NHL Playoffs: Jeff Carter’s Hat Trick Helps Kings Tie Western Conference Finals

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Jeff Carter

May 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) celebrates with center Jeff Carter (77) and right wing Justin Williams (14) after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 6-2 in game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks — Kings win 6-2, series tied 1-1

If Los Angeles wanted to go home with a split, it’s likely that they would need their secondary scoring to come through. Jonathan Toews did a good job against the Anze Kopitar line in Game 1 – Toews, Marian Hossa, and Bryan Bickell were 50 percent possession or better, keeping the Kopitar line off the scoreboard and scored the insurance goal late in the third.

This game, and much of this series, would be a battle between Toews/Kopitar and whoever could score past the first line of each team. The second line from Los Angeles which includes Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson led the Kings forwards in possession in Game 1 and scored Los Angeles’ only goal. If Toews had another game like he did in Game 1, it would be up to Carter and company to carry the offense for Los Angeles in hopes of tying the series.

Chicago would get out to a 2-0 lead in this game thanks to a power play goal from Nick Leddy – who cashed after a Los Angeles short-handed chance gone awry – and Ben Smith, who was able to get his second of the playoffs early in the second period. Los Angeles would cut the lead in half with a Justin Williams skate redirection late in the second period, and then it was all Los Angeles.

Carter scored early in the third period on the power play off a redirection in front of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. After Jake Muzzin gave the Kings the lead with another power play goal, Toffoli added Los Angeles’ fourth goal. Jeff Carter would get the next two goals, the last an empty netter, to complete his hat trick and give Los Angeles an easy win.

The way this game unfolded was similar to Game 1, although the match-up of the Carter line against the pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook was used even more. In Game 1, when the Carter line led the team in puck possession and scored their only goal, Keith was on the ice for 49-percent of Carter’s total shifts. In Game 2, that number went up to 59-percent. Also, the percentage of shifts of Carter’s that overlapped with Keith’s was fairly stable – 82-percent in Game 1 and 77-percent in Game 2. Thanks to the wonderful resource over at ShiftChart, we can see that not only did Joel Quenneville not try to get away from the Carter/Keith match-up, but he in fact was consistently putting that line out on the ice once Carter’s line hopped the boards. After leading the team in 5-on-5 possession in Game 1, the Carter line was among Los Angeles’ top six forwards in Game 2 and they were all above 60-percent. It seems as though that defense pairing hasn’t been able to contain this line through two games, and it’s already led to three even strength goals for Carter, Pearson, and Toffoli. That excludes the empty-netter and power play goal from Carter.

One thing that did change was that the Kopitar/Toews match-up was much more infrequent. After being matched against each other for about 69 percent of Game 1, that number dropped to a shade under 50-percent in Game 2. It didn’t seem to matter, as Kopitar and his line mates didn’t have a very good night overall.

This game was all about Carter, Toffoli, and Pearson, though. They excelled in their match-up and have done so in both games so far. If this secondary scoring continues for Los Angeles, it’ll make the rest of the series that much more exciting.

*as always, thanks to Extra Skater for their resources as well 

Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and FantasyTrade411.com. He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions.