(editor’s note: our third new writer is making his debut post today. Welcome Derek!)
Welcome to the first Goal Breakdown here at Jewels From the Crown! These semi-regular posts will take a deeper look at Kings goals for or against, usually centered around one specific topic. This week’s subject? The line I just decided should be called The Killer D’s. That would be the ostensible third line of Dustin Brown, Nic Dowd, and Devin Setoguchi. Eric went in on this line yesterday with a look at the stats, but here we will look at what they have been doing on the ice to produce those results. Let’s kick this off by looking at a play that fairly represents what this line has been doing successfully.
Los Angeles 1, New Jersey 1 - 4:58 2nd Period
Alec Martinez (3) from Nic Dowd (8) and Devin Setoguchi (4)
Unfortunately, the NHL.com video of this goal doesn’t go back to when the Kings gained the zone, so we don’t have the full video of this full sequence. Which isn’t exactly surprising, as this goal came after more than 30 seconds of sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Nic Dowd kicks the play off in the neutral zone. The Kings carry the puck in, which is out of the ordinary for this line, as they have been fantastic on the dump and chase (which we will get to). However, it’s the smart move here; Dowd is the only King with any momentum, as they had just changed lines/regrouped in the neutral zone. The intelligence of this play is further helped by the Devils defense, as they were not aggressive in getting back out to defend the rush, likely expecting the dump.
After chipping the puck to Brown, Dowd has great center lane drive. This occupies the defense, pulling defenders deeper and allows Brown get a shot off. Dowd also distracts Schneider, who allows a rebound that keeps play alive. I’d also like to point out Devin Setoguchi here, who has found an ocean of space and is ready for a shot should Brown find him with a pass.
After the shot, the Devils pick up the puck but have nowhere to go with it. We get a good look at Setoguchi’s speed here, as he goes from high man, to quickly reading where the puck is going, and forcing the play in the corner. This is another aspect of their play that has made this line successful: aggressiveness. They have three guys deep here, which could have been bad, but since they were pressuring so hard, they are able to force a turnover.
Muzzin intercepts a blind clearing attempt, and fires another shot on net. The rebound heads into the corner, where Dowd just straight out-muscles Ben Lovejoy. At this point, Devils are panicking. When that happens, you’ll see everyone run back back to help, often abandoning who they should be covering. Note the Devils have all five guys at the hashmarks or lower, yet Dowd has three King teammates uncovered to pass to.
After winning the battle for the puck, Dowd just holds off Lovejoy like he’s a small child, patiently waits until the time is right, then threads a ridiculous pass to Alec Martinez. Kudos to Dustin Brown, who let the puck go right through him, realizing the pass was to Martinez.
After Martinez misses the net and Muzzin puts another shot on net, the Killer D’s are STILL all over the Devils. This is right about where the highlight picks up. Dowd wins yet another puck battle, shows an unreal amount of patience, before finding Martinez again for the shot. The patience by Dowd is something I have mentioned before, and will again before this post is done, but man, does he know how to work it.
One more thing to notice here is the traffic in front. This has been another key to the success of this line, as all three of them have been willing to head to the net and create chaos. Cory Schneider never even sees it.
Los Angeles 4, Edmonton 2 - 13:15 3rd Period
Devin Setoguchi (3) from Derek Forbort (4) and Nic Dowd (7)
We pick up here at the tail end of the dump in. Brown fires it in with Setoguchi and Dowd at full speed when they hit the blueline. There are few defenseman in the NHL who are able to pivot, track the puck on a hard warp like that, and beat Setoguchi there. He’s not your traditional dump and chase guy, but he has the speed and the willingness to take a hit and occupy time until help arrives to be have been very successful at it with the Kings. I especially like what he does here to immediately setup along the boards to protect the puck. A lot of younger players think they can win the war and the battle all in one shot and try to beat the defenseman to the puck, and just get it poked past him. Setoguchi is smart enough to realize that his best play is to immediately protect the puck, and wait for reinforcements to arrive.
Oh look, another fantastic pass by Dowd, as he gets in quick, and attempts to get the puck to Brown before the Oilers can tie him up. Fortunately, the biscuit takes a nice bounce out to Derek Forbort. But what I really like here is what all the Kings forwards do. Setoguchi faces up to Forbort to give him a passing option, while Dowd and Brown go to the net, all with their sticks down, ready to be options if needed.
We see two things here that we saw in the last goal, a lot of aggressiveness and a lot of traffic around the net. These combine to mean that three Oiler defenders are tied up with just Brown and Dowd. Setoguchi makes a nice read to head to the net as soon as he sees the shot from Forbort, and he sneaks in to bury it.
Colorado 2, Los Angeles 1 -
Dustin Brown (3) from Nic Dowd (6) and Devin Setoguchi (3)
The Killer D’s are on the powerplay here, so it’s a slightly different situation but the same great recipe. We see more aggressiveness going to the net, patience with the puck from Dowd, and traffic traffic traffic.
Really though, this clip was included solely to rave about the patience of Nic Dowd. The guy just has a fantastic feel for the game. He knows how much time and space he has at any given moment, so he never needs to rush a decision. I think the puck would have ended up in shinpads with many NHL players on this one, but was able to pull it to his backhand, and rip off another beauty tape-to-tape pass for a goal. Oh if you are counting, you might have noticed that we are now up to four(!) ridiculously nice passes made by Dowd on just these three goals.
That in itself says a lot of what needs to be said about what this line is doing on the ice. Setoguchi and Brown are cool stories, but the real takeaway from digging into this line is Nic Dowd. Revelation might be too strong of a word, but just by a hair. He has a lot of tools to work with, and his production this year is not a fluke. He’s not piling up secondary assists from the fringe of the play, he’s the guy making the plays happen. He should have the third line center role locked down once the team gets healthy. That should provide him with even more talented linemates and more of his delightful passes ending up in the back of the net.