The Los Angeles Kings are in town tonight to take on our New York Rangers in what is being billed as a rematch from last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. In short, it’s not, but the Rangers can deal a critical blow to the defending champs hopes this season. The Kings are four points out of the wild card (Winnipeg), but just two back of Calgary for the third spot in the Pacific. LA doesn’t own the tiebreaker, but have a game in hand on the Flames. A regulation win deals a big blow to their hopes.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are fresh off a complete dismantling of the Ducks on Sunday night. With their offense awakened, they will look to continue their scoring ways against a relatively average Jonathan Quick (.916 SV%). Quick has a habit of relying too much on his athleticism, depending on the sprawling save when centering himself is more efficient. If the Rangers can get him moving, he may fall into that trap again.
What have they done lately?
The Kings are actually on a nice little run, going 6-2-2 in their last ten. As mentioned above, that streak has them right in the thick of things, but still on the outside looking in. That said, the Kings are usually a team that squeaks into the playoffs then goes on a run. That’s not luck, that’s a product of a team that always has solid possession numbers.
The Kings have been dealing with some injuries of late, notably to Tanner Pearson and Jarrett Stoll, and have also been without Mike Richards (AHL) for a while. They were never going to continue to roll as a 60% possession team, but they are still among the league’s best again.
Another reason why the Kings continually squeak into the playoffs then go on runs is that their SPSV%/PDO usually corrects itself just in time for the playoffs.They had a pretty rough stretch for most of the season, but have seen that number get back to league average of late. A Kings team that is steadily moving up in this area is always dangerous.
Since goaltending is the primary driver in SPSV%/PDO, we can look at Quick’s recent stretch of games to get a better gauge as to why LA’s SPSV%/PDO is rising. Quick had a brutal stretch in the beginning of the year, dropping to a sub-.900 SV% goalie for a while. He’s been getting his game back, and the addition of Andrej Sekera to the blue line has certainly helped.
The Kings, like the Rangers have seen a monumental drop in SH% in the month of March. The Rangers broke through on Sunday against the Ducks, and the Kings are still waiting for that breakthrough to stop the fall.
These are two somewhat similar teams, which is why the games between them are usually exciting. The entire Western Conference –and let’s be honest, most of the Eastern Conference– is rooting for the Rangers tonight. No one wants to see the Kings make the playoffs. Help dig that hole a little deeper.
Daryl Sutter has the Kings playing a system similar to that of John Tortorella’s Rangers. They generally run an aggressive overload 2-1-2 forecheck (forecheckers attack the same side of the ice) and they play a 2-1-2 zone defense off the wall (two guys take the hit zone, one takes the support zone, two have the slot). Once the puck moves up high, depending on the matchup, they’ll attack the blue line or collapse their forwards. They play a hybrid penalty kill, and a 1-3-1/modified umbrella on the powerplay.
Marian Gaborik-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams
Dwight King-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford-Mike Richards-Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan-Nick Shore-Dustin Brown
Jake Muzzin-Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr-Andrej Sekera
Alec Martinez-Matt Greene
PK: Kopitar, Brown, Toffoli, Carter, Lewis, King, Doughty, Regehr, Greene, Muzzin, Sekera
Quick gets the start.
PP1: Stepan, Brassard, Kreider, Nash, Yandle
PP2: Miller, Hayes, Zuccarello, Boyle, McDonagh
PK: Stepan, Nash, Girardi, Staal, Moore, Fast, Hunwick, Boyle, Hagelin, Yandle, McDonagh,
Cam Talbot is in net.
Crazy Prediction: The Rangers light up Quick for five goals in the first 30 minutes.
Be sure to check out our ticket link if you’re looking for tickets to the game. Game time is 7pm on MSG/NBCSN.