AUDIO INTERVIEWS: Includes audio interviews with Dwight King, Darryl Sutter, and the entire media scrum interview with Dustin Brown (not available elsewhere)..
LOS ANGELES — Just ahead of tonight’s Game 6 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the San Jose Sharks, who lead the series 3-2, the Los Angeles Kings, have not only made this playoff series a competitive one, but the pressure is all on the Sharks.
Despite that, the Kings are still just one game away from elimination, and they know that they have to keep doing what’s been working for them, and push forward from that.
“Getting off to a good start is key for us,” said winger and team captain Dustin Brown. “The desperation for both teams should be pretty high, so it’s a matter of matching it, and pushing it to the next level.”
But when you look back to how this series began, with the Kings getting blown off the ice by the Sharks, who won Game 1, 6-3, and Game 2, 7-2, the Kings were often dominated on the ice by the speedy, skilled Sharks.
So what’s changed? What have the Kings done to bring themselves within one game of tying the series, sending it back to San Jose for a Game 7 on Wednesday night?
“Not turning over the puck too much, managing the puck through the neutral zone, not giving up odd-man rushes, you name it,” said center Anze Kopitar. “We didn’t give’em any chances off of our line changes, like we did in the first couple of games. I think it’s just being sharp, all over the ice.”
“We’ve cleaned up our play,” said left wing Dwight King. “They’re a quick transition, forecheck team. In the first two-and-a-half games, they did that at will. They had odd-man rushes, and I think [we’re now playing with] more detail in our defensive zone, which has allowed us to break out, and play in their zone.”
“Everybody had to take a peek at themselves and bring a little more,” added King. “Everybody here is trying to bring their best to the table, and that goes a long way towards team success.”
Along the same lines, Brown focused on puck possession.
“It comes down to [the fact that] our puck possession game has been a lot better,” he noted. “That’s the result of not turning the puck over.”
“We were fast coming out of our zone,” he added. “They have a very, very aggressive forecheck, and it’s hard to break that forecheck. But if our defensemen are fast [to come] back, at times, you can leave their forecheck behind, and that’s what I think happened in the first 15 [minutes]. Our defensemen were really quick getting back to the puck, and [they moved it] cleanly. Those are the two things that stand out to me in the first 15 minutes—our speed back to the puck and our [puck] support, and then, moving [it] quickly.”
“We didn’t have that in the first two games up there. We were slow getting back. As a result, they’d get the puck back, and it becomes a defensive zone shift for us. That’s a key [for us]—getting back quickly, and helping each other out. Their forecheck is very good.”
Limiting turnovers is absolutely critical, especially against a fast, skilled team like San Jose.
“Turnovers are a double-edged sword,” said Brown. “If don’t make’em, we possess the puck a lot more, and we make it harder on them. But if we turn it over, then they score seven goals.”
“Our puck possession game was a lot better [in the last two games],” added Brown. “As a result, [the Sharks’ top forwards] have the puck a lot less. That’s how the puck possession game works. We’ve been on the other end of it, where other teams possess the puck, and some of our guys, like [Jeff] Carter and Kopitar—you try to make it hard on those guys, and the best way to do that is to not let them have the puck.”
“Every offensive player wants the puck, and if they can’t get it, or if they don’t have a lot of time with it, it’s hard your rhythm when you don’t have a lot of touches.”
As indicated, although everything starts in their own end for the Kings to be successful, the idea is to avoid doing that.
“When we play in their zone, that eliminates their possession and their transition game, which is key for them,” said King. “As long as we have the puck, [it means that] we’re doing good things. Playing strong defense is key for everyone on this team.”
“I’ve said it a lot this year, that this is not a defending league anymore,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “Teams that just want to defend and play in their own zone don’t have much success.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dustin Brown (5:06)
Dwight King (2:33)
Darryl Sutter (6:36)
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