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Kings Need to Work It
From the beginning of the season, I have been adamant that the Kings will be in the playoffs. Barring a disaster of 2006 proportions the Kings will be on the road towards a Stanley Cup. However in going 3-3-1 since the Olympic break against mostly playoff contending teams, the Kings are showing that their youth and inexperience will temper expectations come late April.
The most notable characteristic the Kings are showing is their lack of intensity on the ice at times. In Sunday’s 3-2 loss against the Nashville Predators it took the Predators scoring a goal for them to wake up from their slumber. They seem to be content on relying on what have gotten them to where they are now.
“When we play them we have a shift here and a shift there,” captain Dustin Brown said Sunday about playing the Predators. “When you have a team that plays that consistently you can’t have a shift off.”
While it may be reassuring they have the wherewithal to realize what they are doing, it is nonetheless unsettling to hear something like that being said by a playoff team as they’re heading towards the postseason.
“We’ve have to know that we’ve got to come back out with a better start to the game,” head coach Terry Murray said. “It’s going to be demanding.”
And every game from this point on is going to be demanding as the Kings with few exceptions will either be facing playoff bound teams or teams that are desperate to get into the postseason. However the Kings should have an advantage playing eight of their final 14 games at home. But coming out of the gate lackadaisically will not get the job done.
“This game was two points that we wanted that we did not get,” goalie Jonathan Quick said after Sunday’s loss.
Part of the growth process for the Kings is being able to handle adversity. They got dealt a raw deal against the Predators when a goal that would have given them a 3-1 lead was disallowed while a Nashville goal on the other end was allowed despite the obvious interference on Quick. It left the game tied at 2-2, but the Kings responded by allowing Patric Hornqvist to get behind the defense and tip the game winning goal in with 3:31 left in the game.
“It’s one of those things where we had to respond after that, and we didn’t,” Brown said.
Head coach Murray wants the team to be more aggressive and take the puck through the middle early to establish their game.
“It’s the importance of getting the puck in to get your game going,” Murray said. “It’s too tempting to try to dangle a little bit, to make one extra play, to something other than that mentality we need. It’s the young team mentality unfortunately. That’s what it is. In my mind I see that over the years, and once we buy into that we can become a better hockey club.”
The Kings are now sixth in the Western Conference with 85 points after 68 games trying to catch up with the Phoenix Coyotes who are fourth with 91 points in 70 games.
“We need to come for 60 minutes and know the importance of every play, of every pass, of every face off,” Murray said.
If the Kings want a chance to avoid an epic collapse like that in 2006 much less have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs they better take heed to Murray’s words.