In the moment, tonight is another playoff hockey game, a win placing our LA Kings closer to winning their second Stanley Cup.
In the bigger picture, one sees a playoff series against two teams separated by a short drive and a heightened level of animosity. One sees intangible emotions such as bragging rights.
We care not for the bigger picture. It is irrelevant to our moment and the moment is where we live.
Our hatred for Ducks fans does not tickle the smallest curls of our hairy balls compared to the love and pride that swells within our heart and exits our lungs for our Los Angeles Kings. Our aim is on the latter for the latter is where our energy, at it peak or otherwise, from the first moment to the last, will expend.
We go this night to their arena in support of our team.
And our team’s focus is singular.
Lessons learned in the series against San Jose include several and those our boys took to heart. It is not coincidence those lessons equally apply to the series against Anaheim for Anaheim’s game mirrors that of the Sharks.
1. Close gaps on trailers and take away the lateral passing lanes: Predictable. That is what the San Jose Sharks were. We pleaded to close the gaps and take away seams available for lateral passes. The Kings did. The Kings shut down the Sharks’ offense.
The Kings need make no adjustments to this strategy against Anaheim for they also rely so very much on cross seam passes to open wingers or defensemen for one time shots. Teemu Selanne has made a career of this. They have set plays, predictable ones, in that regard. Take it away and, just like San Jose, Anaheim must rely on a traditional forecheck for which they are not built. The Ducks do not place great emphasis on a punishing offensive cycle whose focus is to wear defenses down. That is our system and one for which we are built. The Ducks rely on loose pucks, time, space and lanes. An aggressive defense that limits each swallows them whole…
“I think their defense just swallowed us up, to be honest with you.” Joe Thornton after the game 7 loss.
2. Block shots: The Kings started to block shots more often in the last series after game 2, not just any shot but those that could and would otherwise get through to Quick or near him. This made a tangible difference as the Sharks failed to sustain any net traffic and did not have garbage to pick up around the net.
Corey Perry likes to lurk around the net. He likes the garbage goals. This takes us back to cause and effect. To take position next to Perry only creates a double screen. Instead, the focus becomes keeping shots from getting through to the net, specifically those that come if the Ducks have “set up” and have Perry in position. Limit those and we limit opportunities. This forces Perry to move away from the net, where he is least effective and allows our defense to do what it does well – retrieve the puck and breakout.
3. Quick passes, quick shots: What impressed me the most about the L.A. Kings offense in the last 4 games was their willingness to play an up tempo, speed and skill game when the opportunity arose. They did not rely exclusively on a forecheck but rather got the puck up ice, across the blue line and, when the Sharks offered them seams and lanes, the Kings took them. Quick passes, led to one timers or time and space to maneuver and quality chances that sometimes resembled open nets. It is that opportunistic offense mixed in with a strong forecheck that will wreak havoc on Anaheim’s defense.
In a fist fight, it is very difficult to defend against a southpaw who can fight with both a left-forward or right-forward stance. It causes the opposing fighter to hesitate and “think” about the manner of defense. The angles of attack change and often results in punches getting through, sometimes without a counter attack, often with a knockout.
An offense that can both cycle and wear down a defense and find lanes for cross ice passes and one timers is the equivalent of a fighter who can jab with the right or left and comes with a devastating cross. That is who the LA Kings are at their best and their best was on full display against San Jose in games 4 through 7.
4. Faceoffs: Faceoff victories equal possession in the offensive zone and denial of possession to the opponent in the defensive zone. Faceoffs are the ignition for each. Faceoffs during the powerplay, penalty kill and after extended shifts (such as an icing) have a measurable impact on the success or failure of an offensive or defensive structure. We were exceptional at faceoffs against San Jose in the last 4 games, especially when it mattered most. Exceptional we shall remain.
Surly and I will be at the game tonight as well as Monday’s match.
If you will be there, focus your heart, soul, lungs and love for our L.A. Kings. Once we enter their house, all that matters to each of you shall be our boys rising to victory.
We shall bring our best.
We shall Make Them Pay.
Categories: L.A. Kings News