ALSO: Don’t miss the latest Sutter-ism from Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter!
EL SEGUNDO, CA — The Los Angeles Kings are a surprising 0-2 to start the 2015-16 National Hockey League regular season, and although they were better in their second game, a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on October 9 at Staples Center, than they were in a 5-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks during their home and season opener on October 7, the Kings are not playing very well to start the new season.
“There’s been [defensive zone] breakdowns, some forecheck bounces—[opposing teams] have scored some goals, and have taken us out of the game,” said right wing Tyler Toffoli. “It’s hard to come back when they’re scoring early goals.”
“We just need to clean up our own zone a little bit,” said forward Trevor Lewis. “A couple of those goals the other night were [off] turnovers. We just need to get back to playing our game—puck possession, getting pucks to the net, and getting those dirty goals.”
“You can’t really win if you only score one goal a game, [as well],” added Lewis. “We need to do a better job of eliminating those turnovers and cleaning up our zone. That’ll create more chances offensively.”
Defenseman Brayden McNabb was a bit more specific about the defensive zone play.
“We’ve got to be sharper, myself and everyone,” said McNabb. “We’ve got to be harder down low, shut things down, and play faster in our own end. When we do that, the offense is successful. It definitely starts in our own zone, for everyone.”
“A lot of it is just being faster with the puck—fast, quick plays—then we don’t have to play in our own end,” added McNabb. “It starts with that. But when we don’t have the puck, it’s just cutting plays off as quickly as you can, taking away the back of the net, and playing our style of game.”
“We worked on a lot of it in practice today, and days prior to today, so it’s something we’re aware of. We’re going to work on it [more] and it’s going to get better.”
As McNabb pointed out, the Kings’ offensive attack begins behind their own net, with good defensive zone coverage and good puck support on breakout plays—short passes allow them to build speed through the neutral zone on attack, which is essential to establishing a forecheck.
“[We have to] put more pressure on the [opposing team] and get our forecheck going,” said Toffoli. “There [have been] times when our forecheck has been really good, and then there are other times when they’re breaking out [too easily] and they’re going down and getting into our zone, and we can’t find a way to get our breakouts going the right way. We’ve got to figure that out, as well.”
“I think it’s just getting back to playing as a group of five in all three zones,” said McNabb. “When we’re playing together making the simple plays, and playing fast, we can be good. There’s chances we’ve got to bear down on, but pucks will start going in here if we keep taking the puck to the net and making short, hard plays.”
Lewis also said their special teams have been a sore point, most notably, their penalty-kill, which has allowed two power play goals in eleven times shorthanded (81.8 percent rating).
“Our penalty-kill is a big momentum boost for us when it’s good, and I think we all know that,” Lewis noted. “It’s got to be better. It’s just a couple of those reads. We’ve just got to get dialed back into it and prepare a little bit harder for it.”
“We’ve got to get it cleaned up in a hurry here,” Lewis added. “We’re into the third game of the season already, so we should be better at that, and we will be.”
With the Vancouver Canucks in town to face the Kings on Tuesday, the Kings will have to be better, facing their first opponent that was a playoff team last season.
“We’re just trying to win tomorrow,” said goaltender Jonathan Quick. “We’ve got a game tomorrow against Vancouver, a division game, so we’re getting ready for that. They’re a good team. They were a playoff team last year—they did something we weren’t able to do last year, so we’ve got to bring our best.”
Are Chemistry Issues Causing Problems?
The Kings slow start to the season raises a question:
Is the significant number of new players who are adjusting to the Kings’ system, and their new teammates, impacting the team? Is their work to master the Kings’ style of play resulting in the occasional, but noticeable glitch in their play?
To a man, the players answered with a resounding “no.”
“I don’t think that’s a factor,” said McNabb. “There’s not a whole lot of new faces. Everybody knows the system, so there’s no excuses there. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.”
“I don’t think it affects anything,” said Toffoli. “We’ve just got to find out the way we need to play, as a team, get our identity going, work hard, and get a win tomorrow.”
Lewis said the new players have had plenty of time and work to learn the Kings system. He also pointed out that some of the new players already know the system.
“We had a whole training camp,” said Lewis. “Everybody knows our system by now. A lot of the new guys and have played in our organization, so they know the system we play.”
“I think it’s everybody,” added Lewis. “We’ve got to be quicker and a lot cleaner, especially on special teams. Everyone knows the reads. We’ve just got to dial’em back in.”
An “Icy” Sutter-ism
On a day when the thermometer hit 91 degrees in El Segundo, California (as of this writing), the Toyota Sports Center, the practice facility of the Kings, was struck by its third power outage in the last three days, most likely related to the current heat wave and resulting heavy power consumption.
On October 10, electrical power went down for 45 minutes to one hour in the early afternoon. Kings staff mentioned that the power also went out on October 11, but they did not provide further details.
Today, the power went out again at 2:18 PM.
During the post-practice media scrum interview with head coach Darryl Sutter (prior to the power outage), a reporter asked if the record heat has had any affect on ice conditions at the Toyota Sports Center.
“The ice is horse-[expletive deleted],” he said, referring to normal conditions.
Then came the zinger.
“So if it’s warmer, it’s just warmer horse-[expletive deleted].”
LOEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis, shown here during practice on October 12, 2015, at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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