LA Kings Think They Can Reach “Another Level”

EL SEGUNDO, CA — The mood was subdued at the Los Angeles Kings practice facility in El Segundo, California the day after their 2-1 double overtime loss in Game 2 of their first round playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

&But the subdued mood was only because after such a long, grueling game and a flight home, they did not skate on Saturday, choosing rest, re-hydration, and recovery instead.

“You get fluids into [yourselves],” said forward Jeff Carter. “We got in here and got moving, a little bit. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through it before. It’s nothing new.”

ldquo;Just got the guys in, get’em regrouped, get the recovery resources they need,” said head coach John Stevens. “I talked a little about game plan. We had two games on the road there where we were close in both games and had an opportunity to win but didn’t. We need to climb back in this series here tomorrow.”

“We used today to regroup and get our energy back,” said defenseman Dion Phaneuf. “We’ll be back at it tomorrow. The playoffs are about whether you win a game or a lose a game. You’ve got to regroup, you’ve got to come back and you look at what you did well, you look at what you’ve got to work on to get better, and that’s what we’re doing here today. It’s obviously disappointing when you play games, especially when they go into double overtime, triple overtime. The bottom line is that’s playoff hockey. You’ve got to find a way to regroup and that’s what we’ll do.”

Although the Kings were close, score-wise, in Games 1 and 2, the Golden Knights lead the series, 2-0, and their superior speed was on display in both games, so much so that the Kings ended up spending relatively little time in the offensive zone and too much time in their own zone, and if not for two, heroic efforts by goaltender Jonathan Quick, the results of both games would have likely been rather gruesome for the Kings.

“If you look, and we have looked at it, they create an awful lot off their play in the zone,” said Stevens. “They’re really good in the zone. They have some specific things that they do in the zone. They’re really strong on the puck down low, they do a good job of creating some backside opportunities and I think their power play has given them a lot of momentum in the series. They’re a fast team. They do play with speed on the rush or create some rush opportunities, but you can’t ignore their ability to create from being in your zone, and I think that’s the area we need to shore up, a little bit.”

“I think that you’ve seen through the first two games what was anticipated,” said Phaneuf. “It’s going to be hard checking, it’s going to be a fast series, and I think that’s what you’ve seen. There wasn’t a lot of room on both sides and We’ve got to tighten up, defensively.”

“It’s on us, the defensemen, in the sense that we gave Quickie too much work,” added Phaneuf. “He’s an incredible goaltender and he made some big, big saves to keep us in the game last night. I call them ‘momentum saves’ or ‘momentum swings.’ But we’d like to limit his workload.”

That said, it’s not like the Kings didn’t do anything right on defense. In fact, they were able to limit the Golden Knights chances off the rush.

“I think our defensemen have done a really good job of kind of standing up and creating good gaps,” said Carter. “Like I said, they’re a quick team, they’re a highly-skilled team. They’re going to create opportunities. But I think, for the most part, we’ve done a pretty good job at that. When there are times when there are little breakdowns and they get a chance, Quickie’s been there for us.”

On the offensive side of the puck, the Kings need to get more pucks and bodies to the front of the Vegas net, and they need more sustained pressure in the offensive zone.

“[Offensive] zone time would help, yeah,” said Carter. “Just a matter of getting pucks in there and going to work. We know what we’ve got to do, and we’ll get back to it tomorrow.”

“{Offensive zone time is] an area that we can definitely improve on,” added Carter. “Like I said earlier, they’re a highly-skilled offensive team. They’re quick, but they have a strong defensive game as well. If you watch, they’ve always got a third guy back and they don’t give up a lot of odd-man rushes so that’s on us to get the puck in there and start grinding away.”

“We’d like to spend a little more time in their zone here so we can create a little more and wear’em down a little more,” said Phaneuf. “That’s something that we’ll address.”

Carter also noted that the Golden Knights have02 had more than a little to do with the Kings’ difficulties in getting offensive zone time and quality scoring chances.

“They’re a good defensive team,” said Carter. “They’ve got a great goalie back there. We know we’ve got more. There’s areas that we can clean up and improve on that I think will hopefully translate to some more goals.”

“They’re a fast, highly skilled team and I think we’ve seen that the first couple games,” added Carter. “They play a really solid team game. They always have guys back on the rush on defense. There’s not a lot of holes in their game. We need to up our game here to create some more chances.”

The Kings are also looking for greater success with the man advantage.

“I think we’d like to generate more [on the power play] and you always want to generate more, so that’s kind of a standard answer,” Phaneuf noted. “But our job, when you’re on the power play, is to produce. You’re not going to score every power play, but it’s about momentum and special teams on both sides of the puck.”

“There’s areas we want to work on, without getting into too many details, but if there’s one area with our power play, I think we’ve got to generate more pucks [to the net] and that’s especially on us in the back end,” Phaneuf added. “It’s on us to find lanes. Forwards work hard to get us the puck up top. It’s not easy to get it out of the corners. It’s our job, as defensemen, to find lanes and get pucks through.”

Despite being in a 2-0 hole in the series, the Kings remain upbeat.

“I think guys are staying positive,” said Carter. “This is nothing new for us. We’ve been here before. At the end of the day, we come home and we’ve got to take care of business at home.”

Phaneuf and Carter, both National Hockey League and Stanley Cup Playoff veterans, pointed out that the series is far from over.

“I thought that we did a lot of good things in the first two games,” said Phaneuf. “Obviously, we need a little bit more and that’s what we’re going to work on getting to. The bottom line is it’s a series. It’s not one game, it’s not two games. We would’ve liked a better outcome, but we come back here, we’re coming home, we’re playing in front of our fans. We’re going to use that energy and today’s about reload and get ready for tomorrow.”

“That’s the thing,” Phaneuf added. “When you’re in the playoffs, when you’re in a series, you’re playing the same opponent over and over. It’s about making adjustments. We’ll keep what we do in our room, but there’s things, no matter if it’s offensively or defensively, that we’re always looking at to improve. We’re going to have our meetings tonight. We’re going to look at what we want to work on and we’re going to generate more [offensive] zone time. I think that’s important for any team…we want to be better.”

“It’s a long series,” Carter observed. “It’s a long series. Obviously, we would’ve liked to have gotten a win in Vegas, but it’s a long series.”

“I keep saying it, but we know what we’ve got to do. We know we have more in our room. There’s another level there and we’ve got to get to it.”

Indeed. But if the Kings don’t reach that level, the long series Carter mentioned won’t be long at all.

lEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter. Photo: Gann Matsuda/

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