LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — For those who live in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, traffic is a way of life. We spend countless hours sitting in traffic on one freeway or another, a jammed street due to road construction, a movie shoot, even roads or highways closed due to police activity, or some special event, like the Academy Awards, or the Tournament of Roses Parade.
But when it comes to hockey, traffic is a two-way street, so to speak, with one direction leading to the proverbial Pot O’ Gold, while the other direction leads to the booby prize behind door number two on the classic television game show, Let’s Make A Deal.
For the Los Angeles Kings, who will fly to Chicago later today, they leave town on a critical five-game road trip knowing that they have earned themselves that booby prize in their last two games, getting shut out by both the Dallas Stars on March 21, and the Vancouver Canucks on March 23.
In both games, the goaltenders played well, and made a few difficult saves. But too often, the Kings made things too easy by allowing Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen and Canucks netminder Cory Schneider to see too many shots all the way—the Kings failed to get much traffic in front of them.
“We had a lot of chances, [but] I don’t think we were going to the net hard enough,” said defenseman Drew Doughty after practice on March 22. “I think that’s the reason we weren’t putting any pucks by them.”
“A lot of goalies will make that first save,” said winger and captain Dustin Brown after the loss to the Canucks. “It’s getting around the net, and pouncing on those loose pucks. We’re not making it hard enough on the opposing team’s goaltenders right now.”
“We had some Grade A scoring chances, [but] their goalie played well,” added Brown. “But you see, when this team’s playing really well on the offensive side of the puck, it’s not the really pretty goals that are making it.”
Brown’s comment about the pretty goals is very revealing in that if you look closely at how the game is played in today’s National Hockey League, the teams who get the “dirty” or “greasy” goals, the ones scored by having a forward standing in front of the goalie so he cannot see the incoming shot, or after a scrum in front of the net, a deflection, or even a after a lucky bounce off a defending player, are the most successful.
Indeed, it is those kinds of goals, ones that usually require a lot more dirty work than it takes to convert a chance off the rush, a breakaway, or even some power play goals, that do the most to push of a team towards victory.
A close look at each of the 41 goals the Kings have scored so far in March only underscores Brown’s assertion.
Using the definition of a dirty or greasy goal that was mentioned earlier in this story (your definition may vary), the Kings have scored 21 such goals in March. 13 goals have come off the rush. Six power play goals were scored that did not fall into either category, and there was one empty net goal.
In short, Brown is saying that the Kings need a lot more goals that fall under the dirty/greasy category—51 percent is not enough.
“[We have] to get to the net, and get pucks there,” Brown emphasized. “We’ve gone through spurts where we’ve scored a lot of goals just by getting pucks to the net with bodies at the same time. If you look at [the game against the Canucks], even the Grade A scoring chances, there were pucks there that we have to get to.”
Despite being shut out in two straight games, the Kings are still in the top half of the league offensively, averaging 2.81 goals per game (ranked 12th after games played on March 23), and in the seven games they won this month, they averaged 4.57 goals per game. As such, they are not concerned about their offense just yet. Nevertheless, they know that they need to get their offense cranked up again.
“We have to throw some more bodies in front,” said center Anze Kopitar. “It’s going to go in off somebody’s skate, or somebody’s [rear end], and the floodgates are going to open.”
“Every team’s got good goaltending,” said center Jarret Stoll. “This league is all about that, and low scoring games, 1-1, 2-0, 3-2, or whatever. The bottom line is that we have to better to score goals.”
Despite having played ten games at home this month, the Kings are just 7-6 in March. They will need to fix their net presence problems in order to avoid sliding downhill during their current, critical road trip, adding that much more emphasis on what Brown is preaching.
“We’ve got to focus on what makes us successful,” he noted. “We’ve got to look at it as a one-game road trip going into Chicago for a game.”
“We have a group of guys in here who will compete each and every night,” he added. “We just have to get everyone going—four lines, six defensemen. We’ve never been a successful team having [just] one or two lines do it. It’s always been a group effort, so that’s what we’ve got to get back to.”
Frozen Royalty Video via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube – Interview From Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, March 23, 2013
This clip of the post-game interview with Dustin Brown captured a small portion of the interview that KingsVision did not publish. ©2013 FrozenRoyalty.net. All rights reserved.
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