Let’s go through what we discussed in the pre game review and what occurred:
I look at the LA Kings’ powerplay as a key to tonight’s game. The undisciplined Devils have given up 13 powerplays in the first two games. If we can force them into bad penalties early on and strike with the man advantage, the Devils will be out of their element and forced to take chances.
Credit to the Devils for playing a disciplined game. They recognized 13 penalties in 2 games was about 9 too many. They stayed out of the box. The one powerplay the Kings had was the model for inefficiency. More on this later.
With that will come what our top two lines’ greatest strength may be – the transition game and neutral zone counter attacks. Risks, especially on breakouts, often = turnovers and that spells trouble for New Jersey when you have Kopitar, Williams, Gagne, Richards, Brown, Doughty and Johnson skating the other way.
I knew they would be a big part of the game but, when I wrote this, I didn’t expect the Kings’ entire offense from the drop of the puck to the last second would be transitions and counter attacks. Once again, the set plays 5 on 5 were atrociously structured. In three years, despite the skill set steadily increasing each season, Terry Murray has failed in every respect on the offensive side of the puck. All the Devils had to do was pressure the puck carrier and put their sticks and bodies in lanes. On the set plays, New Jersey never once had to defend a lateral pass or anything other than a play from the half-boards to the point for an attempted shot. It got so off track in the third that the Kings’ point men had to start intentionally shooting wide because there wasn’t a lane to be had – how pathetic is a set offensive structure when skilled players are so preprogrammed to take the point shot despite having nothing to shoot at and despite knowing the shot would only likely result in a change of possession?
I was exhausted watching this throughout the game. I swear to you that if the Devils’ young defense did not give us the turnovers and counter attack opportunities, we would have not only been shut out tonight but I doubt we would have reached 15 shots on goal. For those who attended Frozen Fury, think a replay of that game.
What I don’t want to see is a game that goes to the wire. That is where players like Parise, Elias and Koval$uck thrive.
Exactly what concerned me occurred. In retrospect, I should be glad we got a point. No way that happens without Jonathan Quick’s stellar play in the three periods and overtime.
Tonight’s match will be a fair barometer for how far the LA Kings have come. Few are as vocal against Terry Murray’s offensive structure as I am but I have seen flashes this season (from the players, not the coaching) that lead me to believe we may have the skill set to break through the straitjacket offense.
Boys and girls, it’s too early to make predictions but I will tell you this. Three games and the preseason lead me to the following preliminary conclusions, all of which I hope to see changed:
1. Terry Murray hasn’t and will not evolve his offensive structure. On set plays, a highly skilled LA Kings’ team looks incompetent, to the point that all the opposition has to do is to take away lanes and we will surrender the puck into their shins, sticks or wide of the net.
2. The powerplay is a set play structure. You enter the zone, you set up the play. There aren’t too many counter attack opportunities with the man advantage. As such, with this system, it is doomed. For all the talk about the players’ offseason conditioning and work ethic, it is our coaching staff’s lack of offseason preparation that has, to date, failed this team and our fans.
As a side note, I didn’t mention Dustin Penner in the pregame. I won’t mention him here either. I have no words for his game at this time.
On a positive note, Jonathan Quick had his best game of the season and preseason. He looked composed. He didn’t overreact to the pass or shot. If I was going to scout Quick for opposing teams, I would tell them to wait him out. Let him overreact and then find the seam for a pass or the lane for a shot. The Devils did that today. Quick was a wall for 3 periods and 5 minutes.
Let’s hear your thoughts.