LOS ANGELES – Hit totals aren’t something a whole lot of NHL coaches pay attention to, as they tend to vary wildly from building to building.
But when it comes to games one and two of the Sharks-Kings first round playoff series, the inflated numbers are reflective of the way the games have been played. The teams combined for 68 hits in Game 1, and it was ramped up even more for Game 2 – both on the stat sheet and as witnessed by simply watching the game – with a combined 87 hits, including 47 by Los Angeles.
“It was a hard-fought game. I think it was a man’s game out there,” Pete DeBoer said afterwards. “A lot of physical contact, a lot of battles. Two teams fully invested. I thought our guys really did a good job showing up and playing that type of game.”
The Kings have seemed to get the bigger of the hits of the series so far. In Game 1, Kyle Clifford drilled Tommy Wingels in the neutral zone. On Saturday, Luke Schenn leveled both Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi, earning an interference minor on the Hertl hit.
Dustin Brown was credited with a game-high nine hits, Milan Lucic had six, while Paul Martin led the Sharks with five.
“It’s part of the playoffs, but these guys have a big team, a physical team,” Martin said. “That’s part of their objective, to get in on the forecheck and finish checks when they can.
“We’ve got some depth, too, and guys that are reciprocating or trying to do the same thing out there. It’s a pretty physical game at times, especially early in periods and guys are flying around.”
While the Sharks may have been on the receiving end of the more highlight-reel checks, they haven’t let that get them off of their game in playing tight defensively in front of goalie Martin Jones, surrendering just one even strength goal over two games. Although they got into penalty trouble in the second half of Game 2, none of the infractions were of the retaliatory variety.
DeBoer is pleased, of course, that the Sharks were able to absorb the heavier Los Angeles game on Saturday and leave Los Angeles with a commanding two-games-to-none lead.
“I was really happy with our game. There was nowhere to hide out there,” DeBoer said. “That’s a game where you’re going to pay a price every time you’re on the ice to win a battle, to get to the net, to defend. Our guys did it for 60 minutes and kept our discipline, and found a way to win.”