Red Wins: Kings At Standstill – Kings v. Wings 4-24-2013

Lose Angeles became Road Worriers with the finale to their regular season travel schedule last night in Detroit. Flubs and drubs supplemented erratic and static outlet passes, while in large part the Kings defense has lost the breakout system entirely.

For the second night in a row, good starts were squandered as the Kings were easily countered by in-game adjustments from the opposition; the Kings have become one-dimensional on “attack.”

Even changing personnel on all 4 lines could not re-invigorate the Kings flow thru center; Brown was suspended, Penner was scratched, but Toffoli and Fraser were held quiet, to be kind. It would be easy to say that all new lines made the Kings game disjointed, but for me the reality is that the forwards are not deep enough for outlets, the defense almost never carry the puck past the first forechecker, and motionless Kings with open ice ahead of them are passing into coverage. Regardless of familiarity the same has been true over the last 5 games, trending to the worse.

The X Ray:

4-24-2013-DetroitaFatigue could be the excuse, as even Darryl Sutter described the Kings having “rolled in…at 2 a.m.” while Detroit sat rested. However, the same mistakes were made the night before, and in the previous few games as well. More accurately, the Kings fatigue simply made it more difficult to correct flaws; fatigue did not cause flaws.

The secret of success is the combination of many parts. The Kings need speed, but speed alone is not enough. The Kings need possession of the puck, but possession alone is not enough. The Kings need a forecheck, but forechecking alone is not enough. The game is decided on goals: the battle is decided by which team is able to establish SPEED THRU CENTER WITH POSSESSION.

The Kings system, and their success, is built on a methodical, structured breakout. When it is effective, a self-perpetuating pattern occurs. As teams find they are getting beaten thru center ice, they back up slightly. This gives the Kings more space to generate speed coming out of their own zone and makes the flow thru center even more successful.

Speed creates options, but effective speed is built on movement with possession. Speed with possession has been absent; rather, the Kings are trying for the shortcut of passing quickly, not skating with possession quickly. The dreaded, false territorial gain of the “quick-up” is being relied upon. In effect, the Kings are finding an open d-man, then that d-man remains in place, and looks for a forward. The forwards have moved ahead, into the checkers, and when the pass is made the motionless d-man has just effectively passed the puck into a 3 on 5 thru center.

The result is contested possession, no time to gather the puck, no angles for passes and therefore no angles for attack on entry. The only option, and the only success, is to dump the puck in for retrieval on the forecheck. It is correct to say that the Kings are a strong forecheck team; it is not correct to imply that the forecheck is a result of exclusively dumping the puck into the corners.

The Kings strong forecheck actually comes from the breakout: speed exiting across their blue line creates speed thru center, and a potent attack built on options. Carries into the zone force the opposition to try to stand up at the blue line; a good carry defies this attempt to deny entry, but the secondary gain is that a series of good carries will open up the dumpin when the opposition commits to defending the blue line.

What is happening now is that the Kings struggle to clear their own zone, are slow thru center IF they even have possession, and are forced to dump the puck IF they get possession past the checkered red line at center. The opposition is able to outnumber the Kings forwards in center ice because our defense is standing still and behind the play. With this advantage at center, the opposition defense can easily fall back anticipating a dumpin and are also then first to arrive at the dumpin.

Our first layer of forecheck is beaten to the puck, so the opposition forwards don’t need to go back deep. Our high forward can only cover one side of the ice, but the opposition forwards are not forced deep and therefore can cover two sides of the ice. Then, our defense sees no significant chance of possession for the Kings, so they can’t commit to containment at the blue line, and must back up to prevent the outnumbered attack against. This yields to the opposition an easy exit from their defensive zone and into center; now they have speed thru center…

The Kings need to realize that they are getting beaten in their own zone even when they have the puck. To create speed with possession thru center, somebody is going to have to beat the opposition in a one-on-one. Somebody is going to have to lead the rush, and it starts at our own goal line, by beating the first guy and initiating the attack. Somebody is going to have to find the nerve to simply STICKHANDLE with the puck and not just pass it off.

There is a game against San Jose coming up: the Kings have a day off, then a day of practice, then a game-day skate. The Kings will, again, face the Sharks on the last day of the regular season, with major implications to the standings in the balance. Winning means home ice for two teams that are both much, much better at home this season.

The Sharks like to run and gun: the Kings damn well better resist the Sharks game, and find their own game instead. The Kings are not a slow team, they are not a trap team, and I am not saying the Kings need to slow the game to a crawl, or a low-shot defensive battle. What I mean is, the Kings need to establish their well-rounded defensive game as it results from speed with possession thru center, which generates a potent forecheck, which stifles the opposition.

It’s gonna happen to one team or the other: this is a matter of will.

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8 Responses to Red Wins: Kings At Standstill – Kings v. Wings 4-24-2013

  1. Shiny says:

    We saw this performance at the beginning of the month. There’s some kind of mental fatigue that has set in and they’re unable to overcome it for some reason. I know losing Brown to suspension kinda killed their spirit a little bit but you’d think it’d make them angry and want to come out and play well, not play like they want to go back to bed.

    The last game they played well was against CBJ. There was strong fore checking, they were playing in sync and looked crisp. The game against Dallas wasn’t as good but it wasn’t as bad as what happened in Minny.

    I hope once playoffs officially start, their road record gets better.

    • Player X says:

      They have been fortunate to get some wins, holding on late and in shootout, but yeah, the Columbus game was an exception over the last 10 or so where they looked in sync.

      Playoffs would be a nice place to start getting better on the road, I am just hoping it makes a difference in games 3 and 4, not games 1 and 2!

  2. Crown Royal says:

    I’ve stopped commenting on the Insider blog mostly because Rich left and also I get tired of the same rhetoric from the usual posters. Your comments have been interesting so I will respond to some of them.
    I agree with much of what you’re saying but it’s not just a system or execuetion problem but a personell problem as well. The Kings lack scoring depth among the forwards. When Stoll and Lewis are two thirds of the forwards on the second power play unit then your team has a problem. Neither are power forwards, both lack puck skills and are not especially good passers and only Stoll can finish when he hits the net, which is something he’s never done consistently. Toffoli is going to be a good top-six guy but isn’t ready yet.
    A big part of the problem (pun intended) has been the poor play of Penner and King’s lack of ANY improvement from last season. Kopi, Richards, and even JW are more passers than finishers. DB is effective but is not a sniper. Carter is the only real goal scorer on the team.
    Your point about the D-men not carrying the puck up ice is well made and valid. AM was statistically the top possesion D-man in the league last season and is now a healthy scratch. RR is good without the puck but is not as good as WM was last year with it and teams are now keying on DD and Voynov cutting them off as they don’t fear the Kings forwards that much.
    The reality is the Kings have not gotten better this year and they won the cup last year with JQ standing on his head, the late season additions of King and Nolan who were a bit of a joker at the time and the fact they stayed healthy throughout the playoffs. You’re right Player X, the Kings better wake up soon but it still may not be enough!

    • Player X says:

      Good to see you Crowned, thanks for visiting!

      “When Stoll and Lewis are two thirds of the forwards on the second power play unit then your team has a problem.” Couldn’t agree more, check out this article, lemme kno what you think, pretty sure we’ll agree.

      “A big part of the problem (pun intended) has been the poor play of Penner and King’s lack of ANY improvement from last season.” I agree, Penner has been disappointing, and is not “rounding” into the correct shape (lol). Kings has relegated himself to a 3rd line winger, good chemistry with Stoll and Lewis but those guys carry the play when defending. King needs to be better in deep along the boards to even fulfill the checking role, and yet I think we both expected him to score, too.

      San Jose game will tell all, I fear. They don’t have to win it, but they better start playing the Kings game and not this aberration we’ve seen lately.

      Welcome! How about the X Ray, am I not blazing a trail?

      • Crown Royal says:

        Interesting about your PP breakdown. Not sure why DS is reluctant to flip Voynov and Muzzin at the points. Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to hold the puck in when it rims the boards if you’re stick is towards the middle of the ice. He does it with DD and Stoll so hard to explain?

        On the PP I do think Richards is better at the point but I would still move him up front and rotate only three D-men at the point (DD, Voynov, Muzzin) and flip JC with JW so that Carter is on the Ist Pp unit with DB and Kopi. As poorly as DP has played I still see him as the better option in front of the net on the 2nd PP unit.

        I do like the way you’ve been breaking things down. It’s a very interesting way to look at the Kings. Perhaps it has to do with how different you must see yourself when you look in the mirror! Probably helpful!! Lol.

        • Player X says:

          Wait, I look different to you?

          I like Penner out there, too, he is huge and can screen, but he is also deadly with short little passes so if somebody else cycled into a double screen, and then Penner went to retrieve a rebound from the corner, he is fully capable of making an awesome pass.

      • USHA#17 says:

        The idea (may be) is two distinct looks.

        From the points; an inside game from the “A” unit (with two wings outside and one player at the net) and an outside game from the “B” unit with two players at the net and a rover.

        Thing about Penner that slays me is the half board giveaways at both ends of the ice. Reminds me of Smyth the season prior to the trade.

        BTW, “The Kings need to realize that they are getting beaten in their own zone even when they have the puck.” Perfect summary. Congrats.

        • Player X says:

          Thanks so much for the kind words. Penner, agreed, at the half wall he could do much better, but we have seen flashes of the passing brilliance, so maybe both improve in the playoff atmosphere and we end up with great work below the goal line and decent work at the half-wall.
          Me, the optimist about Penner, lol.

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