Terry Murray Dishes On 2010-11 LA Kings’ Offensive Zone, Power Play Struggles

FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: The 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings were lights out in the defensive zone, especially on the penalty-kill. But in the attacking zone, during five-on-five situations and on the power play, they were pretty much the exact opposite. In Part 2 of this series based on an exclusive interview with Kings head coach Terry Murray, Frozen Royalty looks back at the Kings’ woes in the offensive zone last season.

Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray (center, standing) makes a point during practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
Photo: David Sheehan
EL SEGUNDO, CA — The 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings made progress in some aspects of their game, most notably, their defense, penalty-killing and goaltending. But, at the same time, they took at least one big step backwards in the offensive zone.

Looking at their 2009-10 numbers, the Kings ranked ninth in goals scored, averaging 2.82 goals per game. But with their five-on-five scoring ranked just 19th, the goals came, in large part, from their power play, which ranked seventh in the National Hockey League, with a 20.8 percent rating.

But in 2010-11, the Kings continued to struggle in five-on-five situations. Add to that an anemic power play, and the result was an offense that averaged just 2.55 goals per game, ranking 25th in the league.

Anyone who has followed the Kings closely the last few years can tell you that they do not shoot the puck enough, and they often get too cute with the puck, passing up quality scoring opportunities to make the extra pass, Often times, the play is broken up by the defense, foiling the attack.

“I think if we’re just looking at the end result, the goals for, maybe it didn’t happen because our five-on-five numbers were not high,” said head coach Terry Murray. “I think we get into that attitude of forcing an extra play when we don’t need to.”

“There’s times when the puck gets below the tops of the circles in the offensive zone where it has to be very basic and we get middle lane drive,” added Murray. “Let’s get the pucks through to the net. We might get away from that a little too often.”

Despite that, there were some aspects of the Kings’ offensive attack that Murray liked.

“I think our attack, during some stretches and part of games last year, were very, very good,” he said. “Our attitude is in place with that three-man or four-man—let’s get that middle drive to the net. That’s pretty good. I’m pretty pleased with that.”

“As far as the organized attack, breakout, neutral zone, and getting into the high part of the offensive zone, I think it’s not bad,” he added.

A head coach must always evaluate his team, constantly looking at what works and what does not. As such, it is understandable that Murray would point out his team’s strengths while also discussing its weaknesses. Nevertheless, the Kings’ ineptitude on the power play was glaring, as teams are expected to fare a lot better than the Kings did with the man advantage. Indeed, they often looked clueless and stale on the power play, clicking at a paltry 16.1 percent rating, ranking 21st in the NHL.

As poor as the Kings power play was in 2010-11, with an offensive attack that struggled in five-on-five situations as well, was it realistic to expect the power play to be dramatically better?

“When you’re not scoring five-on-five, what says that, all of sudden, you get on the power play, light it up, and be one of the premier power play groups in the league? It’s very hard to do,” said Murray.

Murray has a point there, even though his 2009-10 team did just that. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the power play often looked totally lost, and that penalty-killers had the their power play all figured out.

Murray attributed much of that to his team’s failure to get pucks to the net often enough.

“There’s a reluctance, sometimes, to shoot the puck,” Murray lamented. “That’s one of the areas—we need to get a better shot mentality, and I’ve talked about that since the first day that I got here. In order to win, you have to get pucks to the net.”

“You’re not necessarily looking to score on that original shot,” Murray added. “You’re trying to generate second and third opportunities, and recover pucks. That’s one of the areas we need to be better at on the power play, and we need more movement on the power play.”

“We need to get the puck in the hands of [center Anze] Kopitar and [defenseman Drew] Doughty as often as we possibly can, and get some movement on the power play, and now, get some shots. That’s where things will start to build, and we’ll get some confidence. That’ll carry over throughout.”

One problem that the Kings never seemed to adjust to last season was that whenever Doughty and defenseman Jack Johnson were out on the power play, they were immediately challenged whenever they got the puck. That mostly shut them down in terms of being a threat from the point.

“That’s part of the NHL,” Murray noted. “If you’re getting pressure in one area of the ice, your job, what you want to do, as a team, and as a player, is to find the area of the ice that’s going to be available. That’s just playing the game.”

“That’s what the game is all about,” Murray added. “You’re trying to create two-on-ones in areas of the ice, and if the pressure comes to one area, you can go someplace else and make plays happen. But if a [penalty-killing] team is overly aggressive with skilled players, [the team on the power play] can now generate a shot opportunity just by getting pucks through that one, aggressive player. That opens up a lot, after you make that one play. That’s where we need to be a little bit better.”

In other words, the Kings need to work harder, find ways to create space and find shooting lanes to get more pucks on the net, especially from the point.

“Jack was one of the top scoring defensemen in the NHL in the first half,” said Murray. “He had great power play numbers at the start of the year. His wrist shot was really paying off for him. He was taking a step to the inside, and just getting pucks through, missing the first man. As we got into the second half, we got away from that in all areas of the ice—getting pucks to the net.”

Murray also pointed to the fact that his best players on the power play are still rather inexperienced.

“That’s a young group of guys trying to get through it,” Murray explained. “We’ve got Kopitar, Doughty and Johnson, three of our young players on our hockey club, who are our best players. Experienced penalty-killing teams are going to go after those guys.”

“It takes time to make adjustments, and to figure out the other parts of it,” Murray elaborated. “It’ll come. We’ll be better, and we need to be better right away. We just have to find ways to get better things happening on that power play. It comes through movement and a better shot mentality.”

Although the Kings needed more from Doughty and Johnson on the power play, they also needed Kopitar to become a scoring threat as well, rather than just a playmaker. Penalty-killers played off of him, taking away his passing lanes and daring him to shoot, which he rarely did last season with the man advantage.

Indeed, if Kopitar moved off the half-wall and shot the puck from the circle more often, he would force penalty-killers to change the way they play him, opening both passing and shooting lanes, and creating more quality scoring chances.

“He’s got such a great shot that he can score [from the face-off circle, coming off the half-wall], but just getting it on the net is going to open up a lot of opportunities,” Murray stressed. “That’s where that movement that I’m talking about needs to come from, with him and Doughty, trying to get the puck on their sticks more often to get that two-on-one created with that strong side penalty-killer. Now you can take advantage and attack seams a little bit more aggressively than what we did in the second half of the year.”

In a future story in this series, Frozen Royalty will look at what Murray has in mind for his team’s offense and power play for the upcoming season. But, since we have already started looking at the play of Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson in 2010-11, the next story in this series will take a closer look at these two young blue liners, and how they fared last season. Look for it later this week.

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13 thoughts on “Terry Murray Dishes On 2010-11 LA Kings’ Offensive Zone, Power Play Struggles

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  1. Thanks for the continued story of our coaches views Gann… I love that TM is being candid about this. Now one thing I see is, it’s a given you want your best scorer’s to have the puck! However also it really opens those guys up when you involve everyone on the pp get everyone looking for their shots that makes the options for the pker’s tougher to make that choice who to take out of the play! Also I loved what Jack did when Drew went down he kind of took that offense from the blue line on his shoulders! He really rose to the occasion in this respect, but seemed to defer to DD when he came back too much and did not keep up with his aggressive offensive mentallity enough imho. Also when the season started and Jack was playing with Scuds he looked really confident. This changed when WM went down and DD played with Scuds!

  2. Great job again Gann. I disagree with Murray on some fundamental issues with the 5 on 5, and the power play though. Stuff he has yet to address.

    5 on 5, players with the puck are limited to the boards. Even when they have a clear lane to drive the net, the players go right to the boards and look to cycle down low. If this was limited to 1 or 2 players, I would say it’s a player issue, but it’s all 4 lines doing it. No one takes the puck right to the goal mouth, or the center of the ice. They just cycle from the boards and shoot.

    Someone also mentioned the other day that the Kings are the only team who doesn’t use drop passes. I couldn’t agree more. The Kings used center lane drive to create space for the puck carrier who moves laterally, but then waisted that space when the player with the puck continues on to the boards, instead of driving the puck up the middle of the ice, and shooting from there, or dropping it to a trailing player not being covered by a retreating defense.

    The power play was frustrating to say the least. No movement away from the puck, and no lateral passes from down low, or the 1/2 walls. Just perimeter passes, and bombs from the point. A consistant onetimer threat from the slot would have made a huge difference (because teams cheated on their coverage at the points), but it was hardly utilized. The Kings were also the only team in the entire league that didn’t score on a backdoor play all season long.

    Infact, they didn’t even try them till late in the season, and by then, they never connected. JJ would have the pass coming to him, and he would stop the puck, wind up, then shoot. DD didn’t fair any better. If this was a basic strategy of the Kings, those plays would of been second nature. All other teams try those plays. Some are better than others, but the Kings don’t even try them, so other teams don’t worry about covering them, and concentrate on the points, and the front of the net after the shot.

    Murray had said in past interviews that he noticed that a lot of space opened up from going low to high and he wanted to see more of that, with the shots getting through. Seems as though Murray has focused too much on the end result of low to high plays to open things up, but cut out all the other plays in between (like lateral passing down low) that lead up to those plays having the room they did.

    P.S. Their was only 3 forwards (1 played alot more games), and 2 defensive defenseman, who slightly improved offensively. Everybody else took a hit on their offensive output from the season before.

      1. A little too specific? I’m just concerned is all. No one knows for sure if the new line up won’t yeild different results from here on out, but being slow to change tactics, when they seem obvious, is probably my main concern here. I would like to here from TM that he’s willing to adjust this upcoming season. He seems, at times, to be too stubborn, and unwilling to adjust. He just preaches “play the same way” and “try harder” when the Kings come up against well defended counter measures.

        1. There’s some truth to that. However, the idea is that you’d rather not have to change your game because then, the other team is dictating how the game will be played. That’s not a good thing. But now, he has a lineup that can do just that. He hasn’t had that until now.

  3. I hope im wrong but sometimes I question if Murray is the coach that will lead us to the promised land. His answers of The players on the power play are just young, and we just need to shoot more are questionable. I also read that Dustin Brown complained about the team not practicing the pp enough. I hope I am wrong.

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