EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – It’s one of the most enduring mysteries in the game. You see the kind of personnel an NHL team can put on the power play and you wonder why they don’t score every time they get a chance.
For example, the Los Angeles Kings can put out a power play unit consisting of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown up front with Mike Richards and Drew Doughty on the points. And for everything the Kings have done well in these playoffs, this is a group that has just six power play goals in the playoffs and is clicking at a mind-boggling success(?) rate of 7.8 percent.
“We’re trying to wrap our heads around it, too,” Kopitar acknowledged. “It’s strange because there have been a lot of teams in the past who have had a lot of firepower and haven’t been able to get it together. We have to find some answers on that and some mojo and score some goals.”
The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last year with a power play that scored only 10 times in the entire playoffs, so the template is there for both the Kings and New Jersey Devils to succeed in spite of their powerlessness with the extra man. But in a series where goals have been enormously difficult to come by, either team could give itself a significant amount of breathing room by taking advantage of their power play opportunities.
Granted, there have not been many of them through the first two games of the Stanley Cup final. The Kings are 0-for-3 with the extra man on 4:51 of power play time. The Devils, who came into the final with a power play that was playing reasonably well, is 0-for-6 on 11:09 of power play time. What’s worse is that neither team is generating much in the way of scoring chances on the power play.
“(In Game 2) it could have been a pretty big factor late in the third period, the call that we got against us and for us at the end,” said Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. “It could have been a major factor in the hockey game, but it wasn’t.”
The dearth of power play goals has undoubtedly affected the Devils more than the Kings, largely because the Kings weren’t scoring with the man advantage going into the final. The Devils have been able to draw more calls, but have not only not been able to capitalize on them, they’ve been unable to deter the Kings from taking penalties by even being dangerous on the power play.
“Even if you have a good power play and some good looks, it can definitely carry momentum your way,” said Devils center Travis Zajac. “For us, that’s what we’ve got to focus on. Even if we don’t score, really getting those chances and trying to feed off that.”
On the day off between Games 2 and 3, the Kings opted to stay off the ice, while the Devils had a full practice at the Kings practice facility. The Devils are taking solace in the fact that they played the Kings evenly enough to win either or both of the first two games of the series. But the fact is they did not win. And there is no doubt that they must get more production out of their top players. It’s great when players such as Anton Volchenkov and Ryan Carter can make key contributions, but when those are not surpassed by your best players, you’re putting yourself into a heap of trouble.
The Devils do have some extra players at their disposal. Petr Sykora is a veteran who could provide the Devils with some spark and on the blueline, both veteran Henrik Tallinder and rookie Adam Larsson are available if Devils coach Peter DeBoer wants to shake up his lineup.
Tallinder, who hasn’t played since Jan. 17 with a blood clot in his leg, endured his first flight since the clot on the trip to the west coast and declared himself ready to play if needed. Jumping into the Stanley Cup final after almost five months of not playing might be a daunting challenge, but it’s one Tallinder knows he can overcome.
“It’s easy,” he joked. “Obviously, I’ve been gone for a long time, but I’ve been in the game for quite many years now so I know what to expect and what to do out there. The only words I’ve spoken (to DeBoer) is, ‘Be ready, anything can happen. I’m comfortable putting you in there.’ ”
Ken Campbell will file daily from the Stanley Cup final.