Los Angeles Kings succeeding despite failings of power play
Special-teams play is considered crucial to playoff success, but the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup a year ago with a so-so power play and the Kings reached the Western Conference finals this spring without getting significant production with a man advantage.
The Kings also won their first three games against the Phoenix Coyotes despite scoring only two power-play goals, each generated during a two-man edge in Game 2. But their power play’s failings were magnified Sunday when they had a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup finals but were stymied six times in a 2-0 loss that sent the series back to Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., on Tuesday.
Since the Kings got this far with a power play converting at an 8.6% rate — and since the Bruins won the Cup with a power play that converted 11.4% of its chances — is the value of the power play overrated?
“No. Power play is so key,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.
“Yep,” Coach Darryl Sutter said.
“The Bruins won the Stanley Cup,” Sutter said, drawing laughter from reporters Monday at the Kings’ El Segundo practice facility.
The Kings’ superb penalty killing has negated 47 of 51 disadvantages in 13 games and has made it easy to overlook the power play’s shortcomings. Still, the Kings could make closing out this series a lot easier by converting some of their power-play opportunities, and it’s not as if they’re lacking in quantity.
After averaging 3.52 advantages per game during the season, they’ve had 70 advantages in 13 playoff games, 5.38 per game. The Coyotes have had 44 advantages in 15 games, an average of 2.93. They’ve converted six, a 13.6% success rate.
An early power-play goal by the Kings on Sunday might have spared them another trip to the blast furnace of the Arizona desert. The Coyotes’ game, like the Kings’ game, is very structured and changes when they fall behind and must open up offensively.
The Kings got nothing on the power play they gained 75 seconds into the game. They had a lot of offensive-zone time on each power play but only six shots overall because the Coyotes’ forwards and defensemen blocked many attempts.
“They were doing a good job at that, but we need to make sure that we’re getting pucks off our sticks quicker,” Doughty said.
“Once you make that pass, getting the shot through quicker, because if you take your time it gives them more room to close the lane down and get in the shot lane. So we need to maybe take more one-timers and find a way to get past them and onto the net.”
Team captain Dustin Brown, the first player on the ice for Monday’s optional practice, did his part by working on tip-ins with the help of unofficial assistant coach Bernie Nicholls.
“It’s not always about the bomb or the one-timer or whatever it may be,” Doughty said. “It’s just getting the puck to the net, creating a battle, and Brownie can bang in a rebound or whatever it may be.”
Brown is ready for those battles.
“Me being a net-front guy, I think we need to shoot more. Just get it to the top,” he said. “We need more guys at the net. I think we’re kind of perimeter right now. We just need to throw the puck to the net and have a collapsing attitude toward the net and around the net.”
Doughty said the power-play unit has sometimes been guilty of passing too much while seeking the perfect shot.
“If we don’t have those plays, it’s just about moving that puck quickly and getting the puck quick to the net, because they’re doing such a good job at that now we need to find ways to get by it,” he said.
The Kings have done so many things so well that it’s almost churlish to criticize the power play’s futility. They’re 7-0 on the road this spring and they’re still in commanding position to clinch their first Cup finals berth since 1993 and second in franchise history.
But when they have the skill to move the puck around and the big bodies to put in front of the net for screens and tips, why not find a way to get something out of the power play that could help them end this series Tuesday?
The Coyotes have played well in spurts and gained heart from their gritty win Sunday at Staples Center. The Kings can’t give them more time to gain traction.
“This team has handled adversity pretty well all year considering the type of year we had,” Brown said. “This time of year it’s about sticking together. We lost one game, so it’s a matter of rebounding.”
And, in the best-case scenario, of scoring on the power play.
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