AUDIO: Also includes audio interviews with Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez and Tyler Toffoli.
LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — After an optional skate and off-ice workout on February 2, the Los Angeles Kings gathered at an undisclosed location that afternoon to watch the National Football League’s Super Bowl XLVIII, which turned out to be an easy win for the Seattle Seahawks, who blew out the Denver Broncos, 43-8.
But as much as most of the Kings were apparently rooting for the Broncos, there may have been a more important motive behind the gathering.
“I think it’ll help in that all the guys will be together,” said forward Trevor Lewis. “We’ll get together to watch the game, so I think that’ll loosen things up.”
It’s Not Just The Offense
The Kings’ biggest problem is a lack of goal scoring, no doubt. But that is not their only problem.
“We’re getting chances that we have to bury, but we’ve got to tighten up [defensively],” defenseman Matt Greene following his team’s 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 30. “You can’t give up three goals in the first period, especially when you’re not scoring.”
Despite the fact that the Kings are ranked first in the National Hockey League on defense, allowing just 2.07 goals per game, in their last nine games, they have allowed 2.78 goals per game, primarily due to lapses in defensive zone coverage, and in penalty-killing.
If you do the math, that’s an additional 6.39 goals allowed over that nine-game stretch.
“There’s a lot of holes in our game,” Greene stressed. “You can’t point to one thing and say, ‘that’s it.’ There’s a lot of things that have to get tightened up right away.”
Despite the talk about potential trades, the players know that they need to look to themselves for the answers.
“If you’re looking outside of this room, it’s not going to come,” said Greene. “It’s got to come from in here. You’ve got to provide that spark on your own. If not, then they’re going to make some changes. Right now, it’s up to us to get this going.”
“I think we’re playing good hockey,” said winger Tyler Toffoli. “But we’re on a little bit of a slide here. The point was made in the room [that] it’s not just yourself. It’s everyone. We’ve got to test ourselves, and push ourselves to be better than what we are right now.”
So Close, Yet So Far
Despite their scoring woes, the Kings do not believe that they are that far off.
“We’ve had games where we’ve played pretty well,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “We got a lot of shots against Philly. It’s hard for me to say sometimes, including now, since I’m not in it [due to a hyperextended elbow]. We’ve just got to keep playing our game, keep throwing shots at the net. That’s the only way it’s going to go in for us.”
“We just have to keep doing our thing,” added Martinez. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll come out of this.”
But more is needed. A lot more.
“We’re still not getting enough traffic in front,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “We’re not getting enough rebounds. But the boys are going to pull through.”
“Goalies are so good these days that the only way you’re going to get pucks by them is if you have a close one-on-one,” added Doughty. “Other than that, it’s going to be screens, tips and rebounds. That’s what we’ve got to do. But we can’t wait for that day to come. We’ve got to make it happen.”
Martinez shared a similar view.
“You can’t play a perimeter game in this league,” he noted. “Guys are too good, goalies are too good, so you’ve got to get in there and get dirty, and we’ve got a lot of personnel who can do that.”
“When you look at the breakdown of a lot of the goals scored in this league, it’s right there in front,” he added. “Rarely are you ever going to beat a goalie in this league, one-on-one. It happens sometimes, but really, a lot of the goals are garbage goals, junk goals, dirty goals in front. That’s something they harp on us for a lot—net presence and converging towards the net.”
“It’s no secret what our style of game is. We want to grind away and wear down the other team. Second opportunities are going to be, I don’t want to say our bread and butter, but if you look at when we’ve had success, those are the kinds of goals we scored.”
No question, dirty, greasy goals are exactly what the doctor ordered.
“We just need to get that dirty goal,” said Toffoli. “We had chances [against the Flyers] to bury them, but we couldn’t finish. We’ve really got to bear down. It’s time to get going, and get us back on track, and going in the right direction.”
“We’ve got to get ourselves into that net area more,” added Toffoli. “The more chances we get [at the net], we’re eventually going to get one of them. We just have to keep doing that.”
Still A Confident Bunch
Despite their long, drawn out scoring slump, there is no apparent panic among the Kings, and no sign of any finger pointing.
“I think a lot of teams go through [scoring droughts],” said Lewis. “Maybe not as much as this, but we’ve got a good group in here. We’ll stick together and get through it. It happened to me this year. I didn’t score for a lot of games. Then I scored one, and that opened it up a little bit, for me.”
“It’s just confidence,” added Lewis. “As soon as we get one, that’ll get some guys some confidence. We’ll keep going from there.”
Martinez emphasized team cohesiveness.
“Slumps like this happen,” said Martinez. “Every hockey player, once you get to this level, you run into a situation like this more than once in your career. They happen to everyone, but I’m confident that we’ll be fine. We’ve just got to stick together and keep going.”
“We’ve got a really good hockey club,” he added. “We’re just not scoring goals right now. But we’ll get it done. There’s a lot of good players here who can score goals. We’ve just got to do it.”
Martinez warned against players trying to do too much.
“This is when we’ve got to pull together,” he emphasized. “If guys start becoming too much of an individual, it can lead to not-so-good things. If we just stay together, and keep playing our game, I think everyone has confidence in the guy next to him.”
Martinez also pointed to the last time the Kings had this much trouble scoring goals.
“You don’t want to live in the past, but a lot of guys have been through this before a couple of years ago when we had a scoring drought,” he said. “It’s important to not get down on yourself too much.”
“Guys are frustrated and disappointed, and they want to play better, but you’ve got to have a healthy balance of positivity, too,” he added. “We’ve just got to keep shooting the puck. I know it’s cliché, and it’s what everyone says, but there’s a reason everyone says it—because it’s true.”
In case you haven’t figured it out, the last time the Kings had this much trouble scoring goals was in the 2011-12 season when they won the Stanley Cup.
As Martinez said, the Kings must keep shooting the puck.
“We’re getting lots of chances in every game,” said Toffoli. “It’s just a matter of getting that one bounce, and working that extra inch or two to get ourselves into that area to get enough on the puck, and shoot it.”
“Obviously there’s frustration when you’re not able to score. But it’s going to come. We’re all working hard. The harder we work, the more chances we’ll get. Eventually, one’s going to go. Hopefully, the floodgates are just going to open.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Alec Martinez (5:49)
Tyler Toffoli (2:46)
Trevor Lewis (5:03)
Drew Doughty (2:46)
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