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The LA Kings Are Still Possession Beasts so Dallas Must Send a Message They Can Compete

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For those that make the playoffs, the good news is that statistics say there's a chance of winning the Cup. The bad news is that you have to beat the LA Kings to get there.

Right now the Kings are the Altered Beasts of the National Hockey League. An already big team got bigger by signing Milan Lucic, who would be imposing even as a villain in a Stallone film. But rather than push opposing teams around, which they can do and do well, they blanket the ice up and down the lineup.

Yes, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter are premier players. But nobody talks about their bottom six. Some of this is for good reason. 4th line center, Nick Shore, and 3rd line forwards like Dwight King and Trevor Lewis have some very meager numbers.

But Shore rocks a positively insane 61 Percent Corsi For. Lewis is far behind. At 56 Percent. And King is just an awful. At 52.5 Percent. These staggering numbers help explain why LA is by far the best shot differential team in the league.

Jack Han, a Video and Analytics Coordinator of the McGill Martlet hockey team, broke down how the Kings emphasize strength through unity under Sutter over at hockey-graphs.

Good teams own the middle of the ice on the breakout, either by having passing options cross-ice or by skating it out tight to the goal post and distributing toward the boards (a classic play of the Mike Babcock-era Red Wings).

It's a lengthy breakdown full of pictures, and clips that I recommend reading in full but the TL;DR version is this: aggressive plays by the defense are supported by intelligent anticipation by the forwards in the offensive zone. Good gaps in the defensive and neutral zone force opponents to dump the puck in playing to LA's strengths.

As a result, they're looking poised to go far per Micah McCurdy's prediction model:

Kings are pretty much the odds on favorite until theoretical matchups with the Blues, or Caps. And that's where Dallas must respect the Kings. But only up to a point.

LA has a weak shooting percentage. It sits 21st in the league. If Dallas can keep shots on the perimeter, and Dallas goaltending can keep rebounds out of the crease, the odds get tilted in Dallas' favor. Moreover, in the little bit of data #fancystats have on rush shots, as of March 1st, LA is a team that will concede the rush:

When you're busy not getting distracted by the Habs logo, where they only ever get offense on the rush, you see that LA and Dallas portend to play with pace. It's one of the reasons why Dallas has traditionally played LA pretty tough (despite losing most), their last game notwithstanding.

While it's odd to call a team different based on just two players, Radek Faksa and Stephen Johns play such critical positions now (who have both played LA but without blossoming into their roles), this matchup should be a little more interesting than last game.

Your move, Captain.