LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings are 2-2-0 as they begin a four-game road trip this evening against the Carolina Hurricanes (4:00 PM PDT, televised on Fox Sports West). But as their .500 record indicates, it has been quite the struggle so far, and that includes their last game, a 4-3 overtime win over the Ottawa Senators on October 9, at Staples Center in Los Angeles, a game in which they blew a 3-0 lead.
Winger and team captain Dustin Brown noted that despite blowing a big lead, the Kings have enough experience to get them through difficult times.
“You never want to blow a three-goal lead, but at the end of the day, this team has been through a lot harder situations,” said Brown. “As a group of guys, we’re at that point where I don’t think a lot of things faze us.”
“That’s not how to play the game, but we responded the right way,” added Brown. “I think it was just important to get a good feeling in this room going into this road trip, because we’ve got [a long day of] travel tomorrow. It was important for us to get these two points. Now we’ve got to focus on the next two.”
To this point in the young season, the Kings have been living off their power play, scoring five times on 16 opportunities with the man advantage (31.2 percent, ranked fifth in the National Hockey League), and that was big factor in their win over the Senators, as well.
“We came out good on the power play, and got a couple of early ones,” said forward Jeff Carter, who scored the overtime game-winner. “Give them credit. They didn’t quit. They kept battling. They tied up, but we won the game. Two points is two points.”
“Power plays were huge tonight,” Brown noted. “I don’t know if [the overtime] goal was a power play goal, but essentially, it was. He was, maybe, stepping out of the box.”
“That’s what we need from our power play—to step up at big times,” Brown added. “We got two, five-on-three goals (actually, those goals came just as the two-man advantages had expired, but the penalized players were not yet back in the play). The important thing is to build on it now. We’ve got to continue to do that.”
But teams cannot depend solely on their power play if they want to succeed, and the Kings have been pretty much dreadful during five-on-five/even strength situations. That was also plainly evident after the first period against the Senators, as the Kings generated very little offensively, and spent a lot more time in their own zone, chasing after the Senators, who managed to come all the way back from a 3-0 deficit, as previously reported.
Brown talked about his team’s inconsistent, lackadaisical play.
“It’s been a trend this year, early on,” he said. “We’ve got to regroup, and come out with more energy. The same thing happened in Winnipeg, and even [against the] New York [Rangers]. Our first period was good, but then, we sat back.”
“That’s the responsibility of the players—being prepared, bringing awareness to it,” he added. “We have to go out there and perform. If we play a fast game, that’s when we’re really successful—when we’re big and fast. When we’re not moving our feet, we’re big and slow.”
Indeed, in the second and third periods, the Kings were big and slow far more often than they were big and fast. Nevertheless, their overall performance was an improvement over their first three games, and the Kings have their sights set on further improvement, and in short order.
“Our game is all about possession, using our big forwards down low,” Brown emphasized. “Today was a step in the right direction, but there’s still [room for] improvement. We’ve just got to continue to move our feet. I think that’s the key for this team. When we move our feet, we’re a really good team. When we get stagnant and don’t work for each other, it becomes a really hard game for us.”
“Tonight, I thought we were better about moving our feet,” Brown added. “As a result, we’re a hard team to handle. Teams take penalties. But there’s still a lot that we’ve got to improve on [for us] to be where we want to be.”
“There’s always room to improve,” said Carter. “I thought we took a step in the right direction tonight, but we’ve still got some work to do.”
Moving their feet better will narrow the gap between the defensemen and forwards on breakout plays, allowing them to generate speed through the neutral zone. In turn, speed on attack will help them get to loose pucks and generate a forecheck, creating offensive opportunities.
In other words, good puck support is a key to their entire game, and it all starts 200 feet away from their opponent’s net.
“It’s a combination,” said Brown. “It’s wingers working back for the defensemen, so they can make an easier play. It’s the defensemen getting their feet moving out of the zone, so we have another option, as wingers, and the center supporting everyone.”
“When we play really well, when we move the puck really well, we’re giving it to players who have an opportunity to make plays,” added Brown. “That’s the result of skating.”
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