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Power-play futility not holding Kings back

Friday, 06.01.2012 / 5:08 PM / Los Angeles Kings | News
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Power-play futility not holding Kings back

By Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The running joke during last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs was the Boston Bruins' power play, which wound up as the most inept in the history of the NHL among teams that won a championship.

Through three-plus rounds of this year's postseason, the Los Angeles Kings are bidding to eclipse that record for futility.

The 2011 Bruins went 10-for-88 (11.4 percent) on the power play; this year's Kings are 6-for-75 (8 percent), and somehow are three wins from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The lack of success on the power play would be even more jarring if not for their three goals in 5-on-3 situations.

The Kings have yet to pay for their struggles with the man-advantage, but it remains a point of emphasis among the players.

"It definitely has to get better," said forward Jeff Carter, who has two of the Kings' power-play goals in the postseason. "It's something we've talked a lot about as a power-play group. We've been working on it a lot. There's not too many teams that go through and win a championship without scoring too many power-play goals. It's something we'll have to work on."

The Kings' power play got off to a tremendous start during the conference quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks, scoring twice in the series opener and once more in Game 2. Since those three goals, the Kings are 3-for-63 (4.8 percent) with two of the three coming on two-man advantages.

While the Kings haven't been scoring power-play goals in abundance, the ones they have scored have come at big times. Dustin Penner scored the winner in Game 1 against the Canucks late in the third period on the power play, and Carter scored twice during Game 2 of the conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes to push that game out of reach.

"It's won us some big games," coach Darryl Sutter said. "If you study it, look at how many penalties our team has actually drawn. So long as we continue to do that. Last game, our power play had two great opportunities."

The Kings had just one power play in Game 1 against the New Jersey Devils and had one shot on goal, a small victory for a team that has scored with the man-advantage in only two of its past 13 games. To Penner, the poor power-play numbers are nothing to worry about, because he believes teams make it a point of emphasis to focus on penalty killing in the playoffs. As a result, chances are few and far between.

"Everybody is working so hard not to get scored on in the playoffs," Penner said. "It's a lot of low-scoring games. I don't know a power play out there that's clicking in the playoffs the way it did in the regular season. Fifteen percent in the playoffs seems about right to me. Every PK we've come across has been a mirror image of our own, where the work is there, the system is there, and they're snuffing out any opportunity the power play can have.

"I think the PK raised their level and it's tough for the power play to match, and that's what we're trying to do, is trying to get maybe one timely goal. We got chances last game. You're not going to get a lot of penalties or power plays in the playoffs. So that also has to do with the numbers."

That may be the case for some teams, but the Kings are averaging five power-play chances per game, more than any team in the playoffs. Their ability to score at five-on-five (28 goals in 15 games) has allowed them to roll through the playoffs with two losses, but Carter said the confidence among the power-play groups has not wavered.

"It's more execution," Carter said. "We're all confident players. It shows in our five-on-five game. We've been pretty strong at it. It's kind of just bearing down and executing and getting the puck in the back of the net."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo