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With 2 goals, Coyotes get struggling power play going vs. Kings

Arizona Coyotes center Derek Stepan (21) celebrates his goal against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jack Campbell (36) as Coyotes center Clayton Keller (9) also celebrates during the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Antti Raanta’s shutout of the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night overshadowed the second-most important development from the Coyotes’ 3-0 win.

Arizona’s power play got going, scoring two goals in four opportunities.

The Coyotes’ power play has not produced at an elite level in 2019-20. Last season, it was the sixth-worst in the league, scoring at a 16.3% rate. This year it’s up to 17.1%, good for 21st in the NHL, but there’s still plenty room for improvement.

Entering Monday, the Coyotes’ power play had been 1-for-26 in the last eight games, going back to Nov. 4. That’s the second-worst power play percentage in the league in that span, better only than Buffalo, which played three fewer games.

“Not much movement,” head coach Rick Tocchet said Monday when asked what the issue has been with the man advantage.

“I can’t say it enough: Whether coaching or seeing power plays through my career, retrievals are so big. And we’re not getting them. It’s that one shot, they get it and they ice it. When you get that retrieval, like we got them tonight, we scored off the retrievals.”

See a good example of that starting at the 3:10 mark in the video here, where a shot by Phil Kessel caroms off the goaltender and into the corner, where Kessel picks the puck back up. The play continues. In the very next sequence in the video, Christian Dvorak fans on a shot but Clayton Keller is there to get the puck back.

The second of those retrievals results directly in a goal.

Tocchet explained that Coyotes penalty killers Brad Richardson and Michael Grabner have even talked to power play personnel on the team.

“Richie tells those guys, and Grabs, when you’re out there penalty killing for 40 seconds in your own [zone], stopping and starting, you don’t get the puck out, it’s tough,” Tocchet said. “It’s tough on the body. So I think that’s something that guys understood that you’ve got to play a 5-on-5 mentality. So I think they obviously did that [Monday].”

Conor Garland made mention of the “bumper,” a middle forward on the ice that can help with puck movement and the relief of pressure. The below breakdown from NHL Network explains it well, first discussing it in a 5-on-5 context and later talking about it on the power play (coincidentally, one of the analysts in this 2017 video is current Coyotes assistant coach John MacLean).

The Coyotes used the bumper concept on their first power play goal on Monday, where Dvorak is in the middle and relieves pressure by pulling the puck out of the slot. Stepan moves in, setting up a pass opportunity that results in a goal.

“I thought ‘Dvo’ in the middle, he did a nice job moving,” Tocchet said. “The movement of the middle guy has — we’re having a tough time with that — I just thought Dvo was kind of finding that space. He went from the middle to the side there, that’s a good play. He felt that pressure and it was a tic-tac-toe play. I give a lot of credit to Dvo in that middle position.”

The Coyotes are now 8-0-0 this season when scoring at least one power play goal. The Kings have the third-worst PK percentage in the league, and one game is too small a sample size to write home about, anyway. But Arizona needs its man advantage to really be an advantage, and Monday night was a good start.

“It was huge to get that going,” Dvorak said. “We were just moving the puck, moving the puck well. Just winning our battles and was able to execute. So that was big for us.

“Obviously we were struggling a little bit, so definitely keyed in on that, practiced that this morning and it paid off.”

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