At the height of the LA Kings’ struggles earlier this season, I had written a piece about the defensive zone breakdowns the Kings were having on a seemingly nightly basis. With the way the team plays in the defensive zone, communication is paramount. Here is the thought I shared at the time:

“…this type of man-to-man defensive system requires incredible attention to detail and good communication. There may be times when the players have to switch off an assignment, and as long as that communication is there, it can be OK, but if not, as we see, it doesn’t take much for a missed assignment to lead to a total defensive zone breakdown.”

After Saturday’s loss to Tampa Bay, head coach Todd McLellan and forward Alex Iafallo each had comments referencing communication, or a lack thereof, when talking about the defensive zone.

“Communication, I think, in the (defensive) zone, just giving up a lot of chances,” said Iafallo when asked what went wrong in the opening 20 minutes.

McLellan added, “I thought our communication in the (defensive) zone wasn’t where it needed to be. Sometimes we had opportunities for clean breakouts, and we didn’t execute. They got alone around our net a lot.”

Personally, I was encouraged to hear communication be a point of emphasis after this game by both a player and coach because it seemed evident in watching the game. Not that you want these issues to pop up, but not every game is perfect, and these things will happen. The fact they were recognized immediately is important.

McLellan specifically mentioned the fourth goal after the game, “you take their fourth goal, for example, they end up with a 2-on-0 at the net. And we’re in position to defend that quite easily. We had some time to talk, time to communicate, and get ourselves organized. That doesn’t always happen, but in that case, it did, and we didn’t do it. We failed to use our best tool we have, and that’s our tongue on the ice.”

Communication is exactly what came to mind when watching that goal live, as you could see the breakdown as it happened.

*Note: all media via InStat

Once play entered the zone, the Kings established their assignments and were well-positioned to defend:

This next shot is where it all breaks down. The eventual goal scorer, Ross Colton, is highlighted along the wall. He is eventually going to cross with the puck carrier (down low) and make a switch.

In the shot above, we see Viktor Arvidsson (LA33), Sean Walker (LA26), and Phillip Danault (LA24) in the slot area. Alex Edler (LA2) stays with his man, who is the puck carrier, as he skates up the boards.

By this point, the play has gone up the wall, and Colton is now behind the net (out of the picture). However, we see all five LA Kings’ players with their eyes toward the puck. In the video clip below, you’ll see Arvidsson initially stays with Colton before peeling off. Given where Arvidsson was on this shift, I imagine that Colton was his responsibility. But as Iafallo and McLellan alluded to, this situation could have been avoided with better communication.

Here is the clip of the goal:


This type of breakdown happened throughout the game against Tampa, particularly in the second and third periods.

On Tuesday, the LA Kings play a very fast team in the Carolina Hurricanes, who will put pucks to the net from anywhere and everywhere. They lead the NHL in shots on goal per 60 minutes, shot attempts per 60 minutes, and are second in expected goals per 60 minutes. If the Kings are going to be successful, they will need to be structured in their defensive zone and not allow Carolina many second-chance opportunities.

Communication will be important on Tuesday.


(Main Photo Credit: Chris O’Meara, AP)

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