LOS ANGELES — On February 3, the Los Angeles Kings suffered yet another defeat, this time, a 5-3 loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. It was their fourth consecutive loss, their ninth regulation loss in the last eleven games (2-8-1 record), and their 14th regulation loss in their last twenty games (4-14-2 record).
As dismal as all that is, Monday’s loss to the Blackhawks could turn out to be the start of the Kings turning things around.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” winger and team captain Dustin Brown said following the loss to the Blackhawks. “There’s a lot of pucks lying around the net. We’ve got to find a way to get to those. We got to a few tonight. Those goals were the result of getting to the net. [Forward Jeff] Carter made a good play wide. Those are the types of goals that are going to help us get out of it.”
As the score of the game indicates, the Kings scored three goals, something they have done just five times in their last twenty games, a stretch in which they have been shutout five times, and have scored a meager 1.55 goals per game.
But Kings’ play against Chicago, especially the second period, as Brown indicated, may be a sign of good things to come.
“If you look at our chances, we had some really, really good chances to score goals, and we found a way to score a few tonight,” Brown noted. “Unfortunately, we were playing a team that’s at the top of the league. We made a couple of mistakes, and they made us pay. [Blackhawks goaltender] Corey Crawford kept them in the game, especially the first ten minutes of the second period.”
Perhaps the key indicator that things may be looking up for the Kings is one of the underlying reasons they were significantly better in the second and much of the third period against the Blackhawks.
As reported in this space numerous times over the past few seasons, when the Kings have had trouble scoring goals, a big reason has been their lack of attention to detail on their breakout plays from their own zone, an aspect of the game that many people ignore or are not aware of.
Indeed, when the Kings have struggled to score in recent years, a significant cause has often been a glaring lack of puck support, where the forwards are too far up ice when the defensemen are trying to clear their zone. Instead of a short clearing pass to a forward, which allows a team to build speed through the neutral zone, the forwards usually have to slow down, stop or turn back to receive a long clearing pass from a defenseman. That makes it easy for the opposition to intercept or break up the pass, and even if the pass connects, the forward has no speed moving into the attacking zone.
Without speed entering the attacking zone, forwards have virtually no chance of getting in on the forecheck with a realistic hope of getting to a loose puck. The usual result: turning around and heading back into their own end to play defense without generating anything in the attacking zone.
In other words, offense starts in a team’s own zone, 200 feet from the net they are shooting at, and the Kings finally showed signs of paying attention to this particular detail of their game once again against the Blackhawks.
“Coming out of our zone—we were better at it tonight, and we had better chances as a result of it,” Brown explained. “We’ve been struggling in advancing the puck through our zone, through the neutral zone.”
“When we move the puck well coming out of our zone, and into the neutral zone, that’s when you get great chances on the offensive side,” Brown emphasized. “With our struggles to score goals, it actually starts in our own end in moving the puck out.”
As several of his teammates have noted, Brown said that his team needs to keep doing what they’ve been doing to turn things around.
“We have to just keep plugging along,” he said. “I know it’s [like] a broken record, but we’re not going to get out of it by doing anything different.”
“We know what type of team we are, and what we have to do to do, as a team,” he added. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”
Also like his teammates, Brown stressed that his team is as united as ever.
“There’s no finger pointing,” said Brown. “There’s definitely frustration. If you’re not frustrated, and you’re in this room, there’s something wrong with you.”
“It’s a double-edged sword,” added Brown. “At the end of the day, if you take twenty guys who’ve been going through what we’re going through, you’d rather have them be [angry] and frustrated, rather than not.”
“I think it’s important for us to stick together in this room. We understand what’s been happening these last few weeks, but it’s not about anyone but the twenty guys in this room, figuring it out together. We know that once we find our game, we’re going to be there, and that has to be the focus. You can’t dwell on games lost. That does us no good. It’s about finding a way to get it together.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dustin Brown (7:30)
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