Know Thy Enemy: Kings Defense Preview

Don't you just want to punch that stupid face off? - Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The team with the best goals against in the league and one of the top three to five defensemen in the league... this isn't going to be easy.

Pairings

(based on dailyfaceoff.com)

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov

Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Injuries

Willie Mitchell - Listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, Missed Game 7 versus San Jose

How did their season go?

The Kings have been in the top 10 of the league for Goals against per game since 2010 and this year was the best of that bunch as they gave up the fewest goals per game in the league with only 2.05 in the regular season.  While Jonathan Quick won the Jennings Trophy for that, don't discount the role that his defensemen (and forwards) played.

The injury to Willie Mitchell has changed up their standard pairings a little bit, as they continue to roll with Doughty and Muzzin up top but had rather consistently used Mitchell and Regehr as a sort of veteran shut down pair while letting the younger more dynamic Martinez and Voynov play together.  As such Mitchell and Regehr were on the lower end of the scoring and possession charts for the Kings all year without seeing the top competition as Doughty is naturally the go to guy for that.

Stats vs. Ducks

Player

Games vs. Ducks

Goals

Assists

Points

FF% (5v5 Close)

Matt Greene

1

0

0

0

70.45

Jake Muzzin

5

0

0

0

55.26

Drew Doughty

4

0

0

0

56.36

Slava Voynov

5

0

0

0

70.24

Alec Martinez

5

0

1

1

52.73

Willie Mitchell

5

0

1

1

72.73

Robyn Regehr

5

0

1

1

63.93


Top Three Threats to Anaheim

1)  Drew Doughty.  Even though he wasn't named as a Norris Trophy finalist, Doughty could easily be considered one of the top three defensemen in the league.  He has all of the tools any defender could want or need, but for me his biggest asset is his timing.  His ability to get his stick on the puck or body on his man at just the right time to affect the shot or pass or lay a huge hit (he may be the best hip checker in the game today) is right up there among the best in the league with Ryan Suter.  That timing is a result of a balance of skating ability, strength and intelligence that most players simply don't have.  He may not be "The Perfect Human" that Nicklas Lidstrom was, and never have to commit a penalty or throw a hit, but he is probably the most well rounded defenseman there is.

He'll be seeing a lot of Ryan Getzlaf, and as he boasted yesterday to the media he's played against and with Getzlaf enough to know his tendencies.  This is a tough matchup that just didn't exist in the first round against Dallas.

2)  Possession.  You can't talk about the Kings without bringing up possession.  Just look at the last column on the table above.  Only Alec Martinez had a FFClose% below 55 head to head with the Ducks this season.  To get all of those shot attempts you have to be able to get into the offensive zone and hold it for a long time.  That's particularly where the Kings' D comes in.  When the Ducks are pinned down in their own zone and all they want to do is chip it out and change, the Kings' back end is bound to give them hell trying to muscle the puck across the blueline.

3)  Production from the blueline.  Interestingly the Kings D-men scored 18.1% the team's regular season goals this year (as opposed to the Ducks' 12.1%) However, none of those came against the Ducks this season.  That could be happenstance, that the many, many shot attempts that were thrown toward the Ducks' net were deflected or just a function of the fact that the Kings didn't score a whole lot of goals against the Ducks in the regular season. After all, 18% of the seven goals LA scored against Anaheim would only be 1.26, so they could get back to their season average pretty quickly.

Top Three Ways to Beat the Kings' Defense

1) Victimize Regehr.  He's not a bad player, but comes up short on most of the numbers for the Kings in the regular season.  In the first round against San Jose, Regehr was a bit of a liability, especially in close to his own crease.  Of course Bruce Boudreau will want to get Getzlaf's line against him whenever possible, but the speed of Andrew Cogliano or Emerson Etem could actually even work better against the less fleet of foot Regehr.

2)  Also Muzzin.  For my money, Muzzin is protected by being paired with a guy who can pick up all of his slack in Doughty.  Regehr may be the slowest of the Kings' blueliners, but Muzzin is probably the most accident prone.  Voynov and Doughty actually have more giveaways on the season than Muzzin (who comes in third on the team) but I would tend to chalk that up to them holding the puck for longer, plus they are more able to recover from those giveaways.  If the Ducks are looking to be opportunistic with mistakes and turnovers as they were against Dallas, Muzzin is a good place to start.

3)  Pressure at the blueline.  This is a particularly difficult one because the Kings are such a big strong team down low, but if the puck is with the defensemen up on the blueline the Ducks should be trying to force a play to get it across the blueline.  I'm not advocating just knocking it out for the sake of it and letting them come back in, but when the Kings are set up in the zone it's important to break up that possession time as much as possible by forcing them to touch up and regroup.  Ideally you'd like to win the puck and carry it out, but as we've stated many times before, this series is going to be in large part about surviving the Kings' possession advantage.

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