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How Guy Boucher Took Away LA's Breakout

December 18, 2016, 10:07 AM ET [10 Comments]
Sheng Peng
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The defensive zone breakout is the backbone of LA's attack. When it's clicking, a supposedly slow Kings team can look like they're skating on an expressway.

Here's an example from Thursday in Detroit:
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Drew Doughty's patience is the key to this play. Instead of a quick pass to a stationary Trevor Lewis above the half wall -- which is another favorite Kings breakout, because Lewis is ready to feed Anze Kopitar speeding up the middle -- Doughty hesitates.

As Jason Lewis has mentioned before, the Kings like to go up the middle on their breakouts. So Doughty luring the Detroit forechecker toward him achieves two important goals: Kopitar is now wide open up the middle and Doughty has given his centerman time to build up speed.

But what happens when the opposition doesn't cede the middle so easily?

This was all too common a misfortune in the second period of last Saturday's tilt against the Ottawa Senators, as the Sens outshot the Kings 9-5 and outattempted them 20-5 at 5v5.

Guy Boucher threw a variety of forechecks to frustrate LA's desire to go up the middle. Here's a passive forecheck by Chris Neil, who simply stays between Derek Forbort and a speeding Jordan Nolan up the middle.

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Ottawa takes the middle away here too. Matt Greene wants to hit Andy Andreoff, but Neil is draped over the hard-charging pivot. Off to side, Buddy Robinson hovers around the middle, in case any other Los Angeles forwards want to receive a pass there.

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Eventually, Neil peels off Andreoff and pressures Greene. A stationary Devin Setoguchi receives the pass just past the blueline and the trapping Sens pounce on him. He has no chance.

"Stationary" is a word that I've used a couple times, and that's usually not the forward you want to break out to if you're a defender. That is, unless the stationary forward gives up the puck quickly to an open skater.

Here, Andreoff receives the puck up the middle, but he hasn't built up speed. As he attempts to accelerate, Mike Hoffman cuts off his path, forcing Andreoff into an extra move. He also doesn't see Brown, but a stationary Brown can probably only dump the puck in and give up possession at this point anyway.

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The first half of the second period was pure frustration for the Kings, but they began to adjust later in the frame.

Since the Sens were cutting off LA's speed up the middle around the blueline and neutral zone, the Kings tried to build up center drive lower in the zone. So instead of churning his legs and waiting for a pass high, Andreoff joins his defensemen below the dots here. Ottawa's forechecker tries to harass Forbort, but the Senators don't want to sink too many guys down low to pressure -- that's how outnumbered attacks can start.

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This is a letter-perfect Kings breakout. Forbort hits a stationary Marian Gaborik at the half-wall, who immediately finds the speed up the middle in Andreoff.

Andreoff follows up with a well-placed dump-in, and Andreoff and Setoguchi outnumber Mark Borowiecki behind the net with speed, making puck retrieval much easier.

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Beautiful breakout, excellent dump-in. For more about LA's traditionally strong dump-and-chase game, read here.

It's a sports cliche, but you have to take what the other team gives you. Here, the Kings have no center drive and Ottawa has clogged up the middle anyway. So Setoguchi races up the wing, where Andreoff hits him with a stretch pass.

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If the opposition is concentrated in the middle, change it up every once in a while. This doesn't mean to go away from your core strategy -- but there's something to be said about keeping them guessing.

Here's another look: Los Angeles breaks out as a five-man unit. This is effective because it keeps many options open for Alec Martinez, while Ottawa has no idea where he's going with the puck.

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Once again, the Senators default toward taking away the middle. No problem, Dwight King is now open near the bench.

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Sometimes, the forecheck is passive. Sometimes, they're right on you. Here, the Senators converge on Lewis at the half wall.

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In what might be my favorite play of this article, Lewis waits for the Sens to surround him.

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There's some obvious risk -- Ottawa might swipe the puck -- but because Lewis has the poise to suck more attention toward him, Doughty and Forbort are now available to reset the breakout.

Of course, the Kings, more often than not, prefer to being going forward -- "north-south" hockey and all that -- but sometimes, the opposition doesn't cooperate. Going north-south for the sake of going north-south can be dangerous as well:

Here, Andreoff has a different problem. He has speed, but Chris Kelly is about to cut him off. Brown is driving up the middle hard, but this is not an easy tape-to-tape backhand pass for anybody -- it's also very dangerous.

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Andreoff runs out of time as Kelly converges before he can even gain the red line.

A solution here -- which Andreoff might have been about to attempt before Kelly's influence -- is a lofted area pass. An area pass is a pass to a place where there's no receiver...yet. I like Brown's chances of beating Chris Wideman to a loose puck.

On Friday in Pittsburgh, Forbort executed a masterful area pass. Here, the Penguins expect the rookie defender to go up the boards or tape to tape toward the middle and Carter, both of which are well covered defensively:

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Instead, Forbort puts it in a place where the swift Carter can retrieve it. What a read! Even Conor Sheary looks surprised.

So let's summarize. These are some -- not all -- of the solutions available to the Kings when a quick breakout up the middle isn't possible:

• Take what the other team gives you
• Build speed lower in the zone
• Build speed on the wing
• Break out as a five-man unit
• Go backwards to reset
• Area passes

Let's see how LA reacts to Boston's forecheck today -- will we see any of Claude Julien's famous 1-4?

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