February 15, 2011 1:35 pm

Kings winning with defense first

The Kings are on quite a defensive/goaltending roll. They have allowed three or fewer goals in 15 consecutive games and, perhaps more impressively, they have allowed two or fewer goals in seven of their last eight games and in 11 of their last 13 games. In fact, the last team to score more than three goals against the Kings was — drumroll please — Columbus, in a 6-4 Kings win at Staples Center on Jan. 8. The Kings now rank fourth in the NHL and second in the Western Conference in goals-against average, at 2.34 per game.

MURRAY: “I think that just reinforces the checking part of the game. I think that’s what is so critical for us. Even going through the difficult time that we had at home, without being able to find a way to win games, the focus went back to playing without the puck, doing the right stuff on the checking part of it, tightening things up. We made a couple changes on play through the neutral zone, on the forecheck, the neutral-zone forecheck. That allows us to recover some pucks a little bit easier, when they are dumped in, and it allows you to create some turnovers in the middle of the ice and just get a transition going. That’s a group effort. That’s goaltending and out. Everybody is doing a great job, and it’s a reflection of the kind of work ethic that the team is bringing right now.”

On the other side of it is the offense, which has been less consistent. During this road swing, the Kings scored four regulation goals against Washington and three against Edmonton and Calgary, but also were shut out in Minnesota and scored only one goal against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Murray was asked whether he was satisfied with the offensive chances his team has been generating…

MURRAY: “I think we’ve been getting some pretty good looks. Even going back to the Pittsburgh game, we had our looks. We just didn’t finish on it. In the Flyer game, a 1-0 game, Simmer has a breakaway, Stolly has a great look off that weak side. Ponikarovsky has a power move to the front of the net, and I don’t know how he [Sergei Bobrovsky] made the stop on it, actually. It was a great save. So we’re getting our looks against tight-checking teams. Even Washington. They’ve really clamped things down right now with their style of play, changed their system to a 1-2-2 look. They’re trying to get things organized to let themselves have a strong playoff run, on the checking part of the game. So I’m OK with the looks, but we do have to finish. That’s the key.”

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