The Hawks were 0-for-3 in Game 4, dropping them to 1-for-24 on the road and a pathetic 0-for-23 since converting their first power play on their first chance in the first game of their first playoff series. That goes all the way back to St. Louis, which seems like a lifetime ago as bad as the Hawks have looked overall with the puck, but especially on the power play.
The Kings have converted five of their last nine power plays, which has allowed the Kings to turn games and this series in a hurry, and the painful fact is, if the Hawks had been good at either one of those units, this series might be tied and panic-free.
Instead, the Hawks are staring into the abyss of wasted opportunity. Wasted opportunity with world-class talent. For the simplest and most embarrassing reason.
“Shots,’’ Seabrook said. “We have to get stuff at the net. That’s the biggest key. We haven’t had a lot of shots in the series on our power play, especially on the road. We have to come in with better possession, and if we’re not being able to cross the line, we have to do different things to get possession and get good looks. Sometimes trying to make the extra play isn’t going to work.’’
Actually, it doesn't start with shots; it starts with faceoffs. The Hawks have stunk on faceoffs. But everything Seabrook described as Hawks failures also happen to be everything the Kings have done to eviscerate the Hawks.
The Kings gain the blue line or chip it in, but either way, they know what everybody is doing. The Hawks have no idea what the guy with the puck will do from one rush to the next. They are reluctant to chip and chase because world-class talent likes to control the puck, which would be great if they could, but they haven’t, and the Kings just cleared the zone again.
If the Hawks can’t even get set up in the Kings' zone, then shots are just another item on the bucket list. The Hawks managed just three shots on three power plays in Game 4. They managed only three shots on four power plays in Game 3. In those two games, the Kings have managed twice as many shots on fewer power plays. In the last three games, all Hawks losses, the Hawks have gone 1-for-11 with 12 shots while the Kings have gone 5-for-10 with 18 shots.
Once the Kings gain the zone, they move the puck quickly. The Hawks like to take a look and hold the puck and maybe see if they can get a player to move. World-class talent makes for a lot of individual games, but here’s the thing: No defender moves unless the puck does.
The Kings don’t just move the puck around the perimeter, which can make it easy to maintain a soft and sometimes collapsing box that the Hawks like to play. No, the Kings move the puck from low to high, which allows them to torch the Hawks in two ways.
First, the Kings defensemen can absolutely pound the puck, and if they don’t have time to wind up, they have snapped off some deadly accurate wristers.
Second, when the puck comes out to the points, the Kings have quickly morphed into an umbrella look. As, say, Drew Doughty floats from a point to the top of the slot just inside the blue line, two Kings forwards rush to clog a slot that is already clogged with two Hawks defensemen. Corey Crawford’s vision is obscured worse than ever.
Other advantages to the umbrella setup is that it offers a shot with broad scoring areas, and if it goes wide, the puck won’t ring around the boards and maybe leave the zone the way conventional point shots do.
The Hawks prefer the traditional setup of two point men, which reduces their scoring angles, and even when they do shoot, the Kings skaters have blocked as many as goalie Jonathan Quick, it seems.
The Hawks penalty-killers, meanwhile, haven’t blocked as many shots as we’re used to seeing, especially in the postseason.
Something else about shooting: The Hawks shoot wide on purpose, trying to miss the net because they’re aiming for a teammates’ stick off to the side. That’s what world-class talent can do.
The Kings have world-class talent, too. But they shoot at the net, and if it hits the goalie or a Hawks defenseman, there’s probably a loose puck in the slot, and now the Kings have two men in front to jump on it. See Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown for details.
It’s rare to go through a series at this level where both special teams are working as brilliantly as the Kings' units are. Pick one, Hawks. Just pick one.