During the regular season last year, they scored 49 times on 289 opportunities which accumulated to a power play rating of 17.0 per cent, good enough for a tie at 16th overall. Their playoff mark was even worse as they scored just 12 times on 94 opportunities which equalled a 12.8 percentage rating, good enough for 13thout of 16 teams.
In the off-season, the Los Angeles Kings parted ways with their power play specialist, assistant coach Jamie Kompon who is now working behind the bench of the Chicago Blackhawks. In Kompon’s place came former St. Louis Blues head coach Davis Payne and while few in Los Angeles were familiar with his resume, most were confident that anyone other than Kompon would be an upgrade. So far, somehow, things are worse when it comes to the Kings’ work on the man-advantage. It may be hard to believe but so far, it’s true.
In five games this season, the Kings are last overall in power play efficiency. Their state rivals from San Jose lead the way with a 37.5 per cent rating while Los Angeles brings up the rear with a dreadful 3.7 per cent. Another way of putting it is that the Kings are 1-for-26 on the man-advantage so far and that one power play tally was scored last game against the Canucks making them the last team in the NHL to score on the man-advantage. Only the Colorado Avalanche share the Kings’ misery with the extra man with just one goal.
In their first few games, I was confident watching the Kings immediately enter the opposing zone at the start of a power play and station themselves to get that goal. A pass from one defenseman to the next back to the first defenseman to the winger back to the defenseman and so on. As fluid as Los Angeles’ passing is on the man-advantage, that and keeping the puck in the attacking zone were the only two aspects, in my opinion, that worked on the power play. Unfortunately, the Kings’ passing was so fluid that most of the time, it’s essentially all they did which can get frustrating very quickly. For the few times when the Kings have shot the puck, it has rarely gotten through a defender much less hit the goaltender’s pad.
Unfortunately and understandably, that confidence at the beginning of a power play has turned to a sour note. It’s not a feeling of dread so much as it’s apathy. The Kings are on the power play – okay, so what? The passing and the positioning are all great but when it’s just that, it’s not good enough. Pass well, position accordingly but quickly follow that up with some traffic and then a few shots on net. Their woeful power play may not turn a corner right away but at least the Kings would be building on something.
It is not a stretch to believe that Jamie Kompon had instilled some bad habits with his players. While there has been a lot of smooth passing and exceptional puck control, there hasn’t been much in terms of Kings creating traffic in front of the net or creating holes to give the defensemen an easier time to shoot at the net. Davis Payne certainly hasn’t proven to be an upgrade from Kompon. If anything, he’s a downgrade. Then again, it’s only fair to point out that Payne has only had five games to work with – and let’s not forget that there weren’t any pre-season games and barely a training camp.
To suggest that Davis Payne be on the hot seat is ridiculous. The Kings have gradually improved since starting the season with a 0-2 record and in spite of their futility on the power play, managed to earn points in their last three outings, including wins in their last two. That’s not to say, however, that it’s okay to have an unproductive power play. With that said, there is still plenty of time for the Los Angeles Kings to turn their fortunes around. After slow starts, Jeff Carter has three goals in as many games, Anze Kopitar picked up his first two goals against Phoenix on Saturday and added an assist against Vancouver the other night, Slava Voynov picked up his first goal against Vancouver by tying the game late in regulation and now it’s just a matter of time before the rest of the goalless Kings follow suit.
This isn’t a cry for help for the Los Angeles Kings. As terrible as their power play has been, it is one of the very few areas in their game that needs a significant facelift. As of right now, all I can say is that the Kings should feel fortunate they have an exceptional defensive unit and an outstanding goaltender.
While I do not doubt their work ethic on the man-advantage, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how I want to see more of an effort from the Kings on the power play than I’ve seen so far. While it’s only reasonable to acknowledge that most teams won’t score on every 5-on-4, it is reasonable to suggest that teams have a much better opportunity to score on a 5-on-3. Heck, it’s just common sense. Yet, the Kings have had multiple 5-on-3 advantages thus far and they’ve come up with squat. One of those two-man advantages came in Phoenix last Saturday when two Coyotes were penalized at the same time, which means a full two minutes being up two men. On said power play, one of the Coyotes even lost his stick. That’s easy pickings – you’d think so, anyway.
It may be a shortened season but it is still long enough for teams to get on hot or cold streaks a few times over and to see them dominate more or less in one or two particular areas. I sincerely hope the Kings can bring their power play game up a few more notches and it’s not a matter of if but when – and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later because if the first few games are any indication, patience is not a virtue possessed by most hockey fans – and that includes those of the Los Angeles Kings.
Hey, their team won the Stanley Cup. How can you blame for accepting anything short of the best?