Special teams can be the difference between winning and losing, especially in the playoffs. Now that the LA Kings are within reach of postseason play, an overall assessment needs to be made concerning areas of weakness that can be exploited by opposing teams. First on the list is the deficiencies in the Kings’ power-play production.
The power-play this year arguably has been one of the team’s most consistent shortcomings. The Kings are currently ranked 28th in the League at 16.9%, a stat that should invite a reshuffling of personnel, and yet not much has changed throughout the year.
Overall, opposing teams have been able to stop the Kings’ man-advantage, and this cannot be ignored as a main factor keeping them from being one of the top teams in the league. The answer is clear when you have a problem, try to fix it.
Enter Quinton Byfield.
The 19-year-old was called up a month and a half ago and yet, he has seen very little to no time on the power-play. The man-advantage is the perfect place for young phenoms to showcase their skill and build confidence. It also increases ice time, adds valuable experience, and gives youngsters the chance for more creative offensive opportunities.
Byfield seems like the perfect candidate to have a role on the PP.
He could use his size and skill to the Kings’ benefit by being a formidable net frontman with his 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, screening goalies and tipping pucks. He also has the agility and the quickness to play below the goal line or along the half wall.
One of the few times he was actually on the power-play was during his first game with the LA Kings this year against the Colorado Avalanche. He was playing along the half wall and the power-play looked crisp and dangerous. The addition of Byfield helped elevate the pace of play which in turn led to multiple scoring opportunities, ultimately finishing with a goal. This one change in the line-up made the difference and although Byfield didn’t record a point, he was nonetheless instrumental in the play.
At this point in the year, Byfield could be inserted into the power-play’s second unit. Some candidates that he could possibly replace are Dustin Brown or Phillip Danault, who have both struggled this season in man-advantage situations.
Phillip Danault, although having an outstanding year offensively at 5 on 5, has still not made his mark on the power-play, having only recorded one assist in spite of the fact that he has been part of the second unit all year.
Brown has also not been able to find his footing on the power-play and has rotated between the first and second units throughout the season. Despite this attempt to find his place on the PP, he only has one goal and two assists to show for it.
The Kings seem to be set on continuing to do the same things on the power-play without any consistent adjustment and expecting different outcomes. They are playing outstanding at even strength but the issues on the man-advantage are significant and potentially season-ending flaws.
Quinton Byfield just might be the change the LA Kings need.