Arizona Coyotes Theoretical Playoff Matchup: Los Angeles Kings

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are in full swing and the drama of the first round is operating on all cylinders. As we all know, the Arizona Coyotes aren’t in on the party but what if they were and what if they played the Los Angeles Kings? Howlin’ Hockey explores this matchup today!

If you are an Arizona Coyotes fan, you would know that the team has a handful of rivals we really don’t like. Now these rivalries don’t quite compare to the history of Detroit-Toronto, Montreal-Boston or St. Louis-Chicago, but they get just as heated on the ice.

Now raise your hand if you don’t like California hockey teams. *I raise my hand*

Now put them down.

Now raise your hand again if you hate the Los Angeles Kings more than the rest of the California hockey teams. *Raises arm so high it’s in the Mesosphere*

The Kings and the Yotes have rivaled one other since the team relocated to Phoenix in 1996. It naturally developed, like the Suns-Lakers and D-Backs-Dodgers rivalries. And this rivalry came to the forefront during the 2012 Western Conference Finals, when the Pacific Divison winning Arizona Coyotes fell to the red hot 8th seeded Kings who eventually won the Stanley Cup.

It was a gut punch to Coyotes fans. But three years later, the Coyotes are on the back end of a rebuild and closing in on a playoff birth within the next season or two. We all wish the Yotes had been able to put something together this season, but they came up just short as injuries and long East Coast road trips nipped them in the butt.

However, the youth and talent this team showed this season gave us fans hope…and made us consider what if Arizona were to have played LA in a playoff this postseason. So let’s look at how the two teams would have match up this season.

Season Series Review, Standout Statistics and Coaching

The Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings met up this season 5 times posting a 3-1-1 record over 3 home games and 2 games in LA. The season series proceeded as follows:

Some things to point out about the season series is that two players own one another’s teams in this series. Dustin Brown suddenly becomes a stud when he plays a team from Arizona and Oliver Ekman-Larsson plays well against the Kings. The difference between the two is that Oliver Ekman-Larsson owns most teams.

Another important point to promote is that when the two squads get together, the affairs are based on physicality and bottom-6 play. The counterpoint to this is that the top-6 forwards produce the most goals. Essentially, it comes down to whose lower lines grind the best, allowing the top lines to break out and score. It also has to do with who commits the fewest penalties; both racked up a lot against one another.

The last aspect before we look at the direct line matchup is coaching. We all are aware of how Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett runs his show, focusing on defensive accountability, north-south offensive zone entries and cycling the puck around the offensive zone. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter is considered the master puppeteer, having coached his team back from the dead in multiple playoff series. His team is built for the playoffs, and he gets the most out of them when they get there. But only if they get there.

Now, the line matchups:

First Lines:

Arizona Coyotes: Tanguay-Vermette-Duclair

Los Angeles Coyotes: Lucic-Kopitar-Gaborik

If Alex Tanguay and Antoine Vermette were still at the heights of their careers and if Anthony Duclair were to be at the future height of his career, then this Arizona line would be competitive against this Kings line.

Milan Lucic isn’t exactly your stereotypical top line winger, but this season’s move to LA has served him well where he put up 55 points this season. That’s more than any of those Coyotes forwards alone.

On top of Lucic, Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar are All-Star caliber forwards. This matchup does not suit Arizona well at all.

Winner: Kings.

Second Line:

Arizona Coyotes: Rieder-Hanzal-Sekac

Los Angeles Kings: Pearson-Carter-Toffoli

I mentioned this when I broke down the theoretical San Jose Sharks matchup in that if Jiri Sekac were not on this line and someone else, like Max Domi or this season’s edition of Shane Doan, were inserted, this line is pretty competitive.

Tobias Rieder scored 37 points this season and Tanner Pearson put up one less at 36. The way I look at it, Marty Hanzal and Jeff Carter are both great centers, but one is better at being a center while the other is a better scoring forward. Marty won nearly 56% of his face-offs this season while Carter but up over 60 points this season.

Now both player’s best skills have up and downsides, but actual goals do win games. Echoing the previously published San Jose piece, the opposing winger to Jiri Sekac is likely far better at being a second line winger than Jiri Sekac and this hypothesis holds true in a Kings matchup. Tyler Toffoli is much better and it isn’t even close.

Winner: Kings.

Third Line:

Arizona Coyotes: Domi-Richardson-Doan

Los Angeles Kings: Brown-Lecavalier-Versteeg

Now this is the best and most competitive line matchup the Coyotes could have. Veteran scoring talents in Vincent Lecavalier and Kris Versteeg combined with Kings captain Dustin Brown is a stellar 3rd combo, I have to admit.

But this time the Coyotes more than match up with the Kings. Max Domi broke 50 points in his rookie campaign, while Shane Doan and Brad Richardson came close to that 50 point mark. In comparison, the Kings line got 17 points from Vinny, 5 points from Versteeg (in his 14 games with LA) and 28 points from the Kings Captain. That’s over 100 points in differential offensive output. That kind of scoring defines a line and it can define a series.

Winner: Coyotes.

Fourth Line:

Arizona Coyotes: Martinook-Gordon-Chipchura

Los Angeles Kings: King-Shore-Lewis

I mentioned this in the article on a matchup with the Minnesota Wild, but Arizona’s 4th line is pretty much second to nobody. Jordan Martinook, Boyd Gordon and Kyle Chipchura make up a well-balanced line that can score and grind out a play.

Opposing them would be Dwight King, who should not be underestimated, Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis. LA’s 4th line is solid. They have the talent of a 3rd line group but their issue seems to be consistency. That being said, Boyd Gordon is a consistent face-off winner, Kyle Chipchura can push most anyone off of a puck and Jordan Martinook is a mini-Shane Doan. See a theme?

Winner: Coyotes.

Defensive Pairings:

Arizona Coyotes: Ekman-Larsson-Murphy, Connauton–Michalek, Dahlbeck–Stone

Los Angeles Kings: McNabb-Doughty, Muzzin-Schenn, Scuderi-McBain

So far as theoretical matchups against playoff teams goes, Arizona doesn’t matchup well against very many teams. But, they do match up pretty evenly against Los Angeles. They both have stud d-men (OEL and Drew Doughty) while the balance of their defensive corps are average-to-below average. Both groups have some scoring talent (Connor Murphy, Jake Muzzin, Brayden McNabb and Michael Stone), both have some players who haven’t quit lived up to their hype (Klas Dahlbeck and Jamie McBain) and overall, they don’t really have lower pairing defense.

Winner: Toss up.

Goaltending:

Arizona Coyotes: Smith, Domingue

Los Angeles Kings: Quick, Enroth

Jonathan Quick is one of the best goalies in the NHL. On top of that, Quick is at his best (most of the time) when he plays in the playoffs. The same goes for Mike Smith, who shines best when the goal is to win 4 games out of 7. So to figure this matchup out, we gotta turn to backups. Jhonas Enroth is a solid backup. He did it for years in Buffalo. But on the other side, Louis Domingue carried Arizona for months while Smitty was hurt and he shows promise in future seasons.

Winner: Coyotes, because Smith shows up in the playoffs (see 2012) and Domingue is better than Enroth.

And now some extracurricular matchups for fun:

-What if the uniforms had any bearing on who would win the series?

You know, I can’t stand to compliment LA. It really hurts me inside and I feel like I’m dying a little saying this but I like LA’s unis more. They’re simple, sharp and the color combos applied to the striping at the waist and elbows works perfectly. Now the Coyotes away uniforms are solid, but the home jerseys have color clashing and patterns I still can’t stomach nearly a year alter.

However, if you look at alternates, the Coyotes win because everyone loves to hate the Kachina getup. The Kings, on the other hand, look like bumble bees in their yellow alts. So if everyone wore alternates all the time, then this is a different conversation.

Winner: Sorry, but Kings.

-What if the local baseball teams had any bering on the theoretical series winner?

Both have good baseball teams. Both have great pitching and have solid outfielders. I think both teams are going to be playoff squads this season (because the Giants are going to start going downhill). So, given that they’re both good on the field, I’m going to crown a winner off of looks.

Winner: Dodgers, because LA’s unis are second to none (That hurt to say too).

Series Winner: _______ in 7 games.

This series to me just seems too close. LA’s top six is stellar but their bottom 6 doesn’t stand up to Arizona’s decent depth. The defense seems pretty even and Mike Smith has a history of showing up in the playoffs, when he makes it there of course.

On the other hand, LA has won 2 Stanley Cups since 2012 and the Arizona Coyotes haven’t even made the playoffs.

Which team do you think would walk away with the win?