Anaheim’s Modus Operandi and How to Break Through It

First, happy Mother’s Day. One thing every hockey fan of any loyalty can agree upon – moms rule.

To a less pleasant topic. The Anaheim Ducks.

There is a significant difference between watching a game on TV and being at the game. I have seen 3 out of the 4 games we have played. I missed game 3, live. And since I am a hockey fan in addition to being a King die-hard, I do watch more Ducks (and other teams) hockey than most.

Let me break down the Anaheim Ducks:

1. Offensive structure:

Zone entries with speed, passing designed to spread out a home plate box (take defensemen out of position) and crashing forwards. Look at where the Ducks have scored their goals this series. Door step. Why? Because their entire structure is built around passing to open spots that are then filled with a player in or around the blue point.

2. Neutral zone:

Pressure. That’s it. They are a risk taking team that generally doesn’t fall back, even in the face of an attack.

3. Defensive zone:

Same as the neutral zone. Once again, they pressure the puck carrier, typically via two forwards. The theory is that if you don’t give the opposing team time to set up, they can’t and pucks stay to the perimeter. They even employ this during the PK. Meanwhile, one forward is a bit of a rover (pressures but also in position to block shots) while the two defensemen guard the home plate. There is an emphasis on blocking shots and they work in layers to not only block one shooting lane but those parallel therewith.

Now let’s break down the L.A. Kings:

1. Offensive structure:

Cycle. Forecheck. A team built around puck possession and setting up the play through hard work and board work. Once we have the puck, we count on an opposing D to fall back and defend. We then send traffic to the net.

2. Neutral zone:

Three back. Our defense-first structure is more conservative than that of Anaheim. So when an opposing team attacks, we often fall back below the blue line and use our home plate structure to keep pucks to the outside.

3. Defensive zone:

We don’t pressure the puck carrier like they do. We protect the middle and attack the boards with our third forward (typically a wing) with defensive support or the other way around depending on where the puck ends up.

Now the problem:

1. We are playing into their hands on offense. If we rely too much on the cycle, the pressure they apply will cause us to (A) stay at the perimeter or (b) get a shot on goal but from poor angles that result in one and out chances.

2. We cannot build the speed we would otherwise like in the neutral zone with their pressure on the puck carrier. That means more dumps and less possession over the blue line.

3. Our home plate is more exposed without Willie Mitchell and even Robyn Regehr. Anaheim has an easier time breaking through our box especially since their passing is typically not North and South but rather North East, South West, and so forth.

Shinny hockey:

Surly calls it “garbage” hockey. That is another way of saying the same thing. “Shinny”. It’s sloppy hockey where bounces create opportunities. Ducks hockey is shinny hockey. They make unexpected passes (those NE, SW, etc. ones) to spots rather than players. Their offensive system relies heavily on players knowing where to go as opposed to anything that resembles a sustained and systematic attack. Think quick and unexpected strike as opposed to pillage and slaughter.

It works for them and unfortunately, not even in games one and two, have we adjusted our defense to it.

What adjustment? Let’s go through it.

L.A. Kings Offense:

Think of defensemen and defending forwards like goalies. When are goaltenders most vulnerable? (A) When they are forced to move lateral and (B) when they cannot see the puck. Now put A and B together and you have the highest scoring chance that an offense can generate. Frustratingly, the L.A. Kings should be able to pick Anaheim apart because they are built for this but they have not adjusted, not even in the games they won but for small sample sizes.

Net presence before puck control: Forwards must not wait until we have possession before going to the net. Let’s use Dustin Brown as an example. He is in the zone. He must go to the net. He will draw defensemen to him. He will take some punishment there but he is built to sustain that (akin to most of our forwards, due to their size and strength). Just this simple action will force Anaheim out of position because the box is penetrated and there is now a screen which can double or triple in width if Anaheim defensemen stack in layers in front of or near Dustin Brown.

Quick passes upon puck possession: In Aikijujutsu (my Tao growing up), one uses the force and momentum of an attacker against him. When Anaheim pressures and attacks in the defensive zone, they create a forward energy. That forward energy is not neutralized by absorbing it. It is neutralized by avoiding it. Quick passes off our sticks and to that of a teammate dilutes pressure. It renders pressure impotent because the pressuring player now finds himself out of position and must travel a greater distance to get into position.

Two to three quick passes place an entire defense and system vulnerable to a sustained attack because they can no longer pressure without an adverse consequence. Shots get on goal, forwards are there to bang in rebounds and you have an offense that both blinded the goalie (remember where Brown went?) and forced the goaltender and defense to move lateral. That is also called getting into a defense’s “head”. What can they do? Keep pressuring? Traffic and quick passes continue to get them out of position and open lanes as a result. Stop pressuring? Plenty of room for the cycle opens up. Either way, the Anaheim defense now has to adjust to the L.A. Kings attack, not the other way around.

Neutral Zone:

An effective attack doesn’t always start to the outside and funnel through the middle. To bring balance, it can also start in the middle and expand to the outside. The L.A. Kings are playing a one trick neutral zone pony offense. They look for the breaking winger along the boards. It got to the point last night where I muttered to myself exactly where the pass out of our defensive zone was going seconds before we made it. And the far majority of the time, I was right. That sucks. That means (except when Drew takes the puck himself), we are not attacking the middle of the ice and drawing Anaheim forwards and defensemen to us (thereby opening the wings).

I realize Willie Mitchell’s absence limits our opportunities to bring such an attack in layers. But Alec Martinez, Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty play on different pairings. Even Jake Muzzin (whose passing last game left much to be desired) has good speed. Use it or give the puck to your center to use it. Force Anaheim to defense the middle of the ice through the neutral zone and not just the wings. That is what gives options upon zone entry.

L.A. Kings Defense:

Do you know what happens when you play the game more in their zone, as opposed to ours, through a sustained attack? Their forwards wear out. Guess what happens then. They have to change lines upon any attack and have a much harder time in the offensive zone.

I have only one adjustment I want to see made to our defense. I want more sticks in lanes. Less emphasis on the “physical” grind and more on intelligent break up of passes and elimination of seams.

Once again, we miss Willie Mitchell greatly in this regard. He and that long stick of his are the glue to our defensive core of competence. But Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene must start using their sticks as much as they use their size.

The L.A. Kings can win this series. We let Anaheim back into it through our own doing. When you look at the goals we did score against the Ducks, it is not coincidence that they can be directly traced to exactly what I have written here. Each of those goals have been the exception to our offensive rule. When you look at their goals and from where they came, you can see that nearly every time, a stick in position to stop the pass or tie up the shooter’s stick would have prevented it.

The Kings must adjust. Sutter must adjust. He needs to put the lines back as they were and stop looking for a spark in that respect. Every player on the Kings has the hockey IQ, skill set and work ethic to play near perfect hockey 200 feet of the ice. It’s time Sutter puts the players in a position to do so.

Give your mom a high five from me.



Categories: L.A. Kings News

26 replies

  1. Perfectly written Bobby, broken down and explained to a T.

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there.

  2. The Kings cycle has been ineffectual. Either because the forwards have been unable or unwilling to come off the boards and make themselves dangerous. You can put praise on the Dicks defenders or blame on the Kings cyclers. I will argee with DS and put it on the Kings players. Their players, especially their top tier forwards are not making themselves dangerous and thereby allowing the Dicks to sit back and passively defend home plate.
    The cycle only and puck possession only works if you eventually take that puck to the net. After all, that’s where you score the goals.

  3. I love what you wrote, Bobby! Everyone who reads this blog should read it carefully. If they don’t quite understand the first reading, they should slowly go through it again.

    I will add one thing. When you mentioned about a forward standing in front of the opposing net … before anything happens … I think of the comments that I have made about our bigger forwards, King, Brown, Nolan, etc. doing just that! Why don’t they?! It’s coaching. I’ve always loved good, skilled power forwards who will live in front of the opposing goalie. It always works. I know it would work for the Kings!

    I wish Sutter would feel board on a Sunday afternoon and decide to read your post. Maybe a light would go on, and things would change for the better. If not, we’ll see Jones in net again and the Kings will get loss number three. Jones is a very good goalie, but he’s not better than Quick!

  4. One game. This kid walks on water now. I say let’s light his ass up Monday and force another goalie change. Sorry I let everyone down with the Corey Perry photo. When I tried to blow it up to 8 1/2″x 11″ the picture was way too grainy. That game was tragic in a Terry Murray kind of way. Not cool with the lines, or the way Quickie gets pulled and called out by Sutter. If. Toffoli can kill a penalty he can play on the second line where he belongs. I can’t help but think Brown and Kopi are banged up. More disappointed in Sutter splitting up the top line than anything. Quickie starts game 5 no questions. Hopefully with the best game so far. GFKG \X/

    • EXCELLENT post Bobby. Well written. Easy to visualize.
      We see a poor game and same problems. I have observed that the Kings management think so similarly with their team concept they miss the bigger picture. Where an ‘outsider’ would be helpful. This is not to say they do not have a much greater knowledge of the game, but that they are all seeing the same things.
      1) How many guys are banged up, and how does this effect their level of play? Different pain thresholds, different response.
      2) Not only is the cycle/possession our game, forechecking critical. When it disappears so does our style and effectiveness. Add Gap Control as well.
      3) Sticks..our active sticks esp on the PK can solidly back off the opposition.
      4) short passes..stop the dumping. And accurate not sloppy.
      5) For the Love of Hockey stop the penalties!!!
      Cannot score when constantly defending. And this wears the players out.
      6) The Lines..This one really incensed me!
      Everything I have said is very Basic..seems so Obivious.
      I Hope we see the Warrior Kings show up to play tonite.
      GOKINGSGO!!!

  5. I’ve watched all the playoff games so far and I must admit, I’m a big fan of the Minnesota Wild. Of the eight remaining teams, I think Minny is the only one you can never count out, no matter what the circumstance. They absolutely go 110% all game long.
    Every other team has great stretches, but none plays a complete 60 minutes +, including our Kings. If the kings played with the heart, energy, and determination of the Wild, we’d dominate like 2012. We’ve seen the Kings do it. When they fail, it is so obvious that they just aren’t giving their whole effort. That is the most disappointing thing to me.

    • You’re so right about Minnesota!!

      • The wild don’t have more offensive weapons than us. And I don’t believe for a second that the Kings would be giving the Hawks the trouble the Wild are

        • I disagree if you still have an erection for the wild after 4 hours you need to seek medical attention.

  6. Another thing we can all agree on, “Every single mother of every player on the Ducks is a bitch.”

    GKG!!!!!!!!!!

    • Your a fucking idiot.

      • That escalated quickly! Why pray tell do you assert that I posses an IQ of about 25 or under and a mental age of less than 3 years, DeadendSpellcheck?

        • With a comment about anybody’s mom like that is uncalled for and immature. Can’t you come up with something better than degrading women?
          So yea, with garbage like that coming outta your pie hole illustrates that you do in fact possess an IQ of 25 or under and a mental age of 3.

          Call out the Ducks and let’s talk hockey. Leave moms out of it. Have a little more class than that.

          • A) My initial comment was a quip referencing the Ducks’ players as “sons of bitches,” a fairly common moniker for players on a rival team. In other words it was a joke.

            B) I am sorry if you think I was degrading women with said joke. Not because I am sorry for the comment, but because I am sorry that you are that contentious and fractious.
            C) Also, I am sorry if you took my comment personal. Again, not because I am sorry for the comment, but because it must be tiresome and frustrating to be so easily offended.

            D) It is quite petulant of you to insult me using such a specious overgeneralization.

            E) Fuck the Ducks!

            F) GKG!!!!!!!!!!

          • You can use all the $10 dollar words you want. I am easily offended when it comes to degrading women. My mom is a single mom who raised us the best she could. So I will voice my opinion when somebody makes comments like that.
            You should know better than to call any woman any such word joking or not. Or did your dad not teach you how to be a man?

          • I get it you are taking my comments personally, when not even the mothers of the Ducks should. It is quite obvious you love and respect your mom and felt that my comments degraded her. I am honestly sorry you felt that way, but I am not sorry for my comments. Your misplaced indignation is not something I should or will feel bad for. I have no doubt your mother is a wonderful mother and human being as I am sure most, if not all of the Ducks mothers are as well. I welcome your opinion, as misplaced and incorrect as it may be.

            However, you know nothing about me and are playing internet bully. I doubt this is your intention and guess that instead you felt I was attacking your own mother and have reacted in a protective manner. However, again, my comments did not degrade your mother nor were they meant to degrade anyone. They were a joke on a subject you are clearly overly sensitive. Regardless, you took them and decided to directly attack me and now my father as well as his parenting abilities. Exactly the kind of thing you were perceived me as doing and were mad about.

            I am sorry if I offended you, I am not sorry for my comments, and I am sorry if I put you in a mental state where you felt justified verbally attacking complete strangers. Anger and hate beget anger and hate. And to be part of the reason that those emotions are being stirred up in another person was not and never is my intention. So I hope, for your sake and for those around you, you can see my comments for what they were meant to be, a lighthearted jest.

          • Your funny…..you verbally attack women then get upset when someone says something about your dad. Your quick to speak and slow to listen.
            Be more responsible about what comes out of your mouth and it’s intent.
            At least we can agree on one thing…GMFKG

          • I think you misunderstood. I am not upset, I know you did not mean to degrade my father and me. Instead you felt you were standing up for your mother’s honor, which you felt I had besmirched. However, I never insulted your mother. Even if I did feel you meant to hurt me oor my family with your words, why would I care? What would it accomplish?

            My words were not meant to cause hurt or anger, and if they did I am sorry. There are way to many things in this world that do that already. Instead I meant them as an ironic joke. Clearly, you do not feel that is what I meant them as and clearly you cannot see beyond the word “bitch.” And this rigidity that you have with the word makes you unable to see my comments as anything other than hatespeech. Therefore, it is pointless to try and help you see that the intent of my comments was to be nothing more than a joke by irony and hyperbole. Like when we say “we hate the Ducks.” Instead, I implore you to not take my comments personally.

          • Like I said before, quick to talk and slow to listen.
            You can try to explain yourself 100 ways from Sunday but the bottom line is that you need to be more responsible with what you say.
            Try yelling “I have a bomb” on an airplane and see if the “you took my comment wrong” excuse holds water.
            GMFKG

  7. Gibson in net tonight not a surprise. BUT if the boys can put one behind him first it may rattle the nerves to the point of him letting in more. Get inside his head and we’re looking good.

    Hunting season resumes tonight at the swamp with shotguns in hand. Cmon boys!

    • Absolutely! He’s very athletic (like JQ) but his inexperience in high pressure situations might be just what LA needs. Get some traffic in front and make him really work.
      Get under his skin and throw him off his game.
      Got my new JQ jersey and it’s getting broke in tonight!
      Rally the troops, be loud, be proud!
      GMFKG!!!

      • That is a solid purchase! I have been deliberating since the Simmer trade who I would get a jersey of and keep coming back to Quickie. I currently am sporting the timeless Gretzky.

        I agree on the Gibson front, the Ducks have been present in the Kings crease all series especially after the whistle. Since the refs are allowing it, the Kings must return the favor. Gibson may be the most talented goalie in the Ducks system, but Quick is the best in the world. We all knew this would be a tight series, but the Kings are the better team it just means staying up past 1AM for a few more nights than I would like.

        GKG!!!!!!!!!!

        • You can NEVER go wrong with the Great One!
          LA needs to adopt the “eye for an eye” attitude. Like you said the Ducks have been in Quick’s crease all series. Time for payback!
          I’m sick of reading about this Gibson kid. Don’t get me wrong he is good, but to name an era after him already?!?! The kid is still wet behind the ears!
          Gibson era my ass!!!
          GMFKG!!!

          • They’re obviously hoping that Gibson will do for the Schmucks what Ken Dryden did for the Montreal Canadians, when he came on the scene as a rookie. Gibson may be a nice guy, who knows! But he’s still a Schmuck! The Kings need to have bodies in front of him and make it extremely difficult for him to see the puck!

    • Brown needs to lose an edge and knock that kids head off. Fight fire with fire. Put Schultz in front of him. Gibson era………. Suck my balls!

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