USATSI_7928340_160885884_lowres

Wish I Was Special

It’s never easy to try and look clear-eyed after something like last night. But if you can cut away the emotion of all of this, it doesn’t take an expert to see that the Kings’ power play is the difference in this series. Because at even-strength, it’s been pretty even, if the Hawks haven’t actually shaded it. But the special teams battle makes this series look like a mismatch. That particular facet certainly is.

It’s too simplistic to say that it’s due to inept penalty killing, because this Kings’ PP is humming. I’m not sure any team could stop it right now, though one with a coach able to recognize what is actually happening might stand a chance (however infinitesimal). The Hawks have yet to recognize the problem, or if they have they haven’t really done much about it. I went back through all the power play goals the Kings have scored this series (boy that was fun) to see if we can’t find the problem.

A couple of things at the top. First, there was a lot of teeth-gnashing last night about the Hawks not clearing the crease. This is what they’ve always done, and it’s a perfectly acceptable way to do it. The theory behind it is because you can’t bludgeon someone in front of the net anymore, basically wrestling with them there only creates twice the screen. If you can box them out before they get there, great. But if they get there you’re better off trying to deny the shot at the top in the first place.

Second, before this series Corey Crawford had a .950 SV% on the PK these playoffs. That’s kind of unheard of, and somewhat due to playing two utterly incompetent power plays brought to you by St. Louis and Minnesota. Obviously, L.A.’s wouldn’t be described as incompetent. There’s an element of market correction here.

Ok, into the mud we go:

Jeff Carter’s PP goal in Game 2, 2-2: This is when the Kings really started to use the umbrella, but in the way the Hawks haven’t figured out on their own power play. Kopitar comes down the left boards with Doughty sliding to the middle. Kruger follows Kopitar down the boards but then is also expected to cover back to Doughty when the puck goes out to the point, as Handzus is covering for a cross-ice pass. Kruger can’t close out that quickly, which leaves Doughty to pass to Voynov at the right circle, causing Kruger to sink back into the middle to cover a cross-ice pass the other way. Voynov goes back to Doughty at the “top of the key” as it were, and Kruger has been forced too low to get out to him quickly enough. It’s still a great play by Doughty, who recognized that with two men in front all he has to do is flip a shot through for a chance (learning, Keith?). But he had enough room to do so.

Jake Muzzin, Game 2, 3-2: The Hawks played this one probably exactly how they wanted. Kopitar again starts it, this time from the right side, but when he goes back out to Martinez, Hossa is right there, forcing Martinez to go to the other side and Muzzin at the circle. This is the angle the Hawks want you to shoot from, because generally the d-man on that side can easily block the lane. Seabrook and Crawford were a little off their angle here though, and Muzzin did squeeze in a great shot into a tiny opening. Not sure there’s much to do about this one.

Slava Voynov, Game 3, 1-1: This one was a bit scrambly, as off a shot and a scrum behind the net the Kings got the puck back out to Voynov as Toews and Hossa had simply sunk too low. But they were there in support of their D and if the puck had squirted in almost any other direction, they’re there to claim it. Still, it’s another easy and open shot from the middle of the ice by a point-man.

Jake Muzzin, Game 4, 1-0: This one was easy. Coming off a 4-on-4 both Sharp and Toews get caught along the wall to leave Muzzin all day from the middle of the ice. I don’t know if they lost track of when it went from a 4-on-4 to a power play or just made a mistake in not reading each other, but the result was the same.

Dustin Brown, Game 4, 3-0: This one was all kinds of disaster. Both Seabrook and Oduya lose a board battle, Oduya loses Williams coming off the boards, when the puck gets back to Muzzin Toews isn’t anywhere near him, leaving him far too much time to pick up Williams. I’m not sure Williams actually meant to knock it over to Brown, but he did. Seabrook may have been a little slow in tying up Brown, but this one happened so fast I’m not sure anyone would have gotten to him.

The Kings are also getting to try all this because their entries really couldn’t be any simpler. They simply get it in and let their behemoth forwards win the battles to get set up. There’s none of the blue line dip-trip-flip-fantasia the Hawks first PP unit is engaging in.

What’s the answer? It seems clear that the Hawks are going to have to pressure the points more than they have and leave themselves open for the cross-ice pass they’re guarding against now but not seeing. Maybe that’s just a different way to die, but this clearly isn’t working now. When the Kings go to the umbrella, that top forward is going to have to cheat toward the point at the top, like what you see teams do to P.K. Subban. It may leave the high slot open, but you can’t cover everything. And with two men in front, the point shot is the bigger danger right now.  The Hawks basically need to treat Doughty like Subban right now and at least force decisions from him, Muzzin, Voynov and Martinez quicker. Right now they could write a sonnet before making any choices.

But a lot of this has been great individual plays from the Kings, and there isn’t much you can do about that. Some of this is hoping for a market correction for them as well.

As for the Hawks’ PP, the reasons for its struggles are much easier to diagnose. The Kings are forcing the top unit to dump it in, which they mostly refuse to do. Because when they have to, really only Toews is a puck-winner who can get it back. Shaw is just too small against this defense. It’s why the second unit has had more success and looked more dangerous, because all three of Hossa, Bickell, and Saad can get work done along the boards.

When they do regain control and try to get the puck to the points. because each d-man in on his strong side his only real play to set up is to switch points. But the Kings have aggressively cut that off, forcing the d-men to just put the puck back down low and cause another board battle.

Having Smith replace Shaw on the first unit would help. He’s simply better along the wall and can play with the puck below the goal line better, which is where the Hawks are going to have to get this done.

But I won’t sit on a hot stove waiting for Jamie Kompon or Mike Kitchen to actually figure something out.

  • monkeyboy

    The Kings gave you Jamie Kompon…..you’re welcome!

    • bigtreina

      Come on, didn’t you hear Edzo in one of his last national broadcasts for the Hawks say that Kompon is going to get a lot of long serious looks for head coach at some point?

      • monkeyboy

        Boy…..I hope you are joking!

        • bigtreina

          Sadly, this was actually said.

          • Eddie_The_Eagle50

            I do remember him saying it as well. Sad some of the stupid shit that comes out of Edzo’s mouth.

          • DJ

            I blame it on hanging around McGuire too much. Edzo, even though you’re an analyst, it’s much better to shut up than to say something utterly stupid just to fill dead air.

          • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

            McGuire is really hard to listen to. If I hear him say “get out there & have some fun” one more time I’m gonna throw up on my TV.

      • wanker751

        Further proof why a team to hire Edzo as an executive is crazy…

      • The Other One

        I heard this too. I would have no problem with Kompon getting a head coaching gig somewhere else – it means he’d no longer be with the Hawks…

    • Research Analysis

      Maybe Sutter knows what Kompon will do on the PP and the Hawks should do the opposite.

      • I Remember The Roar!

        I was about to respond with “Maybe, but the Hawks haven’t had a lethal PP in years.” Then I looked at this year’s regular season stats and saw that the Hawks ranked 10th, and the Kings 27th. Apparently the playoffs change everything!

        • HawkIPA

          Kings run an elite PK that hits the Hawks at their weakest point, the entry. That’ll do it.

      • monkeyboy

        IMO Kompon is an empty suit…..Kings fans hated him and players just ignored him…I was shocked to see the Hawks hire him

        • goaliemom

          actually not true… The Kings like and respect Jaime….and were happy he got a ring…
          this came from a couple of King’s, former and staff…

      • Peter Turner

        Sutter knows our stuff because the Kings had Gorilla Salad on their payroll for several months.

        • HawkIPA

          I don’t think Gorilla Salad knew any of “our stuff” when he was on the roster

  • DJ

    Yeah…both of them need to go. If you really want to build the best organization, your assistants can’t merely be the head Coach’s pals; they actually have to contribute something. All Kompon has done is take a team with the building blocks of Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Saad, Seabrook, Shaw, and Sharp, and built a PP as beautiful as the baby in Eraserhead.

    • Eddie_The_Eagle50

      So absolutely fugly is what you are saying?

  • PE-TER RE-GIN

    I’d much rather see the PKers go out to challenge Doughty et al, force them into making some of those cross ice passes and some quicker (potentially sloppier) decisions, than watch them stand relatively still and let the Kings tic-tac-toe it like they were doing last night.

    Thanks for the analysis and breakdown, Sam. I was hoping you or one of the others would give us something to read today (beyond the wrap and morning links) to get away from some of the doom and gloom.

    • monkeyboy

      If you want to read doom and gloom go to the Sharks blog

    • I Remember The Roar!

      I couldn’t agree more. Like Sam said, maybe it’s just another way to die, but I’d like to see the Hawks take a different approach this series than they have the past several years. The passive PK has worked before, but it’s not right now.

      Personally, I’d like to see an aggressive PK. Pressure on the entry and then heavy pressure on the points. A big, systematic, change like that could just lead to the Hawks running around like chickens, getting tired, and leaving the Kings with wide-open looks, idk. And it would require relieving Handzus of his PK days as he doesn’t have the wheels to make something like that happen. But, as a fan, I like the sense of urgency and even the hope of springing a Hawk on a breakaway or at least possessing the puck through neutral ice, which would kill more time than a simple rip around the boards.

      • Beastoftheeast81

        Just for S’s and giggles I went back and reviewed some of our PK’s from 09-10. We were extremely aggressive on the PK as opposed to what we’ve seen the last couple years and that worked out well.

        They need to try something different tonight if they go to the box. I think we can all agree on that, because we’ve been getting lit up like a Christmas tree in this series continuing with the same gameplan. Worst case scenario, we die that way too as Sam said. Or….we screw up LA’s gameplan, maybe get a breakaway going the otherway, or simply just disrupt LA enough tonight to give us a chance to get a W and make them make adjustments in game 6.

        And there will be a game 6. I hope….

    • HawkIPA

      This. Make life difficult on the entry and be active. Ben Smith paired with Kruger can give you that.

  • whenhabsscoreDougMohns

    Yes, they got outplayed.

  • TitanTransistor

    Very interesting post.

    Truth be told, I wish I had more faith in the coaching staff to make the right adjustments. Or any adjustments, really.

    But the Hawks special teams have been a roller coaster for years, save last season, where the PK was nails from start to finish.

    I believe the Hawks are talented enough to win 3 straight against the Kings. I’m not sure they’ve shown me enough in terms of raw execution this playoff run to make me believe they will though. If talent was all it takes, then we wouldn’t need to play the games – the better team on paper would move on, every time. Doesn’t work like that.

    If this team played this playoff run like the dominant possession team they were in the regular season, I’d have a lot more confidence. But the truth is, they’ve got this far relying almost exclusively on Crawford, shot-blocking, and star players scoring timely goals. That’s not a particularly sustainable gameplan, and maybe we’re the team seeing the market correction right now.

    • Black JEM

      Yep – Crawford is regressing to the mean and the team looks – tired? They have played alot of hockey, and Zus and Rosie look absolutely dead at this point. With really limited options to replace anyone of them. That is probably why the waste of space Bollig fries me the most. We knew these were two weak areas – and wasted opportunities to see about players we may need to develop for later on in the season.
      Clearly Smith gave us a boost at 2C for awhile but that was figured out by the opposition. Until they are dead, I will keep the hope up. But I don’t feel like the Detroit series last year. This feels more worrisome.

      • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

        The Kings made the Sharks & Quacks look tired too. This team is huge & they wear guys down. It also doesn’t help your cause by losing most of the faceoffs & you wind up chasing a lot.

      • Jim

        I think being obstinate with Zus and Rosie, and selecting Bollig over developing a young forward during the season has created this very situation. The Kings got younger, and we got older. Dusty Baker used to do this with the Cubs. He would always play his veterans, even if there was better young talent to be developed.

    • I Remember The Roar!

      And, complementing all of the Hawks problems, are the Kings, who, are playing like a well-oiled machine. Not that the Hawks can’t make the necessary adjustments, get a lucky bounce, or otherwise ratchet up their game, but credit to the Kings as well. I can’t think of one time in the last few games, aside from Bickell’s goal, where the Kings looked ragged, rushed, or panicked.

      • HawkIPA

        Yep. Poised and deadly, top to bottom.

    • whenhabsscoreDougMohns

      I agree, just a bit of the #6 d, dumb penalties & special teams I was
      seeing last year. The tradition changed, likely too easy to get hurt,
      but olde school Doug Jarret & Whitey Stapleton used to squelch a
      bunch of shots facing forward, sometimes coming off in salvage parts.
      That would not be good for Captain to risk injury, but Ferraro noted
      wristers could at least be blocked. I guess you ‘d have to react pretty quickly. Maybe Oduya could block more. Easy for me to say,
      I would not want to do it.

    • HawkIPA

      On the flip side, no way Kings power play numbers and shooting percentages can hold up without a course correction. It may happen in Game 5, or it may be in the SCF, but it’s unsustainable.

      • monkeyboy

        Even Kings fans are surprised by the power play numbers in this series

  • Yachtsman

    Great point about moving Shaw off the 1st unit and slotting in Saad. The puck battles have been futile besides Toews’ efforts.

  • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

    All that sounds great but you can’t stop what you don’t see or catch up to. The Kings just have the PP rolling right now with great setups & screens making Cory Crawford look like Cindy Crawford in net. Not really his fault though. This series isn’t over the Hawks are proud group that won’t go away easily. I’m pretty sure what the Kings have done this spring as far as comebacks are concerned, they won’t take game 5 lightly.
    GO KINGS GO

    • SuperHawk27

      That’s exactly the point. The Hawks can make an adjustment in one place but leave an opening in another spot….basically, choose which way you want to die with the way the Kings PP is going. Thanks for stopping by….

      • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

        I don’t really care how they die…. just die. Hopefully in game 5 :-)

    • PE-TER RE-GIN

      Have you ever seen Cindy Crawford in net? I’ve heard she’s quite the goaltender.

      • whenhabsscoreDougMohns

        I had 1 of those darn Canuckles in White Rock
        hit me with a doctored sea bass once.

      • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

        I saw her last night….. she had a beard though. quite the turnoff

      • ballyb11

        Saw her 10 yrs ago outside Starbucks on Rush St. More beautiful in person than print. Hard to believe.

    • HawkIPA

      If you’re going knock the Hawks players, at least have some originality. What does it prove calling Corey Crawford Cindy Crawford? Is the insult that he’s playing hockey like a girl? Lame lazy misogyny doesn’t have a place here. I’d suggest you up the creativity, you’ll find good insults are appreciated here, even toward the Hawks.

      • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

        I called John Gibson (Dux rookie goalie) Debbie Gibson it went went over pretty nicely. Even referred to Cory Perry as Katie again got some laughs. I don’t think I went to the well one too many times with one. I respect Crawford, more than I can say for team Canada
        I thought it was original. I never heard it before. It’s called humor look into it. Last year at this time Hawks fans were saying Mike Richards was playing like Denise Richards. I was LMAO

        • guesthouse

          I think we all understand the premise. It just sucks.

        • Hawkeytalk

          Read the guide – see link above. Lazy jokes like that are not appreciated.

          • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

            Lazy? It took me as fast as I could type to think those up.

    • rhodes

      Cindy Crawford?

      /facepalm

    • MattC86

      Jump off a fucking bridge and don’t come back.

      • http://batman-news.com ockingfan

        Hopefully after tonight there will be no need to.

  • whenhabsscoreDougMohns

    On a less concise note…
    As a one-trick pony, going back to my post 3 weeks ago,
    to get Brookie in & Rozsie up to right wing; I unveil
    [don't stress]

    THE ROCK YOUR WORLD power play line two

    Left 29 Center 19 Right 32

    Left 2/27/8 Right 7/17

    Blasting slappers galore to quick sand.
    Pucks flying everywhere.
    This is an Espo/Hodge/Cashman variation, with the Captain
    setting up shop in back not front, feeding especially Bickell & Rozsi
    from super close, similar to where L.A. has been blasting from,
    maybe 12 feet. This goes to Sam’s point about a dump-in & not
    asking Kaner to always carry the load of entry. Rozsi has always seemed
    like an offense side player to me, he does not just have to limit himself
    to careful feeder passes up the right boards to behind the net. He &
    Bickel both stick handle well. The 32 torment is on the defense break-out.
    The 29/19/88 is still the Cat’s Meow but this is a different utilization
    of the incredible net prescence of Captain.
    One way or another…………

    • flahawkfan

      Groovy, man.

  • boooobeeeezzzz

    All BS aside we all know the Hawks have looked like poop for about a week now and to be honest Crawford is the big reason we got this far because IMO Hawks have been a switch all season, now they are facing a good, determined and super hungry Kings team that wants it more than they do. It doesn’t even cross my mind that LA is too strong too good for the Hawks, maybe just maybe they’re equal but i believe the Hawks are slightly the better team just by looking at the numbers in the last three seasons with Carter and Richards as well as two seasons before their acquisition. What we are simply witnessing is HUNGER and WILL, without a doubt if the Hawks want it they’ll get it. I don’t care about what the Kings do on the PP or PK or in the neutral zone it should not be this lopsided. Without a cut or a bruise Carter and Toffoli have looked like Messier and the Great One vs. the Hawks.

    • Hawkeytalk

      I’m not sure which is worse, your user name or TWTW comment :/ see guide above.

      • booooobeeeeezzzz!!!!!!

        Sorry, brother you’re awesome. Thanks for the opinion and your time, I wish I can shake your hand.

        • Hawkeytalk

          I’m female, not that it should matter.

  • Jim

    I had this thought about what is at stake here. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was the Ducks or the Sharks. If either of those two teams went on to win the Cup, so be it. They went a long time without one.

    But the Kings winning it not only takes this years Cup, but it also strips the Blackhawks of a legendary dynasty, while making the Kings more fitting that description.

    I guess I’m spoiled. I know this run with Kane and Toews is a once in a lifetime, just like Jordan and Pippen. The supporting cast changed, but that core may never happen again.

    So, the Kings are not only stripping the Hawks of this year’s Cup, but stripping them of legendary status.

    Some part of me thinks the Hawks will come back and win this. That part of me is not my rational brain. It’s the part of me that says, yes, the Kings are very very good. But we have Toews and Kane. And they are legendary. Kopitar and Brown are not legendary. This mountain is not as high as the one being down 3-0 to Vancouver, where they were a Campoli brain fart away from coming all the way back.

    I wouldn’t bet on it, but I’m thinking the Hawks somehow win this.

    • Hawkeytalk

      I can’t care less about which team is dominant. I care about 2010, 2013, and whatever years are in the future, including this one. No other team’s success can possibly diminish the joy I felt. I just don’t see how it could.

      One Goal indeed.

      • lizmcneill

        It was pretty cool being the model franchise. Lombardi’s another good GM, but the Kings’ style is different. Maybe being a bit more of an underdog isn’t so bad, but you’re never guaranteed a WCF, so when you’ve gotten this far, might as well keep going.

        • Hawkeytalk

          Yes, and best of all, this story ain’t over. Not just this year, but the next 5 or more. Sign DDN should be the rallying cry this summer.

          • HawkIPA

            I don’t think there’s any doubt that DDN will be back. I’m curious about the remaining pieces. Hossa shows no signs of slowing down. Neither does Keith. Sharp is a bit of a worry, Seabrook as well. Crow is solid. Saad is becoming a force. Leddy is progressing. And with TT, Clendening, Morin, and others banging down the door, this team will continue to be a force. I expect deep playoff runs to continue for the next 4-5 years.

    • TitanTransistor

      Meh, both franchises are worthy of dynasty status. Yes, it would/will have taken the Kings one less season to reach two cups, but then they didn’t require a full tear-down after one of theirs like the Hawks did.

      I don’t mind another great team winning the cup. We weren’t going to be the only franchise to win 2 cups post-lockout forever. I’d have no problem welcoming a team as well-run and strong top-to-bottom as the Kings to the 2-cups club.

    • HawkIPA

      I’d much rather lose to an outstanding hockey team like the Kings then get knocked out by the Sharks or Ducks–series in which we’d likely outplay both teams, but lose on account luck, a goalie hotstreak, or injuries. Phoenix 2012 was a brutal loss. We outplayed them, dominating possession, but lost because Mike Smith stood on his head and Raffi Torres knocked out Hossa. Kings 2014 would be nothing to be ashamed of.

  • PE-TER RE-GIN

    Such defensive battles they have in the Eastern Conference.

  • Hawkeytalk

    So I’m still hopeful but definitely less confident in another cup final appearance. But, if they win tomorrow, and come out flying Friday, it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

    The soft stuff is killing them: lack of flow, rhythm and confidence. The Kings are handing it to them just when they start to get going. Special teams have been a nightmare, obviously, with the lack of an effective PP hurting as much as the lapses in PK. But, the first few minutes and the last 20 of game 4 and much of games 1-3 give me hope. The Hawks can play with them. They have 60 minutes on Wednesday to prove it.

  • Joe Banks

    I Believe…, I Believe…

  • Lobster

    Thank you. I’ve been spending the last 24 hours listening to people whining about the Hawks not clearing the front of the net and talking about how they’ve been “outplayed in every facet of the game”.

    • Lobster

      Clearing the net in front on that first goal, specifically.

  • Lobster

    I’m still not totally sold on LA’s offense, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. They are probably winning it all.

    I just don’t trust a 15% to 27% jump on the powerplay, or a 7% to 11% jump in shooting percentage. If they were playing Boston next round, I’d probably take Boston.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      There won’t be any 7-5 games between either WC finalist and either EC contender.

    • birdhead

      I believe in that 5v5 shooting percentage jump. They added Gaborik and they’ve been playing Pearson and Toffoli much more than in the regular season IIRC – those guys both went up and down from the A this year. 11% isn’t otherworldly for a good team over a small sample of games – I certainly wouldn’t gamble on it going back to 7%.

  • Seanvert

    Boy I’m impressed with the analysis by Sam. Not joking he sounds like a very smart hockey guy. The power play has worked for us, but I’m not smart enough to say why accept that we have some very good players who have good skills. My only thought is don’t crake penalties, because it looks now like we will score on the pp if given a chance.
    Chicago has great skill players it’s hard to turn those guys into muckers. It’s not in their DNA.
    The bottom line is the Kings and Chicago are two great teams competing as hard as possible. The outcome is always up in the air, however the sun comes up tomorrow morning (at least in LA) and what happens happens.
    I wish we had a New Rosebud Cafe in LA.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Not looking for someone to bludgeon a King standing in front of the crease, just looking for someone to be aware that he (and often as not THEY) are there. You know, like maybe being in the same zip code?