The Los Angeles Kings’ power play has been much like the team as a whole this season: inconstant at best. For every moment of brilliance, there is at least one mistake that should never occur on an NHL power play. Many will argue that the Kings’ 5-on-5 play has been, overall, better than their play on the man advantage. This is, certainly, cause for concern. I will analyze the team’s power play to see what has been going right and wrong so far this season.
Contextualizing the Kings’ Power Play
It is important to look at the team’s power play with an understanding of what has impacted it thus far. The Kings were dealt with an early blow when Drew Doughty was injured in just the fourth game of the season. Doughty normally serves as the defensive anchor on the first power play unit, playing in key situations and offering coverage in the event that the opposing team attempts to go on the rush. The void left by Doughty was compounded when Sean Walker, who had taken Doughty’s place, was also injured just days later. Losing Doughty for five weeks and Walker for the season caused the team to have to look at some younger and more strictly defensive options for their power play.
The Kings run a four-forward-one-defenseman power play. This is done in an effort to create more offense, especially on a team that has, historically, struggled to consistently generate power play goals. With the absence of Doughty and Walker, however, there was a shortage of defensemen who were equally prepared to get involved in the offensive play and provide the defensive coverage if necessary. As a result, the team has had problems on both ends of the ice during the man advantage. While the return of Drew Doughty and the emergence of Sean Durzi have visibly improved the team’s power play as of late, there are still underlying issues that need to be addressed.
Offensive Mediocrity on the Kings’ Man Advantage
Looking at the offensive statistics, the Kings’ power play has been undistinguished but not terrible this season. They are currently ever so slightly above the league average of 19.75% power play conversion rate with 20.51%. However, for a team that is looking to make a push for the playoffs and one that struggles with goal-scoring, average is simply not enough. While the team should be utilizing their time on the man advantage to generate some much-needed offense, there are blatant issues that are not shown in the statistics. Many of their power play attempts gave been completely uninspired, failing to generate even a single shot on goal. The team has also struggled with making clean entries into the offensive zone on the power play, finding themselves losing valuable seconds. Addressing these intangibles is paramount to turning the Kings’ mediocre power play into a competitive one.
Defensive Woes: Five Shorthanded Goals Against
The Kings are atop the NHL in a very undesirable statistic: most shorthanded goals allowed in the league. The Kings have allowed five so far this season. Currently, the league average is two shorthanded goals allowed. This means that the Kings have allowed 250% more than the average. To put it bluntly, this is not good as it demonstrates that the team is not only struggling to score goals, but they are actively allowing their opponents to have opportunities when they are the ones that are supposed to have an advantage. Stopping these goals is essential, especially in a season where the Kings have been losing a lot of tight games.
Bright Spots on the Kings’ Power Play
While it has not been great, the Kings have demonstrated that they are fully capable of putting together a formidable power play. The Kings have twice scored three power play goals in a single game this season: Oct. 30 against Montreal Canadians and Dec. 5 against the Edmonton Oilers. Their eventual 5-2 win against the Canadians, where the team went 3-for-5 on the man advantage, was the beginning of the Kings’ seven game win streak and their near-perfect performance on their major power play allowed them to seal their victory against the heavily favored Oilers. Essentially, on the rare occasions where the power play clicks, it makes an impact.
How the Kings Can Improve Their Power Play
There are two young Kings players to note when it comes to the near future of the Kings’ power play: Arthur Kaliyev and Sean Durzi. Both players have already made visible impacts on the team’s man advantage. Kaliyev has put up two power play goals this season and I fully expect that number to grow as he gets more acclimated to the NHL. Durzi has made an immediate impact posting four power play points since his NHL debut just a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, the team does need to be patient with these younger players as they are not going to completely turn the power play around overnight.
In the meantime, there are some changes the team can make to make an immediate impact on their man advantage. The best thing the team could do for themselves is work on their entry strategy. They need a breakout that will consistently be able to penetrate the offensive zone so that they can set up their cycle and generate shots on goal. Once they are in the zone, they should be less hesitant to shoot the puck. The team forsakes valuable time passing when they could use the space created by the power play to look for rebounds and deflections. These changes, combined with a strategy to prevent short handed goals against, will certainly drastically improve the Kings’ power play.
As a native Angeleno, Katie Nash is a life-long Kings fan and experienced amateur hockey journalist. She is excited to provide her perspective through covering the Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Follow her on instagram @la.kings.hockey.