Three ways the LA Kings can improve the powerplay
In the 2021-22 NHL season, the most significant discussion point for the LA Kings was the lack of success on the powerplay. Fans recalled how the LA Kings failed to tally goals on what was supposed to be the advantage. The LA Kings’ powerplay has looked slightly better this year than last season. But it still isn’t perfect.
The constant failure to generate high-danger chances has been brutal to watch. Even then, it doesn’t even begin to describe the number of issues with the powerplay.
In the 2021-22 season, the Los Angeles Kings had a 16.1% powerplay, which was bad enough for it to be the sixth-worst powerplay in the NHL. It was clear that it played into the fact that the LA Kings weren’t quite ready to compete for the Stanley Cup.
In the summer, the Kings added Kevin Fiala and saw players like Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev develop. On top of that, Marco Sturm (LA’s powerplay coach years prior) was given the role of the head coach of the Ontario Reign. Recently laid-off assistant coach, Jim Hiller, was brought in to improve the powerplay.
Hiller, who worked with the New York Islanders, helped the Isles record a 22.1% with the man advantage. One of the best parts about New York’s powerplay last season was how often they would find success in scoring goals in front of the net.
Ironically, that has been the issue with the LA Kings this year.
Despite a new powerplay coach and an even better-built team, the LA Kings’ powerplay remains an issue. Currently, the powerplay sits at 17.4% (26th in the NHL). That’s only a 1.3% increase from last year. That result is nowhere near good enough for a team that was supposed to take a massive step toward becoming a contending team.
Today, we’ll go over three factors that could make the LA Kings’ power play far more effective than 17.4%.
1- Use a bumper spot
When the bumper spot was first introduced, it became a tactic that all NHL teams started to use. NHL defenders failed to keep up with the number of fast-paced passes followed by a one-timer. To this day, a majority of NHL use this tactic. The teams that use it usually succeed more than those that don’t.
In 2021-22, the LA Kings rarely used the bumper spot. Where a player should sit in between the hash marks, too often, there was nobody.
Now that the new season has rolled around, there have been hints of improved bumper spot usage. The shape of the powerplay finally began to look somewhat menacing, and it had everyone excited. Jim Hiller had previously used the bumper spot in New York. It only felt apparent that it would translate to LA with the change.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
The LA Kings haven’t used the bumper to their advantage, with most of their goals coming up high. The usage of one-timers and strong shots from the half-walls are a massive plus, seeing that the LA Kings have been able to use players like Arthur Kaliyev and Adrian Kempe to their advantage.
When you have elite shooters with a finishing touch like Kaliyev and Kempe, you want to take advantage. The issue with LA is that shooting from the range is being overdone.
The point is the LA Kings have capable players who can rifle the puck past the goalie at the hashmark area. So why don’t they do it? We still don’t have an answer. But if the Kings continue not using the bumper spot, we can expect the powerplay to remain unwatchable.
2- Shooting from high
The LA Kings don’t like to shoot close for some reason. We still haven’t found out the mechanics of the powerplay as we haven’t gotten an actual breakdown from the coaching staff, but when you watch the powerplay, you’ll always notice the shots coming in from the half-wall or the top.
Do you ever wonder why the Kings always end up with so few shots at the end of each powerplay? That’s because the Kings shoot from way too far out. The shots are blocked. The Kings generate barely any high-danger chances when they shoot from that far out. Oddly enough, they continue to do it.
The Kings like to cycle the puck between the two half-wall players and the quarterback. The puck seldom sees the two players down low unless they go to pick up a rebound. After a while, teams start to figure out that the two players down low are essentially decoys. Then, they proceed to play a much more aggressive style higher up. And yet, the Kings don’t utilize the players down low.
The lack of shots from the bumper area and around the net is further proof that while the Kings may play a modernized game at 5-on-5, their powerplay has a boring and old approach that works only 17% of the time.
Tell me you don't have a bumper option without telling me you don't have a bumper option. #GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/p8tSE9DuFG
— Joe W. Patarino (@JWPatarino) November 10, 2022
Simply put, the Kings are trying to force a square peg into a round hole. While they know they can’t generate from higher up, they continue to shoot from far-out distances. The constant repetition of shooting contributes to the failure of the powerplay, and it makes you wonder if the Kings have any kind of plan.
3- The players on the units
The LA Kings have several players who are considered good, even strength players like Trevor Moore and Viktor Arvidsson have seen a ton of success at 5-on-5 and even shorthanded, but on the powerplay, it’s a different story.
Countless times we’ve seen the Kings’ powerplay fail to even cycle the puck because of mistakes.
At this point, the blame falls on the player selection. The Kings can’t keep forcing the same players onto the ice at 5-on-4 and 5-on-3 and expect something to occur. It makes no sense to keep having players who continue to struggle on the powerplay play when players like Quinton Byfield and Brandt Clarke aren’t getting a shot.
Of course, those two players haven’t been iced in some time, but the point is that the LA Kings have other viable options to play on the powerplay. The season is still young, and the possibilities feel unlimited this early, so why not attempt something new? Why not try a new powerplay lineup? With a powerplay struggling early this season, there’s no risk in trying something else. If the Kings don’t take a chance with who they play on the powerplay, then we’ll be stuck with the same disappointment we’ve had all season so far.
The good news is we may see something a little different on Saturday.
While the LA Kings have been on a roll recently, and it looks like they’ve finally found their rhythm, the powerplay remains a mess that is holding the Kings back. If the team truly wants to elevate their play to the next level, the powerplay must see improvement.
Main Photo Credit: Alex Cave