A proactive look at the power play, with the Kings focused on generating more heading into Game 4

The LA Kings are looking forward. They’re trying to be proactive.

Game 3 was a disappointing one, without a doubt, with several areas letting the team down. After Game 1, the answers were extremely pointed. The Kings conceded too much offense off the rush, including several odd-man rushes, as things that were strengths of this group all season long became areas of weakness. Game 2 reversed the wrong, if you will, in a strong performance from the group in many of those same areas, checking more effectively with an opportunistic offensive showing.

Then came Game 3, when I think the result and the reasoning behind it were different, but the sentiment was a full-team outing where the execution wasn’t where it needed to be, as players and coaches have put it.

In a best-of-seven, it’s important to look at Game 3 as one game. It’s pretty hard to do though, isn’t it? 6-1 is 6-1, but it’s really just 1-0.

“It’s over, we’re rehashing it a little bit, we didn’t play well and we know that, our power play didn’t score, we know that,” Jim Hiller said this morning. “We’ve talked about it, we’re moving on.”

As Hiller speaks about areas of the game like the power play, the Kings certainly are not moving on in terms of trying to get it going. They might be trying to move on from talking about it, but there’s work constantly being done within the room to make the necessary changes.

To me, that’s got to be the proactive nature here.

The Kings are 0-for-10 on the power play in the first three games of this series but those three games are in the past now. Game 4 is tomorrow evening and the Kings are 0-for-0 in Game 4. You’d like to think that the Kings will get multiple chances on the man advantage in tomorrow evening’s tilt. They need to get something from those moments and that’s where the attention is at.

“We’ll get back at it tomorrow night, but that’s an area that has to score,” Hiller said. “That’s been a big part of our success this year, it was a big part of last year’s series for us and them and so far we haven’t delivered on the fact.”

When you’re facing Edmonton, a lot of the attention is drawn to the penalty kill, against their power-play unit, and I get that. If you look at last year’s series, though, the special teams battle was a lot closer than it gets credit for being in hindsight. As Hiller mentioned, the Kings power play delivered in 2023, with seven goals from six games, on top of a shorthanded goal and a 4-on-4 goal. That’s nine, compared to nine power-play goals for the Oilers. Even. Deadlocked.

That’s last year though. We’re being proactive here.

In this series, Edmonton has deployed an aggressive, in-zone penalty kill which has caused problems for the Kings in the first three games. Zone entries were a bit of a challenge at Rogers Place and once they got in, establishing in-zone puck movement was a challenge as well. In Game 3, by pretty much every account, the Kings actually improved in those areas, even if it didn’t result in a goal.

“I look at the first two power plays, those were opportunities for us to really make a difference in the game, influence the outcome and I thought we were better,” Hiller said. “We entered better, we moved the puck better, we didn’t get any kind of result.”

Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In that department lies the ultimate end goal of a power play – to score.

To score, you have to shoot. In speaking with Adrian Kempe, arguably the team’s most dangerous shooter on the man advantage, he’d like to see the Kings get more pucks to the net, which can lead to not just one chance but secondary looks as well.

“I think last night we had some better looks, we moved the puck better, but still we have to get more pucks towards the net, I feel like, to create more rebounds, battles,” Kempe said. “When you shoot and get it back, all that kind of stuff, that’s how you break the pressure. We have been talking about it a lot, we have to be better in that area for sure.”

In terms of shot volume, sample sizes come into play, but the numbers do show a slight down turn in attempts on the power play, when comparing to the 2023 postseason and the 2023-24 regular season.

In last year’s playoffs, the Kings buried more than the numbers said they should have, though they created scoring chances at a higher rate, per/60, than they are right now (53 vs. 42). Throughout the regular season, when there was noted inconsistency on the power play, the Kings averaged more shot attempts and high-danger chances than they have in Games 1-3. That, to me, suggested a higher shooting volume, yes, but also more rebounds, more second chances as a result.

In Game 3, the Kings posted their highest output in terms of attempts and high-danger chances. Both units were a bit crisper, even if not yet at their highest level.

That seems to mesh with exactly what Kempe was talking about.

He noted Edmonton’s aggression on the kill, which he tipped his hat to a good pre-scout and plan by the Oilers. That’s not an excuse, with Kempe admitting “it wasn’t good enough” from the Kings side in the first two games specifically.

“They’ve been for sure scouting us, I think they’ve been pressuring us a lot in zone in the first three games,” Kempe added. “I think the first two games, it wasn’t good enough. We didn’t move the puck well enough, we didn’t shoot enough, we just tried to hold on to it and they pressured us, got the puck and we had to start from zero again.”

After Game 1, Kevin Fiala believed that a simpler approach could benefit the Kings on the power play.

In that game, the Kings did most of their even-strength damage by following a simple formula – pucks to the net, traffic to the net, greasy goals. It’s different on the power play and perhaps even a bit more challenging to do it because of the extra space allotted. It’s a time for creative players to make plays, certainly, but even for Fiala, arguably the team’s most creative playmaker, he agreed with the notion of simplifying when the situation calls for it.

“We have to get shots through and we’ve got to be netfront,” Fiala said. “A little bit more simple.”

Speaking after last night’s game, Fiala was disappointed in the power play, but did not lack confidence that the Kings could turn the ship around, and turn it around quickly.

“I’m not worried, to be honest,” Fiala said. “Obviously it’s not been good these three games, but we are a good power play, we are good players and we are going to figure it out. I think the last three games now, we haven’t been connected, usually we see each other almost blindly and puck movement is way faster than it is right now. I’m not worried, we’re for sure going to figure it out.”

That’s the type of proactive mindset the Kings need to turn things around. Because, if you can remain confident in what you’re doing, you’re more likely to do it the right way. If you’re confident, you’ll eventually get one and the hope is that once you get one, it leads to more. I hate to do it, but let’s throw out the old Teemu Selanne ketchup bottle reference. If you remain confident and do the right things, if you keep hitting the top of the ketchup bottle, eventually the ketchup flows out and it flows out in blobs. That’s where the Kings are at right now as it pertains to the man advantage.

“When you score, you definitely get that confidence and then it’s just coming naturally,” Kempe added. “We faced them a lot of times, we’ve faced these kind of PK’s before and I think it’s just about getting the first one and then after that, I think we’ll be fine.”

Photo by Rob Curtis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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