The Kings jumped out to a 2-0 series lead and have since dropped 3 and are facing elimination as we approach game 6. What went wrong for LA and how can they come back?
What's interesting about the Kings jumping out to the 2-0 lead is that they were heavily out-chanced in those games (38-21), but were able to steal both by virtue of some stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick. Quick was able to post a .958 in those first two wins. Over these last three losses his save percentage has been .842.
This is not to say that the wins and losses all fall on Quick's shoulders, but his dip in play has been a contributor. It also can't all be blamed on the spotty Kings defense. In those first two games the Kings averaged 19 scoring chances against. In these last three, they've managed 15 chances against per game. As Kevin Woodley pointed out, it appears that Quick is struggling to track pucks:
Think @cmasisak22 pointed out in 1st round but J. Quick's tracking improved after 3 losses to San Jose; regressed back in last 3 vs. Anaheim— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) May 14, 2014
+ when talk about Quick tracking pucks it's not just how well he's seeing it, but specifically how he's tracking. he's worked w/ specialist— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) May 14, 2014
If Quick can find his form again, that would go a very long way to getting LA back to their third Western Conference Final in three years.
Creating Scoring Chances
The Kings have had no problem generating offensive zone time in this series. They've owned 58% of all attempts at 5v5 and 53% when the games have been close. They are having problems generating chances with all that zone time. This is a problem that has hounded them for years, and it seems more pronounced now than ever. While they have dominated possession, they have been thoroughly dominated in the scoring chance battle, having owned just 43% of all scoring chances at evens.
To further drive home how inept they've been at creating chances consider the fact that they have taken 268 shot attempts thus far in this series at even strength, out of all of those attempts they have only registered a scoring chance on 43 of them. That is a woeful 16%. The Ducks on the other hand have logged a chance 28% of the time they attempt a shot.
The Kings have managed to play a more creative brand of hockey in the recent past. After the Olympic break and along with the acquisition of Marian Gaborik, they began to play a more aggressive style in the offensive zone which resulted in more chances. They consistently were able to gain the blue line with control of the puck rather than defaulting to their norm of relying on getting the puck deep. They've gotten back to a dump and chase heavy style in the playoffs and it seems to be stilting their ability to generate scoring chances.
While it may seem counterintuitive to play a riskier style against a great rush team like the Ducks, it appears that it might be necessary given how few chances the Kings have been able to generate at even strength and how well the Ducks goaltenders are playing.
The 2nd Pair
The play of the Kings second pair of Schultz-Voynov in this series has been a mess. When Slava Voynov has been on ice in score close situations the Kings have owned a paltry 44% of the shots. Without him on ice, that number has spiked all the way up to 57%.
Darryl Sutter has given his second pair the lion's share of defensive zone starts. They have performed poorly in those minutes and perhaps it would be time to make an adjustment by curbing that a bit.
Another problem with the second pair has been the play of Schultz. In addition to his poor possession numbers, he has been a black hole in the offensive zone as he has routinely been slow to the puck and has struggled to keep the puck in. Additionally he has managed just 1 shot on goal in 73.5 minutes of play.
Perhaps it's time to give Brayden McNabb a shot? Although technically a rookie, McNabb has played in 37 games over his NHL career so he isn't completely green. He also has far more upside offensively than Jeff Schultz. McNabb boasts a good shot and logged 36 points in 52 AHL this season.
It seems like Voynov could badly use a partner with better puck skills and it would seem like McNabb is the only one of the Kings limited options who could offer that.