Being Offensive Would Be A Good Thing For The Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Under normal circumstances, being offensive is not a good thing. But for the Los Angeles Kings, it would be more than welcomed, as it is no secret that they do not score a lot of goals. That is a big reason why they are tremendous underdogs heading into their Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series against the San Jose Sharks, starting on April 14 at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

Logo courtesy National Hockey League

Especially with the Kings missing their best player, star center Anze Kopitar, who is out until next season due to a broken right ankle with torn ligaments, the Kings will probably need a miracle to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

To illustrate the Kings’ offensive woes, they ended the season ranked 25th in the league, scoring just 2.55 goals per game, while the Sharks scored 2.96 goals per game, ranking sixth in the National Hockey League.

As one might guess from those numbers, the Kings’ power play is anemic as well, ranking 21st in the NHL with a 16.1 percent rating.

Meanwhile, the Sharks had the second-best power play in the league with a 23.5 percent rating.

Although the Kings were saved by their stellar defense and goaltending this season, without finding a way to generate more offense, their chances of getting past the Sharks in the first round are, at best, slim.

“We’re just going to have to find a way to create offense,” said defenseman Jack Johnson. “The last two games we’ve lost, they’ve been big games for us, and we’ve only been able to score one goal [in each game].”

“That’s not going to cut it in the playoffs,” added Johnson. “We’ve got to find a way to create more offense.”

“We’ve got to find a way, not only on the power play, but five-on-five,” said right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “Our power play, even going to the last playoff series, was a big part of our confidence, and a big part of our offense.”

“One way or another, we’ve got to figure it out,” added Brown. “That’s the responsibility of the players. The coaches can draw up all the plays they want, but if the players aren’t ready to execute, it doesn’t matter. That’s on everyone that’s on the power play.”

But they cannot afford to press the issue too much on the offensive end. Oftentimes, the result is sloppy, careless play.

“Referring to the last two games, the game at Anaheim was not a good performance,” said head coach Terry Murray. “The energy was there, the emotion was there, [but] the structure broke down. We just didn’t execute properly with the puck in a lot of the areas from the middle of the first period.”

“The last game at home [also against Anaheim], I liked,” added Murray. “We did a lot of good things. We didn’t finish the right way. We turned the puck over on the three goals that they scored. I look at those plays as ones that were handed to them through our own play. We have to clean that up going into the playoffs, but I’m talking about three situations only.”

“What I liked from our offensive play, the cycle, the zone, the plays to the net—that was really, really good. Now we’ve got to find a way to score. That’s going to come down to better traffic, better net presence, managing the puck a little better in the offensive zone, and I’m not talking about throwing pucks blindly at the net. You want to recover pucks, move your feet, hold onto it, keep possession, find good options and good plays.”

In other words, the Kings must stick to their system and structure.

“That was a game we want to forget about,” defenseman Drew Doughty said about the loss at Anaheim. “We were there with them in the first period—the score was still tight in the first. But once we got away from our game, and our structure, they got a few on us, and we started to sit back. That’s why they dominated the whole game, and beat us so badly. But as long as we stick to our system, I think we’ll be fine.”

Center Michal Handzus noted that the Kings have been pressing offensively in recent games, trying desperately to generate offense. But that has had them straying from their system and structure.

“The last couple of games, we pressed a little bit,” Handzus explained. “We opened the lanes, and tried to do too much. You can’t do that in the playoffs. You have to be patient, play your system, you’ve got to play the same way for sixty or more minutes. That’s how you win in the playoffs.”

“You can’t try to do too much,” Handzus added. “You can’t try to go for the home run. You’ve got to play your system, even if you go a goal down or two goals. You still have to play your system and be patient.”

“We have a very good system in place. We have to follow it. If we do that, we’re a tough team to beat. Our system revolves around defense and our structure. If we follow that, I think we play well defensively. We don’t give up a lot of scoring chances, and our offensive game is better. We know what we have to do. If we follow that, I think we’ll be all right.”

Brown had even more basic concerns.

“We need twenty players every night,” he stressed. “We don’t have the skill level, or that type of team where we can get by on [our skill alone] if we don’t have everyone going. Secondly, we need to find a way to score goals, and the first one leads to the second one. If we have everyone going, it makes it a lot easier for everyone to produce chances and goals. We need twenty players for the playoffs.”

“If we want to be successful, we need twenty guys every night.”

Two players in particular will be looked upon to step up their games.

Doughty and, in particular, Johnson, need to pick things up on the offensive end.

“I talked about, awhile ago, the importance of Johnson and Doughty,” Murray emphasized. “When you lose your two top scorers {Kopitar and right wing Justin Williams] like that, you have to find a way to manufacture more offense, and your back end, secondary scoring guys are an area you’d like to see get going and be those players.”

“I think the points have fallen off for Jack, when you take a look at the first half of the year compared to the second half,” Murray added. “I’d like to see that get going more.”

“With Doughty, he’s gone the other way. His points have improved, so there’s been a player there who has stepped up in the offensive part of the game.”

For his part, Johnson knows more is expected both himself and Doughty, especially on the power play.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can, but there’s a time and a place for [jumping up into the play],” said Johnson. “You can’t force the issue. You have to take what’s given.”

“In some games, there’s more opportunity for you to jump in than in others. You can’t force it, but we’re certainly going to try.”

Raw audio interviews from the practice on April 11, 2011

(Edited to remove extraneous material and dead air)

Drew Doughty (4:53)

Jack Johnson (4:19)

Michal Handzus (3:30)

Justin Williams (2:38)

Terry Murray (14:59)

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