It's seem like a broken record to be saying this but the Los Angeles Kings need to step their game up on the powerplay. Sure, they scored on the man-advantage during yesterday's loss but even that just isn't enough on some days - and yesterday was no exception.
The Kings, as was this case too many times this season, were not as proactive as they could have been on the powerplay. They did score but most of the time, it was hard to believe that it was Los Angeles with the man-advantage given that the puck was so often in their own zone or even the neutral zone. Even when it was in the offensive zone, they spent too much time passing the puck around instead of shooting it. If it means setting up the perfect play, then there's nothing wrong with knocking the puck around but it's that perfect play that Kings just couldn't seem to find, hence the plethora of passing.
On the other hand, the Kings did show some promise (albeit late in the game) on the man-advantage as both Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty kept firing the puck on net. Nevertheless, the strong efforts need to come in bigger doses and the Kings need to start doing this earlier in the game to have any chance of winning as, in the first period, the Kings had three powerplays and squandered each of those opportunities before the Canadiens opened the scoring on their first man-advantage later in the period.
With the vast majority of Los Angeles' powerplays this season, I see too much starting over in their own zone and too much passing when they're in the attacking zone. With that said, I don't see enough shooting or screening the opposing goaltender - the latter I've seen very little of this season, if at all. This needs to change.
What I was happy with yesterday not only in terms of the powerplay but in general was a reaction by head coach Terry Murray. While trailing 2-0 and on the man-advantage in the second period of yesterday's game, Murray called a timeout and uncharastically became vocal with his players. You could see how upset he was and I was cynically relieved, snidely mentioning how great it was for Murray to be acting this way and it only took him 26 games to do so. Nevertheless, the Kings scored just moments later. Not only did Los Angeles get on the board but it was tipped in by none other than Dustin Penner, who has understandably been the brunt of so much criticism this season for his lack of scoring. In fact, yesterday's goal was just his first of the season and it was his first game after missing the last few weeks with a hand injury. So, whatever Murray said must've worked.
And that's where the "but" comes in. Los Angeles' powerplay wasn't great last night but it was Murray's timeout that seemed to ignite the Kings. They couldn't score again but the superb goaltending of Carey Price, in all fairness, played a factor in that.
Not only did Terry Murray come through but so did Dustin Penner. It was like killing two birds with one stone as the old adage goes. All we can do now is hope that these trends continue because we know that Murray can successfully give his team a swift kick in the pants. How else would he have lasted this long in the National Hockey League? He must have been doing something right.
As for Dustin Penner, if there's a time the Kings need him to step up, it's right now with Mike Richards out of the lineup. With that seemingly-elusive first goal out of the way, we can now look forward to seeing what else the big man has in store.
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