Hockey 2.0: Gaining The Zone On The Powerplay

Darryl Sutter’s comment that the “powerplay has been awful” struck a chord with me today. I don’t agree with him. The powerplay is awful and has been inconsistent. One of the biggest culprits has been our zone entry.

The purpose of any zone entry is to gain and maintain possession. The L.A. Kings have been abysmal at both. Let’s take a look. The purple represents the players. The black represents the puck.

PP zone entry with reverse

This is the most common zone entry the L.A. Kings use that isn’t a dump in. The first forward (F1) enters the zone and reverses the puck to the first defenseman who then sets up the powerplay. This zone entry works well if the defensive forward on that same side (strong side) collapses down low. This zone entry doesn’t work well if he does not or the defense has read the reverse and takes away the pass along the boards. The L.A. Kings problem is they go to this reverse too often and don’t “read” the defensive coverage. I have wondered if this is a carry over from the Terry Murray era of the low to high pass along the boards and that Pavlov-like response that pervaded Murray’s tenure to nearly every zone entry.

Let’s take a look at a dump in on the powerplay

PP zone entry dump in

Notice all three forwards rush the puck? A dump in on the powerplay will be inconsistent absent a focused 3 man attack to the puck immediately upon the dump. It’s a 3 man chase or it’s a failure. That is because the penalty killing team will, almost without exception, send three players to the puck to gain possession and keep us from doing so. If we send in the F1 and F2 and keep the F3 at the dots or along the boards to receive the pass, we will get out numbered down low. At that point, we are at the mercy of the penalty killer’s attempt to clear the puck and must rely on our D1 or D2 to stop the clearing attempt at the blue line or hope the PK sends the puck onto one of our attacking forwards’ sticks. See the problem? It breeds inconsistency. Is a three-man forecheck aggressive? Of course. But a powerplay must be exactly that to be effective. There is only one goal with the man advantage and that is to score a goal. It isn’t to play defense.

Third up comes what the better NHL teams do on the powerplay when the opportunity arises.

PP zone entry cross ice

It’s not as simple as it looks and it’s not always a simple cross ice pass. The F1 can cut to the center, pass it back to the D1 or even reverse it before the puck goes cross ice to the F3. The F1 can fake the shot with the F2 providing the drive & distraction to the net to cause the penalty killers to collapse before he sends the puck cross ice. No matter how he does it and so long as he does it before the penalty killers set up, this zone entry forces an overloading penalty killing unit that is aggressive and attempts to gain puck possession to suddenly end up on the wrong side of their zone. The L.A. Kings simply do not attempt the cross ice pass enough. They rely far too much on the reverse or dump in, both of which rely on, to some extent, good fortune along the boards while this zone entry relies on deception and skillful passing.

Go Kings!

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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17 replies

  1. I’ve never played hockey so I always like it when you guys do something that has to do with specifics on the power play or even strength. Makes me feel educated. Thanks for the article!

  2. Very good analysis here with great insight on what might work better.

    The poor or unproductive PP results happens often from the initial decision making by the King rushing up the ice with the puck. I see some dumps that merely goes to the waiting goalie to intercept and thus the puck goes back to the King’s zone. I see some dumps where the defense races to the puck first and that creates a turn over. That problem seems to happen because the King skater rush was slow and getting to the puck was delayed. Another problem is matching the dump speed with the tempo of the rush.

    What I mean is a soft dump versus a slap power dump that happens, but the rushing skaters are not set up to deal with a soft or power speed dump. It is out of synch, so that turn overs happen.

    Now last night Martinez did an effective rush along the board where he did a lofted dump over the D-man that was soft, landing in the corner, where he arrived there first given his speed. He maintained control and was able to pass to start up the classic PP set up to a point man so that some zone passing could begin rather nicely.

    So, what I am saying, and maybe you are too, is that the rushing skater, whether it is a forward or D-man, really is going to be 80% the factor regarding what happens whether that set up in the zone will occur. If that is true, 80% the factor, then, getting the team on the same page on that rush is critical. The teamates need to get in synch and be ready for what that rushing skater is going to do.

    I also notice that when a forward rushes up the puck, they tend to have more split second decisions to try to stick handle penetration into the zone versus a dump. The D-men rushes seem to be much more ready to just do a dump. All of that means that the defenders can make an educated guess when they see who is rushing up the puck.

    If the defenders are seeing a probable dump, they can react and chase better to battle for it.

    As an idea, maybe the Kings ought to try to allow a forward to rush up the puck more often so that the defenders are more guessing whether they have to block a penetration stick handle or a dump. Many of the rushes are formed deep in the King zone after an icing down the rink. Therefore, the Kings can decide more often how they are going to set up a rush. We see Kopi and Richards go back to the King zone and gain the puck for the rush. Maybe if that increases to a higher percentage they can get a better result for an eventual set up.

    Besides the above, personally, I have some fundamental problems in Kopi’s pattern once the set up is done and puck movement happens. He is the quarterback and he often winds up along the side board being in position to decide where the puck goes. All of that part is fine, but, what I would like for him to do is to pass off and then go to the net and park himself there more often, and let the other 4 skaters rotate around and he is by the net. Right now, it is rather predictable that Kopi goes from the corner, side board and point in his own movements. I would like to see him mix it up more where he rotates to the net and hangs out there to see what shots come in with him being around to pick up deflections and garbage rebounds. I am not saying he should hang out there on a prolonged basis, but, more of an option situation that he temporarily is not the quarterback any longer but set up by the net to see what damage he can do in that area. I realize that he will be banged around and tied up and screened out, yet, it is all about throwing off the D-men who are shadowing him and follow him.

    It may work because two D men may gravitate to Kopi in his position by the net, leaving more open corridors for shots from the point or side boards by somebody else on the PP unit at the time.

    We all know that one of the biggest inventions in modern hockey is the committment of defenders to block shots or even deter shots as the shooter sees no chance with a closed shot lane. It is down to a science now how penalty killing units sacrifice big time to block shots from the blue line or deter shots by their aggreasive pressure and positioning. That kind of aggressive defending technique has been super effective against every NHL team.
    The best PP units are very adept in trying to circumvent that problem and find open shot lanes. From my observations, they are getting the job done when they mix up and rotate around from position to position putting defenders out of their position and collapsing in to the net too. It is a matter of executing fast that technique to get defenders out of position.

    Obviously, Kopi is the main go to guy for PP quarterbacking, and he is pressured so often and he does not get that many shots off from his quarterbacking. So, if that is a handicapp, that he is not shooting more on the PP, then, something can be tried at times to free him around the net to play a different role and see how that works.

  3. Love this stuff. I’m thinking that if we just “borrow” Jamie Kompon’s freedom for 15 minutes, and get you into a latex Kompon mask for a PP drill or two, they might forgive us the abduction.

  4. This is off subject, but I finished listening to the post game wrap up of the Shfarts game with Phoenix. The Shfarts were shut out, 2-0. They have four games to go, back to back with Dallas and then the Kings. The play Dallas Sat night at home, after Dallas first plays the Cansucks tomorrow night. They travel to Dallas to play before coming to Staples next week.

    In the post game wrap, the bitch was that the Shfarts won only 8 of 18 on the road since the All Star break. They have basically been abysmal on the road. The bitch was that all season they have been behind in games and scoring is off normal pace. They are always in catch up mode. They are missing a sniper that they need besides Marleau.

    Coach McLellan, Thorton and Clowe were interviewed, where they basically said they need to win all 4 games or they are done. Thorton said his team played very hard, but fell short due better goal tending tonight. Clowe bitched that some guys were not playing good enough and need to do better. McLellan said that his team played hard and lost because some players did not hit the net with shots.

    The Shfarts commentators were very critical of the team that they are under achievers, where they have not proven at all that they deserve a seed. One commentator said that the will be toast in the first round given what they have done this year. She said the team is disorganized and not on the same page, even though they are playing hard. They said that many players lost faith with other teamates so that they are out of position or reacting to a break down so that good players are off their game.

    Anyway, the bottom line, they Shfarts are much more in trouble with their team than in comparison to the Kings. They have their backs to the wall much more, and they are under stress and duress now while having played poor road hockey.

    So, the way it is now shaping up, there are 3 seeds available for the Western Conference, that can go to most likely to LA, SJ, Phx, or Dal. As it stands tonight, SJ is in the worse shape of the 4. If the Kings win tomorrow and Sat night, and Dallas loses to Dallas on Sat night, LA will have 92 points and Shfarts will be stuck at 88 points. Kings win on Monday with Edmonton, then the Kings have 94 points. By Monday night, the Shfarts would then be stuck at 88 points, with the Kings at 94. That means that the Kings should likely be in a lock for a seed by Monday night, if all of this falls into place with Dallas beating the Shfarts Sat night and the Kings win the next three games.

  5. The squad also tried something a little new last game which was upon entering the zone the puck carrier would drop the puck off and have the trailer pick it up and then enter with speed. The Wings do this often and I think St Louis does it. It was a bit of a clusterfuck from what I remember but at least they’re trying.

    The main frustration from what I’ve been seeing is just entering the zone. They either seem outta focus or something. One other entry strategy is having a winger on the blue line to receive the pass once the puck carrier crosses the line. The opposing D has to respect the puck carrier’s speed and thus must back off. That should leave the guy straddling the blue line open enough to accept a pass and start skating. Now the possession is established in the zone and it’s a matter of getting set up.

    Bringing the puck up top is fine but when the guy down low sees the puck carrier getting ready to pass up top that guy needs to get to the net asap so that he’s ready for a shot on net or block the goalie’s view.

    I just don’t understand why after the entire last season and this season they still can’t get it going right.

    • Actually these guys have played since kids and can’t get it up to top league ranking. Playing years and years seems to count for little.
      They practice PP drills too constantly.
      It is all about execution of the correct plan for attack and the shot on net.
      Get more PP shots and then more goals.

      • At this point I’m going to assume that a big part of it is phsycological. They all have the necessary skills. They all have the NHL experience. But they either don’t really believe in themselves enough or whoever is really coaching the PP sucks major ass.

        I couldn’t believe how retarded the PP was last season. Umbrella for the entire PP? Doesn’t take the other team’s video review very long to figure out that this squad just doesn’t move around that much. It’s getting better (or almost started to) but we’re already 75+ games into the season WTF?!?

        • Everyone keeps saying we did the umbrella last year, but I don’t think it was really an umbrella. An umbrella has a point in the middle and two flanks. We had a standard 2 man point on the PP. An umbrella forms a triangle between the top three guys, we never had that cross-ice option the way the players positioned themselves.

          The problem was that we tended to skate into pressure (like directly at the high PK’er) after we’re setup, instead of keeping >1 passing option available. If you want to draw pressure, don’t skate at a player, skate into the gap between the two. That way the PK has to communicate (or not) who is going to pick up the puck carrier and who is going to defend a passing option. Instead we were pressured into stupid floaty saucer passes that often bounced and handcuffed the other point (yeah thanks doughty).

  6. Love the 2.0’s. If only you could explain the difference between “then” and “than” ……….

    • Seriously, drives me nuts. There and Their, too. “Then” is a reference to a sequence in time. “Than” is an either/or kinda thing. “There” is about a place. “Their” is about possession.

      I axe you, is it so hard? Ekcetera, ekcetera, ekcetera.

  7. The L.A. Kings problem is they go to this reverse too often and don’t “read” the defensive coverage.
    Don’t get me wrong… I love Dustin Brown, but between him and Doughty with the twelve headfakes upon entry into the zone, I don’t think it gives the opponent much to react to.
    You guys (I think) have said that JW and Brown are more like very talented second line players.
    The best powerplays like Detroit, Pittsburgh, Vancouver are run by players who have high levels of creativity and skill. The Kings have good players, but I’m not certain how much is the structure of the PP and how much comes down to the skill level of the players out there.

    I know JJ liked to have a freer more flexible approach to his game and felt limited in the Kings structure, but to me there was a good reason that he functioned well on the powerplay.

  8. Your analysis is great and I agree we do not send the puck across the ice enough on the PP. I am a big fan of spreading out the defense and making them end up on the wrong side of the ice.

    However, please do not take Darryl Sutter’s comments to heart. He has said a lot of things that do not make sense to me. I will not bore you to death with them now, but one he said the other night when we faced Calgary was this regarding Jonathan Quick; “Jonathan has had a great season, but you have to be a 40-win goalie”, comparing him to Miikka Kiprusoff. I do not agree with that and believe he does not play Bernier enough with that logic.

    One other thing I noticed with our game against the Flames. I noticed out guys had a lot of energy and played the entire 60 minute game. Sutter called-off practice that morning. What is your opinion that we do away with more morning skates to give the guys more stamina in the evening?

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it had less to do with blowing yer wad at practice and more to do with getting good (more) sleep.

  9. like it….glad your doing these again Bobby.

    three key issues i have are:
    -lack of communication
    -indecision in the neutral zone
    -head fakes
    -same thing over and over

    Communication: i don’t know why but they seem to struggle constantly with up ice communication, especially with DD. to often it appears as though he is on a completely different page than the other 4 guys out there. how often do we see an offsides when he brings it up ice? this is either mis-communication or indecision on his part at the last second, that causes an offside or a regroup.

    Indecision: this can be lumped in with communication, but it also stands out on its own as far as i see it. they struggle with reading the D coverage in the neutral zone to often, then make a late move/pass/etc that throws off the entry. LA’s entry is stale and repeated, allowing the opponent to easily defend. I think with mixing it up this can help alleviate the opposing D from being able to stack and pressure LA’s entry. Mix it up boys.

    Head fakes: the last resort of guy that doesn’t know WTF he is doing out there. There is a time and place out there for it – in 1 on 1 situations. You don’t do it especially in the neutral zone, let alone from red to blue line on entry. all it does is throw your teammates off and then they go offsides. cross ice and seam passes to guys will go a hell of a lot farther than some moron looking like a bobblehead out there.

    Same ole’ same ole’: Mix it up boys. TMu is gone and supposedly the leash has been loosened a bit. Stop playing five static positions whether its a halfboards setup, an umbrella or a standard 3-2 config. Just mix it up. Guys need to be moving constantly creating breakdowns. Remain static and stationary, essentially gives the PK unit a fifth man out there because they can setup a zone that minimizes lanes. LA should know this….they do it masterfully on their own PK unit.


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