picking St Louis to do the same against the Kings. Los Angeles decided to play their best period of the playoffs in the opening period of Game 2 and sucker punched St Louis by scoring four goals; Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and two by Kopitar including another shorthander. The Blues were outshot 16-5 in the first frame and never seriously challenged thereafter going 0 for 9 on the power play.
The Kings shocked the Blues from the opening whistle and put the idea of losing at the front of their minds. Timely goals, good goaltending and few quality chances given up. (Is this getting familiar yet?)
Game 2, Western Conference Finals: Kings 4, Phoenix 0
The Kings rolled in Game 1 versus Phoenix and Dave Tippett sent a message to his team in the post game presser that they needed to get serious in Game 2 versus Los Angeles if they wanted to win the series. Hockey writers love a mad coach so most picked Phoenix to win Game 2 (nobody wanted the Kings to breeze in a third straight round, right?) The Kings kept doing their thing and came out flying in the first, outshooting the Coyotes 15-8 and grabbing the lead off a Dwight King goal. Second period, more of the same, as Jeff Carter broke a slump and tallied two on his way towards a hat-trick . The Kings never looked back although they probably should have because Phoenix lost their marbles and started taking runs at LA’s finest in a show of obvious frustration. Shane Doan deserves a pass on his 5-minute boarding major on Lewis but Martin Hanzal’s dirty boarding hit on Brown was nothing but reckless and got him five as well, plus a suspension. Derek Morris was a goon and tried to make Rob Scuderi a cripple. He failed and the Kings were in Phoenix’s heads and anyone watching knew it.
Phoenix was overmatched by the Kings quality play on all four lines and looked desperate because they were. Timely goals, good goaltending and few quality chances given up. Oh yeah, they didn’t lose their marbles and retaliate either. This sounds like a good team!
What can we gather from these three games that happen to be connected because their title starts with a “Game” and ends with a “2”? Nothing really except that the Kings are quality hockey opponent that comes out each night playing hard and are able to sustain it for 60 minutes or more. That consistency and fortitude combined with their talent puts them in good position to rack up quality chances that lead to “timely” goals. They don’t give up many power play goals (opponents are 0 for 18 in Game 2’s) and despite a lackluster power play themselves, they find a way to get chances and bury them shorthanded. Oh yeah, they have Jonathan Quick too who has a solid D-corpse in front of him and when he is called upon to make a big save he usually does (you can call those “timely” as well if you like).
But if we must highlight some stats from Game 2’s (why not, they’re so juicy) that might assist the Devils on how to play tonight, here they are:
- The Kings outscored their opponents 13-4
- Opponents committed 145PIM to the Kings 89PIM (Dustin Brown can get under one’s skin)
- The Kings were +6 on special teams giving up no power play goals
- Jonathan Quick had a save percentage of .960%, Luongo/Elliott/Smith .850%
Peter DeBoer, being the good coach that he is, will avoid phrases like “LA is due for a bad Game 2 tonight boys, let’s go get em!” in the locker room tonight. DeBoer is clearly smarter than that. What he should be selling is that the Kings are going to come out flying as they do most games and avoiding an early deficit will better New Jersey’s chances. They have to stay out of the penalty box and be cautious of the Kings shorthanded threats. If they want to make Jonathan Quick look human they’ll need more than perimeter shots from the likes of Kovalchuk, Parise, Elias and company.
The best advice DeBoer could give his team is tonight is: “That’s a damn good hockey team over there boys. They rarely lose whether or not it’s Game 1, 2, 3 or 5. .We need to play better than a team that rarely loses. Do you get what I’m saying guys?”