Having four days off between games is a mixed blessing. Given that the Kings started the season with four games in the first seven nights, the rest was welcomed, but four days is a long time between games. Even with Saturday’s day off, three consecutive days of practice cane become repetitious, so coaches have to find ways to keep things fresh and work on areas that need improving. As previously mentioned, the power play is a big part of that, but Terry Murray also talked today about the defensive side, and about limiting the number of opponents’ odd-man rushes.
MURRAY: “The chances against off the rush. We had the same meeting earlier today with the forwards. John (Stevens) met with the defensemen. I reinforced a lot of the good things, the positives, that the forwards have been doing, but the 20 rush chances against, in four games, is a high number, when we go back and refer to the past couple years. It’s happening as a result of the activation of defensemen.
“Every team now, and especially the Vancouver club, they’re really on the attack. Atlanta had five defenemen who were jumping all of the time, and if you miss that assignment, with your third forward high in the offensive zone, just by a few feet, if you get turned the wrong way you’re going to see an odd-man rush coming at you, right from their blue line. So we brought awareness to that, through the meeting. That’s the one focal point that we needed to review, and it will be there tomorrow. We did a lot of D-zone coverage, tracking drills out of the D-zone coverage, and trying to bring real good attention to that point.”
Murray was also asked about 5-on-5 scoring, a clear point of emphasis from the start of training camp. The Kings had only one 5-on-5 goal in their first two games, then scored three against Atlanta and four against Vancouver. Murray was asked about the state of the Kings’ 5-on-5 offense…
MURRAY: “When I look at our competition in the early part of the season, you’ve got Vancouver and Calgary, probably two teams that have the better defensive groups in the league. Vancouver is maybe the No. 1 defense corps in the league, as far as looking at it on paper. So there’s not a lot of space and not a lot of time. You’re under immediate pressure, and when you pass up that one shooting opportunity, that pretty well shuts it down, and you’ve got to go back and try it again, through another breakout almost. So, more of a shot mentality, to get to the answer to the question. The net presence was off in the early part of the season, the first couple games, so that was better in the last two games. It was certainly better against Vancouver.
“That F3 [forward], that player who helps out against the odd rushes against, the tracker in good position to work with your defense, also is a critical guy in the offensive part. He’s finding that little pocket, that seam, that quiet area, and when we have him there he’s getting some quality chances, either to shoot the puck to the goaltender or to maybe find somebody who is beating their man off the boards in the corner, for a little backdoor pass. That was better in the last couple games.”