Know Thy Enemy: Kings Forward Preview

Notice how Kopitar has the puck in that picture? Yeah, they do that a lot. - Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings struggled offensively in the regular season, but the Sharks couldn't stop them in Round 1.

Line Combinations

(per DailyFaceoff.com from 4/30/14)

Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams

Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis

Injuries

None...  That we know of.

How did their season go?

For the third year in a row, the Kings sandbagged their way through the regular season.  While they were the best possession team in the league through the regular season at 56.7% FF (all possession stats via extraskater.com) they were also the fifth worst offensive team in the league, scoring only 2.42 goals per game (as opposed to the Ducks who led the league with 3.21 GF/G).

Anze Kopitar led the team in goals (29), assists (41) and therefore points (70) and was named a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the best defensive forward in the game.  Mike Richards (11-30-41) now separated from his partner in crime, Jeff Carter (27-23-50), and demoted to the fourth line became a whipping boy of sorts for Kings fans, due to having his worst offensive season since his second in the league (2007, 10-22-32 with Philadelphia).  However, it should be noted that in the Kings' Cup year of 2012 he put up only three more points in eight fewer games.

General Manager Dean Lombardi attempted to add some scoring punch to the lineup at the deadline (similar to how he added Carter in 2012) by picking up Marian Gaborik from Columbus.  The injury plagued Slovakian put up 16 points in 13 games as a King in the regular season (5-11-16).

The point leaders from their historic first round comeback against San Jose are roughly similar to the regular season, the main differences being Justin Williams (4-2-6) even with Carter (2-4-6) for second on the team and Gaborik naturally ranking higher due to games played.

As a team in the playoffs their 3.71 goals per game is second only to Montreal's 4.00, a vast departure from the regular season, however this isn't exclusive to forwards.

Stats vs. Ducks

Name

Games Played vs Ducks

Goals

Assists

Points

FF% (5v5 Close)

Anze Kopitar

5

3

0

3

72.73

Jarret Stoll

5

0

2

2

72.13

Justin Williams

5

0

1

1

68.18

Dustin Brown

4

1

0

1

67.39

Dwight King

5

0

1

1

73.77

Tyler Toffoli

3

1

0

1

63.64

Jeff Carter

5

1

0

1

63.01

Trevor Lewis

4

0

1

1

53.33

Marian Gaborik

2

0

1

1

57.14

Matt Frattin

3

0

0

0

45.00

Kyle Clifford

5

0

0

0

50.00

Mike Richards

5

0

0

0

57.14

Colin Fraser

3

0

0

0

51.61

Jordan Nolan

5

0

0

0

54.76

Tanner Pearson

1

0

0

0

72.22


Top Three Threats to Anaheim

1) 2) and 3)Possession. See above.  If the Kings have the puck the entire game, the Ducks will not be able to score and therefore will not be able to win.  The Kings are the best team in the league at this.  This is why they can get out to a lead and hold on to it.  This is why they are never out of a game (or a series, ask the Sharks). The closest the Ducks came to matching LA's possession this season was a -6 Fenwick (shots on goal + shots missed) differential, in the largely meaningless final meeting of the season.  The largest gap was -35 (The Ducks only registered 35 or more Fenwicks in two of the five meetings this year).  You will read much, much more about this from much, much more qualified people in the coming weeks.

Top Three Ways to Beat the LA Forwards

1) Quality vs. Quantity. This is nails on a chalk board to anyone who believes in advanced stats, but the fact of the matter is that the Kings will have the better of the possession and the Ducks need to minimize what they do with it.  In the defensive zone it will be all about keeping the Kings to the outside, blocking shots, allowing Jonas Hiller and/or Frederik Andersen to see the puck (those last two are hard to balance), controlling rebounds, winning 50/50 puck battles, not allowing cross ice passes etc. etc. etc....

2) Score First. The Kings only won a third of their games this regular season when their opposition scored first. The Ducks led the league with a .571 winning percentage when trailing first, but they can't rely on that against LA.  As stated above, the Kings make it incredibly difficult to come back once they have a lead, for the simple reason that they refuse to give up the puck.  Obviously, scoring first gives the Ducks a buffer zone, whether or not tactic number one is working.  The Ducks were at their best against Dallas when they were opportunistic with the Stars' mistakes early on.  Los Angeles makes fewer of those mistakes, so the Ducks will have to be even more opportunistic.

3) Possession. This sounds strange since this is the key weapon of the Kings and they are poised to dominate throughout the series.  However, that doesn't mean the Ducks can simply give it away, collapse into a shell around the crease and let them fire away for the entire game.  We saw in arguably the biggest game of the season against San Jose (to clinch the division title) that the Ducks can hang with a possession giant.  They can't be content to clear the zone and change, they need to use their size to win the puck and make short, smart passes to gradually work it out of their defensive end.  If they can do that with regularity, they will still probably loose the possession battle, but may be able to keep it close-ish.

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