With their sixth-straight loss, the LA Kings continue to struggle. Head coach Todd McLellan spoke with the media following Thursday’s loss.
It is not a fun time to be a member of the LA Kings right now. After a strong showing through the first 40 minutes of their game on Thursday, the Kings, who led 2-1 against the Winnipeg Jets after two, gave up two goals in the third period to lose their sixth-straight game.
With frustration mounting, the attempt to find positives is becoming increasingly more difficult. This was proven post-game when head coach Todd McLellan was asked whether he can take solace from Thursday’s end result being his club’s fourth one-goal defeat this season.
“No,” a succinct McLellan began. “We’re finding ways to lose games right now, which is a coach’s cliche, but that’s a fact. We’re finding ways to give [chances] back late in the game, taking a penalty, whether it’s on the penalty kill, power play maybe not clicking. But, we’re a goal short every night and we’re finding a way to be a goal short. So, we’ve got to polish things up so it’s not deceptive.”
As is the norm for many rebuilding teams, learning to win is compulsory at the NHL level. McLellan, however, wasn’t having any of that on Thursday.
“I’m not buying that cliche here,” said the Kings coach. “We have enough experience in that locker room that’s won big, big games. They know how to do it and it should have rubbed off on a number of people by now. There [have] been some nights throughout this streak where we didn’t know how to win or the game management situations that we talked about came into play. I don’t think tonight was that night.”
While losing games during any rebuild is inevitable, there are some viable arguments made in regards to when the end of the Kings’ rebuild is, or was. As a result, the losses should be fewer and fewer. Unfortunately, while it is still very early in the season, we haven’t seen a trend change from the silver-and-black as far as end results go. Frankly, the road ahead doesn’t appear to get any easier with Drew Doughty out for the next six to eight weeks and Sean Walker done for the season, whose absences have spread the Kings’ defensive corps thinner than anyone had anticipated.
Speaking of the defensive corps minus Doughty and Walker, the Kings head coach was asked what he thought of their play on Thursday.
“You know what, they gave us what they had, they defended fairly well, there’s just a few moments in the game where it gets away on you,” McLellan explained. “The penalty-kill role, we just spent the whole practice walking through different scenarios and different situations and how we need to be positioned, and we didn’t execute. Even the rush goal at the end was poor execution, and we’ve worked a lot on that lately, [so the situation] is not deceptive and we have to fix things.”
One specific area of concern has been the Kings’ net-front presence. A good example of this was the first goal of Thursday’s game when the silver-and-black gave up a wraparound goal courtesy of Pierre-Luc Dubois.
“Yeah, we would like to see it improve, of course,” McLellan noted of his team’s net-front play. “That first goal tonight on the wrap, the problem probably happened a lot earlier than that. That was up-ice when we gave up basically a 4-on-2, and the wrap, we got beat to the post, so improved the net play there — net play and the penalty kill, of course, naturally. And the last [Jets goal] was a bit of a sort-out situation. It got touched near the net, but the problem was much earlier than that. Minnesota game, a bit of the Dallas– no, not so much Dallas, but the St. Louis game in and around the net was a concern, but that’s some inexperience on the blue line, as well, and we’ll get better there.
“If it is that tough, which I think it is, we should be doing that offensively and the trade-off isn’t quite there right now. It’s happening to us and it’s not happening so much in the offensive zone. I think we get it there sometimes but we’ve got to be a little harder, a little firmer in that area and certainly at our net, as well. The days of the [Chris] Prongers and the [Derian] Hatchers being overly aggressive and vicious in those areas are– it’s more about body position and controlling sticks.”
As for his club’s special teams play, McLellan, frankly, wasn’t impressed.
“Power play was non-existent tonight,” he stressed. “It was stubborn at the line and when you’re stubborn at the line against a team that stacks it, you get exactly what you got tonight. So, let’s get over being stubborn. Sometimes, you’ve got to give the puck up and go work for it, and we didn’t want to do that tonight, and I don’t think we had a shot on goal on the power play and we took a penalty. So, that’s a pretty negative night for that group.”
There isn’t a lot of joy in Los Angeles right now.
Off to a 1-5-1 start, the LA Kings are not off to the kind of start they had hoped for. While they have lost four of their games by one-goal margins so far, the quality of hockey has decreased this season in the City of Angels.
From a lack of fluidity and creativity on the ice to the constant juggling of lines game by game, it has become apparent that this promising Kings squad is not quite ready for prime time, if you will. As mentioned, though, it is still very early in the season and the silver-and-black can very well become the beneficiaries of a good momentum swing. However, the Kings have to make this happen, to put the hard work on it and earn their keep, so to speak.
The silver-and-black enter a critical weekend with back-to-back matinee affairs, beginning on Saturday when they play host to the struggling Montreal Canadiens.