When the Sharks drew the Kings in the first round, San Jose coach Todd McLellan’s thought process regarding matchups went like this: He’d send Logan Couture out as much as possible against Anze Kopitar and his line, then try to get a size mismatch for Joe Thornton somewhere else.
McLellan was able to get that matchup pretty consistently in Games 1 and 2 at home. Couture’s ice time overlapped with Kopitar’s 57 percent of the time in Game 1 and 50 percent of the time in Game 2 (all matchup percentages per shiftchart.com). And the Sharks won those games.
In Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles, with Darryl Sutter taking advantage of the last change, the Kings’ coach was able to get his best center against Thornton more frequently.
Kopitar’s overlapping ice time against Thornton increased from an average of 5:07 per game in San Jose to 8:42 per game in Los Angeles.
So there was no doubt that Sutter wanted to get Kopitar on the ice in a matchup that contrasted what the opposing coach was aiming for. However, that’s not the case now.
As colleague Scott Burnside reported from California, Sutter said line matching isn’t a priority for him, and it appears even less so now against the Blackhawks than it was earlier in the playoffs.
McLellan understands why.