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.
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.
- Los Angeles Kings Head Coach Terry Murray Looks Back At 2010-11 Season
- LA Kings Head Coach Terry Murray: Drew Doughty And Jack Johnson Need To Take Steps Forward In 2011-12
- Terry Murray: Added Talent Up Front Does Not Mean A New Style Of Play Is On The Horizon For LA Kings
- LA Kings Head Coach Terry Murray Talks Prospects, Goaltending, And The Return Of The Trap
- Frozen Royalty Audio: Interview With LA Kings Head Coach Terry Murray, August 24, 2011
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