Kings @ Oilers backstory

Objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear, with the Kings just 1 point behind the Oilers after 20 GP. L.A. has a slightly superior goal differential (-5 to -9) rooted in better special teams play: both teams have scored 17 powerplay goals, but the Kings have allowed just 15 PPG, the Oilers a whopping 24.

Interesting to look beyond goals to shots differential. The Kings have outshot their opponents in 15 of 20 games, the Oilers in just 5 of 20. The Kings are averaging 27.8 shots per game, the Oil 27.6, but in the defensive zone the difference is stark: 24.8 shots allowed by the Kings, a spectacular number; and 33.2 against the Oil, a spectacularly bad number. Oilers rank 28th in the league in shots allowed, ahead of just Florida and Tampa Bay. The Kings, meanwhile, ranked 28th last year; this year they rank an astonishing first overall in the National Hockey League, 0.9 shots per game better than San Jose and 2.2 shots clear of the rest of the league. (I had to check that on two different sites before I believed it!)

All of this must be put in the context that the Oilers have played the fewest home games in the NHL and the Kings the fewest road games. So they've had friendlier crowds, friendlier match-ups, and very possibly friendlier shot counters on their side. Nonetheless, it's a promising start for the young Kings and their new-but-old coach, Terry Murray.

Kings' problem seems to be at the back end of the roster: Matt Moulson -4, Peter Harrold -4, Brian Boyle -7, Tom Preissing -7, Raitis Ivanans -8, Derek Armstrong -8, Denis Gauthier -8.

Up front: Kings have 3 forwards (Dustin Brown, Alex Frolov, Jarret Stoll) with 6 or more goals, which is 3 more than the Oilers have. Anze Kopitar, Patrick O'Sullivan, Michal Handzus and 19-year-old Oscar Moller bring an attack that is fairly balanced across three lines.

On the blue: L.A.'s top 4 defenders in TOI are all plus players: Doughty 23:18, +5; Quincey 22:02, +3; O'Donnell 21:22, +2; Greene 18:59, +1. All four are playing 16-17 minutes ES TOI per game; the other guys are 12 minutes or less but are getting lit up.

Between the pipes: For all the LaBarbera Love in the 'sphere, the emerging goalie in LaLaLand appears to be Erik Ersberg, who for the second straight year has significantly superior percentages to LaBarbera in Pts%, GAA, and Sv%:

2007-08: GP, Pts%, GAA , Sv%
Ersberg: 14, .545, 2.48, .927
LaBar'a: 45, .429, 3.00, .910

2008-09: GP, Pts%, GAA, Sv%
Ersberg: 12, .545, 2.32, .898
LaBar'a: 11, .389, 3.06, .884

Interesting to see how their Sv% plummet as the team reduces shots allowed. But that's a discussion for another day.

Ex-Oiler watch: Jarret (Minus Touch) Stoll has been on the ice for 9 ES GF, just 3 GA: on a per/60 basis that translates to +2.49/-0.83. Is this the same player that posted +1.51/-3.09 with the Oil last year? On the PK unit he hasn't been on the ice for a single goal against in close to 40 minutes TOI. Surprisingly his least contribution is on the PP where he is clearly second unit.

Matt Greene (pictured) just seems to be tooling along, his "offensive" totals a pretty typical 20 GP, 0-3-3, but so far he's keeping his head above water with +2.32/-2.13. Last night in the Kings 6-2 loss in Calgary, Greene posted an assist, +1, with 3 blocks, 2 hits, 1 shot, and 0 penalties in 19:58 TOI. I watched a chunk of that game and Matt was one of the few Kings who played well. Oiler fans will salivate at the memory of Greene's flaws, but I suspect we'll notice a different aspect of his game when he's dressed in opposition silks, namely that the big lug just gets in the way an awful lot.

Keys: Playing with five days' rust it is essential that the Oilers are up to the early tempo against an opponent on the back end of back-to-backs. Oilers should have the energy advantage at the back end of the game.


Jonathan said...

Great summary, Bruce. I wonder if Ersberg's numbers are sustainable - he wasn't exactly a top-tier goalie in the AHL, but maybe he's "turned a corner".

Bruce said...

Hard to say. Ersberg only played one (part-)season of 30 games in the AHL, compared to six seasons of 30+ games in Sweden, working his way up from Sweden-4(!) to the Eliteserien, and his numbers just seemed to keep getting better. By his last season there he was #2 on the national team at the Worlds.

Flying the pond at 25 to play in Manchester was probably a bit of culture shock, but he seems to be settling in Los Angeles after getting the call partway through his first pro season. Whether that is turning the corner or whether he is the Swedish Niklas Backstrom -- wait a minute, that doesn't work, does it? there already is a Swedish Nicklas Backstrom -- remains to be seen. But I don't doubt for a second that the guy is for real.

Sean said...

Nice post Bruce. Seeing teams like Chicago and LA turning it around its frustrating as shit to watch the Oilers stalling.

That new PP rule where the faceoff always starting in the penalized teams defensive zone sure increases Stoll's value. His PK numbers are obviously not maintainable but sorely missed right now.

I got Horcoff, Gagner, Kopitar and Frolov in my pool. I dont care about a coaches nightmare, gimme an 8-6 Oiler win!

Sean said...

Oh ya ... why Zetterberg?

dstaples said...

"Mean" Matt Greene, gone but not forgotten by some Oilers fans.

Greene is going to be as good as Jason Smith, who was good enough to be the Oilers captain.

Bruce said...

Oh ya ... why Zetterberg?

The pic is actually meant to highlight the guy (mostly obscured) who is planting Z on his azz, "Mean" Matt Greene.

Jonathan said...

Greene is going to be as good as Jason Smith, who was good enough to be the Oilers captain.

Time will tell, David. Time will tell. I also notice that Matt Greene is the only Kings defenseman with a negative Corsi number.

Ribs said...

Matt Greene blows. Here's hoping the kids expose him tonight and make him look silly...It will be nice to be on the other side of that for a change.

It would also be nice to see Visovsky play like he something to prove tonight.

Ribs said...

Jebus... Is there such thing as onset dyslexia? Half of the stuff I post these days must be unreadable to most people.

Anyway... That pic is from a game in October that featured Greene getting a penalty (suprise, suprise) and Zetterburg scoring just as the Mean Greene Machine was racing out of the box. Good times.

Ribs said...

..and now I can't even spell surprise correctly. I need beers. Zetterberg wrong too. Oy.

Bruce said...

"Oilers should have the energy advantage at the back end of the game."

Boy, I sure called that one, eh? What a limp effort.

Bruce said...

Since my famous last words didn't pass muster, how about famous first words? Yesterday morning I wrote:

"Objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear"

As of this morning the Kings've got us in the rearview. $#!+

That's a killer loss, especially on home ice, especially especially in regulation. I don't care what point in the season, any night where the visiting team passes you in the standings is -- how would the sheeple put it? -- a b-a-a-a-d night.

Doogie2K said...

I should point out that Ersberg's Pts% was actually .536 by Hockey-Reference last year, but it's an interesting comparison. I like LaBarbera, but there's at least some compelling evidence that Ersberg is the guy to look out for here.

Bruce said...

Oops, copied this year's twice by mistake. Almost the same anyway, but a careless error.