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Are Penalties Called Less in Playoffs?; VGK-LAK Preview; Perron Out

April 11, 2018, 10:18 AM ET [8 Comments]
Sheng Peng
Vegas Golden Knights Blogger •Vegas Golden Knights Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

This morning's practice confirms that David Perron will be out tonight, as will Luca Sbisa.

Gerard Gallant says both are day to day; both practiced without any apparent restrictions the last two days.

Marc-Andre Fleury will start tonight, while Ryan Reaves, Brad Hunt, Oscar Lindberg, Perron, and Sbisa should be scratched.

The line-up should look like this, based on recent practices:




For the record, I like the Golden Knights in six over the Kings.

I believe the division winner's ability to roll four lines which can play fast will overcome LA's top-heavy line-up.

Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb will certainly have their hands full with a resurgent Anze Kopitar, but I'm banking on Marc-Andre Fleury to help the Knights' no-name defensive core survive another day.

That said, his counterpart is certainly capable of stealing the series.

The Fleury-Jonathan Quick matchup has the makings of a memorable one. Between the duo, they're easily the most playoff-tested and decorated goalies competing against each other in the first round -- that's 196 postseason games and five Cups.

Anyway, I expect a close series. It's more likely to go seven than it is four or five, while a Los Angeles triumph wouldn't surprise me in the least.

It's also a narrative-rich series, which makes it ripe for some myth-popping.


Narrative: Less minor penalties are called in the post-season.

Fact: Actually, more minor penalties are called in the playoffs.

From 2007-17, 3.7 minor penalties per 60 minutes were called in the regular season; that figure rose to 4.2 minors/60 in the post-season.

Garret Hohl offered an interesting theory about this fact:

I do believe that referees let more go in the playoffs. However, my guess would be that this fact causes teams to try and get away with more. The two opposite impacts then counter each other, and create a similar number of infractions.

Takeaway: Some believe that the Kings will be able to slow down the Knights because the refs will "let them play." There might be a degree of truth to that, but conversely, Vegas should have its share of power play opportunities.

Since January 21st in Carolina, the Golden Knights' power play has been the second-best in the league. That's a 28.4 % success rate over the last 37 games.

The underlying stats suggest this hot streak may not go cold. Shots are the best predictor for power play success; since January 21st, Vegas has averaged 65.58 PP shots/60, good for third in the NHL.

While the Knights don't boast a superstar on the man advantage, they make do.

On one unit, Jonathan Marchessault loves to fire away from the perimeter. His 21.53 5v4 Shots/60 is third in the league (out of 280 skaters, 100+ 5v5 minutes).

On the other unit, look for Colin Miller's blast from the point. His 34.5 5v4 Individual Corsi For is second in the NHL (out of 71 defensemen, 100+ 5v5 minutes). In front of the net, the 5'11" Erik Haula's quick hands and feet have helped him lead the league with a 44.0 5v4 Shooting % (out of 280 skaters, 100+ 5v5 minutes). Haula's 12 power play goals top the team.

Up front, both Vegas power play units play about the same amount -- the difference between the squad's most-used regular forward (David Perron, 2:31) and the least-used regular (Alex Tuch, 2:19) is just 12 seconds per game. This type of balance is unrivaled around the league.

While the Kings will be looking to negate the Golden Knights' speed, the Knights will be trying to compensate for LA's size down low. In January, James Mirtle of The Athletic had Los Angeles as the fifth-heaviest squad in the NHL (Vegas was 18th). The Knights will struggle with the likes of Kopitar and Jeff Carter, for sure, leading to trips to the box.

A man up, the Kings load up with Kopitar and Carter on their first unit. Carter has been on fire since his return from injury on February 24th, pacing LA with five power play markers.

Look for Carter to crash the net -- his 14.8 Individual High-danger Corsi For is fourth in the league during that time.

Strikingly, Carter has been shooting almost exclusively from the middle of the slot and in on the power play this year.

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Going into the season, there was a stated emphasis by the Kings to prioritize quality shots over quantity. Carter seems to have found some success in this regard.

For the Golden Knights, keeping Carter away from his sweet spots is key, but that's easier said than done.


Narrative: Vegas isn't playing its best hockey going into the playoffs, so they're going to be a quick out.

Fact: I debunked this myth recently, using late-season team records for every conference champion to demonstrate that playing your best going into the playoffs is optional in terms of predicting long-term success.

However, reader "Feds91Stammer" pointed out, intelligently, that the Golden Knights have owned the worst High-Danger Corsi For % in the league since March 1st.

The same exercise, but using late-season Score and Venue-adjusted 5v5 Corsi For %, Scoring Chances For %, and HDCF %...supports the narrative.

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As you can see, most Finalists saw improvement in their underlying stats from March 15th on, even if their records didn't reflect this.

Takeaway: "You want to play your best going into the playoffs" appears to have some validity when we're talking about process instead of results.

For what it's worth, the Kings, despite their 7-3-2 record since March 15th, aren't necessarily playing their best either in this light.

View post on imgur.com

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View post on imgur.com

This isn't the same air-tight Los Angeles team defense that we've grown accustomed to.

As for the Knights' recent slide, Gerard Gallant didn't betray any concern:

I'm not really worried about it. A lot of those games, I kept saying they meant a lot, but mentally, your team's not sharp. We were in good position for a long time.

Yeah, I don't think we played as well. But I go back to the St. Louis and San Jose [home] games, when they meant a lot. Our team played great hockey.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury admitted that he's noticed more enemy activity around his crease:

We've dealt with injuries, a busy schedule. We played every other day for a month and a half. It takes a toll on guys.

We're aware of what's happening. But we've been good with it all year long until that point.

I'm not too worried about it.

So which Knights team do you think is real? The top-10 squad -- in terms of underlying stats -- from the first 60 or so games? Or the recent group which has had issues protecting the house?


Narrative: The Golden Knights want to play fast; the Kings want to play heavy.

Fact: From the Vegas viewpoint, it's true.

At yesterday morning's practice, the Knights were clearly dumping pucks into corners for their defenders to fetch. The blueliners, while avoiding the forecheck, then looked to break out with tape-to-tape passes.

"When you practice fast, you play fast," asserted Gallant. "We have to trust our defensemen, make them go back and get it, because they dump pucks."

As for Los Angeles, Alec Martinez summarized their perspective well to Jon Rosen in February:

Getting pucks in behind them is important.

I think they sacrifice giving up the red to stop you at the blue, so obviously getting pucks behind is really important, but the thing is, you can get pucks behind all day, but if you don’t have any speed carrying through, then quite frankly, it’s pointless.

I think that a lot of their o-zone play – I guess you could say this about any team – but a lot of their o-zone play begins in their own end. They transition probably the quickest out of any team that we’ve played against this year, and that’s both from D-to-offense, to offense-to-defense, and I think that’s the one thing they’ve been able to capitalize on, that they get it going the other way pretty quickly, and not in a cheating-type of cherry-picking aspect.

It’s just they play fast, and whenever they see success in terms of a battle or something like that in their own end, then their guys are jumping. It’s certainly something that we have to be cognizant of and just reiterate the importance of good gaps on the D, having a good F3 and staying above their speed.

Takeaway: Of course, Vegas can play heavy, just like Los Angeles can play fast. William Karlsson and Reilly Smith are particularly underrated along the boards -- one scout even offered Smith as a dark horse Selke candidate. Meanwhile, Kopitar and Carter are as skilled as anybody in the league.

But the narrative has team identities right.

In particular, LA needs to keep an eye out for this: "Whenever they see success in terms of a battle or something like that in their own end, then their guys are jumping." Here's an example from February 26th:

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Notice Marchessault at the beginning of this clip, to your top right, skating backwards.

Smith is battling along the boards. He pokes the puck to McNabb, who backhands it to Schmidt by himself in the corner.

The second McNabb touches the puck, it's clear possession for Vegas -- and Marchessault is off. Schmidt's stretch pass eludes the F3 (Kopitar), and Marchessault gaines the zone with ease.

Karlsson's recent strike against the Blues -- on the penalty kill no less -- is another example of the calculated but aggressive reads that you'll see from a rolling Knights squad. Watch Karlsson streak up the ice as Eakin is preparing to claim possession. Brayden Schenn and Alex Pietrangelo have no idea what's going on behind them:

View post on imgur.com

Los Angeles is in trouble if Vegas is able to exploit them so.

Also, beware of those jumping Knights rearguards. Shea Theodore actually leads the NHL with 0.54 5v5 Rush Attempts/60 (out of 209 defensemen, 500+ 5v5 minutes).

Meanwhile, closely watch the Golden Knights' breakout in this series. Are blueliners moving the puck tape to tape? Are forwards making themselves available for short passes in the defensive zone?

Or are the Kings staying on top of the puck consistently? In that case, the series will be played along the boards, which might favor the seventh-seed.


Narrative: Los Angeles has a lot more playoff experience than Vegas.

Fact: It's true, but here are some perhaps surprising tidbits.

927 playoff games combined on the Kings active roster is not surprising; 480 on the Knights might be.

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Vegas actually has more players with post-season experience on their active roster -- 18 to LA's 16.

Of course, Martinez (2), Kopitar (2), Doughty (2), Brown (2), Muzzin (1), Carter (2), Quick (2), Clifford (2), Pearson (1), Lewis (2), and Toffoli (1) have 19 rings between them. Fleury is the lone Stanley Cup winner (3) on the Golden Knights.

Takeaway: The last Kings post-season squad from 2015-16 could tell you how much playoff experience meant, as the less-decorated Sharks hammered them in the first round en route to a Stanley Cup Finals appearance.

Good is good, and that's more likely to win this series than rings.


Stats as of 4/10/18, courtesy of Corsica, Hockey Reference, Natural Stat Trick, NHL.com, and Sporting Charts.

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