Kings at Sharks: SJ’s Horrible Postseason Plan
Full disclosure: I didn’t watch this game live. I had to catch it later, so I already knew what was going to happen, but watching the video gave me the same reactions as checking in on Twitter: what the hell?
This game had a weird vibe, which is probably perfectly represented by Joe Thornton’s post-game quote about mixing it up with Slava Voynov randomly:
“I wanted to hit something tonight,” Thornton said. “That’s all. That was the game plan.”
Both the Kings and Sharks have clinched playoff spots, and it looks increasingly likely that they’ll face one another in a first-round matchup. This game may have partially been about setting the tone for that, except Los Angeles was on the second night of a back-to-back and Martin Jones was in net instead of Jonathan Quick.
The Kings went up 1-0 less than four minutes into the game. After Jarret Stoll missed a perfectly centered opportunity in the slot, Alec Martinez took a shot from the point that Stoll and Jordan Nolan deflected past Antti Niemi seconds later.
During the second period, Dustin Brown took a silly roughing penalty, and the Sharks only needed three seconds to covert on a power play goal. 1-1.
They got a little lucky later in the period when Martin Jones mishandled the puck on the save, and then Logan Couture snatched up the loose puck to bury a wraparound attempt before Jones could move post-to-post.
Here’s the video, just because it’s kind of hilarious:
The Kings outshot the Sharks and dominated in possession, but a little of that old familiar bad puck luck kept them down 2-1 through the end of regulation. Even though they lost, nothing about the Kings’ play here was worrisome, with maybe a very minor exception for having an uncharacteristic five power play chances and scoring during zero. The Kings’ power play has been a lot more effective recently, however, so that doesn’t send off any alarm bells either, honestly.
That the Sharks, the team with the fewest minor penalties in the league, decided to be so undisciplined is what struck me the most. Because… why? Post-game quotes from Sharks coach Todd Mclellan talked about needing leaders on the team to stand up to the Kings’ physicality, except the physicality didn’t actually win them this game, a Jones mistake did. Also, take a look at the Vancouver Canucks this year to see how trying to match the Kings’ physicality has worked over a longer stretch. The Kings are 4-0 against the Canucks during this regular season.
Since the Kings are the best possession team in the league, they obviously have an edge on the Sharks there. Focusing more on fisticuffs and hitting with the Kings seems like the wrong plan of action for a series to me. Look at the even-strength shot attempts over the course of the game:
The Sharks had 49 shot attempts for — this is including blocked shots — and 80 against. EIGHTY. But thank goodness Joe Thorton hit someone.
Physicality isn’t the winning part of the Sharks’ style, and the Kings have proven in several playoff series in just the last couple years that they’re still going to come out on top where physicality’s concerned more often than not. But, hey, if San Jose wants to try that strategy for the postseason, then fine. The Kings will enjoy that fun trip to the second round.