The Stanley Cup Final offers fascinating story lines and opportunities to analyze the teams and the NHL in 2014. With each game during the series, Hockey Prospectus will look at what the statistics say about the direction of the series, the league and who will raise the Cup.
Game 3: Kings 3 Rangers 0
At the time of the second Kings goal, they had the shot attempt lead 10-4. For the remainder of the game, the Rangers completely dominated the puck, with a 55 to 23 Corsi advantage thereafter. The swing in possession is the perfect example of score effects – the Kings went into a shell and hoped that their goaltender Jonathan Quick could shut the door. As we have seen in the post-season this year, going into “lockdown” mode, does not always work. Just ask the Rangers, who blew two-goal leads three times in the first two games. If the Kings aren’t a little more aggressive with the lead going forward, they may find themselves on the wrong side of a blown lead.
Call this a musing more than analysis, but you have to wonder what Jonathan Quick’s save percentage would be if he had played against the Flyers, Penguins and Canadiens rather than the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks. The stat community has ridden Quick pretty hard about his human save percentage (currently .910 for the playoffs), yet we never seem to wonder aloud about the caliber of offenses he faced compared to those that Henrik Lundqvist went up against. Save percentage is a heck of a good stat with a large enough sample size, but common sense would suggest that facing better teams (the No. 1 and 2 Fenwick Close team and the club with the best regular season record) would make life a little more difficult on a netminder than going up against a team (the Flyers) that literally had a negative 5v5 goal differential this season. As goes most things, the truth is probably in the middle with Quick – he isn’t the second best goalie in the world, he also is better than average.
With the Kings up 3-0, it is easy to be down on pretty much every Rangers player in one way or another, but Anton Stralman has shown great improvement from his past years with Toronto and Columbus. Stralman has a -16.6% Relative Zone Start percentage, receiving an O-zone start of 39.8% and a +3.0 Relative Corsi. His Goals For percentage during the playoffs is also 64.0%. The Rangers will have a decision to make on Stralman – he is an Unrestricted Free Agent this off-season. Is he too good a fit with Marc Staal to let walk? Will another team see his post-season performance and overpay?
Part of the reason the Rangers are in the Cup Finals – maybe a big part – is coaching. Alain Vigneault is one of the best out there. However, playing Brad Richards 8.8 minutes on the power play, which led the Rangers, makes no darn sense. Richards is FAR from Stamkos or Ovechkin, elite scoring forwards who spent nearly the entire power play on the ice. He has turned the puck over often and created very few chances directly. It just does not make sense.
The Kings are one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. All the conversations about what makes a team great, what moves teams made, injuries, free agents, strategy and on and on and on…it culminates with one game where a team can raise the Cup. It is the best moment in sports and whether you like analytics or not, it is the absolute best.
Anze Kopitar for Conn Smyhe.