The offensive numbers are bleak. The Kings are tied for 28th in the league in goals per game — tied, coincidentally, with Anaheim at 2.27 — and have scored the fewest 5-on-5 goals in the NHL this season. At the start of the season, the Kings spoke openly about improving scoring, and now, almost one-third of the way through the season, they’re actually scoring less. After practice today, captain Dustin Brown went into some detail about the Kings’ offensive struggles…
BROWN: “It’s the same thing. We’ve got to find ways to generate more shots. I personally think it starts with our neutral-zone play, coming up the ice together. Sometimes we get too spread out. Whether it’s a quick counter or a long counter, we’ve got to be able to identify that, as a group of five, and come up together. Right now, we’re really spread out in the neutral zone, which forces us to dump it in. And if we’re spread out in the neutral zone, that means we’re going to be spread out on the forecheck, and it’s hard to turn pucks over with a one-man forecheck, which we’re seeing a lot of right now.’’
Question: Is there anything that can be done, system-wise, to open things up?
BROWN: “I don’t think it’s our defensive system. Like I said, I think it’s executing our neutral-zone play when we have the puck. You look at our team and, I don’t know what the stats are but I think we have nine or 10 guys who have scored 20 goals in this league. So, guys can score goals. But we can’t score goals when we’re dumping the puck in and not getting it back. The (cause) of that is our neutral zone. As players, if we have a system in place, guys need to identify if it’s a quick counter or a long counter. Those are really our two options. I think every team has those two options. So, right now, we’re getting caught in between those. We’re not really doing a quick counter and we’re not really doing a long counter. It puts guys to where they have to chip it in, and there’s no speed and pressure on the puck. You go back and, when we played the game after Vancouver, we got in on the forecheck. I don’t know how many goals we scored, or what the stats were, but we had grade-A scoring chances and we were scoring as a result of pressure on the forecheck. We have to get in there and recover the puck first, and then the goals will come.’’
Question: What about the net presence? Is there a thought that maybe you miss guys like Handzus and Smyth in front of the net?
BROWN: “I think we’ve been around the net, but we have to give ourselves opportunities to be at the net. I think we can do a better job of getting to the net. It starts with getting the puck back in the O-zone, and right now we’re not doing a lot of that. We have good rush chances, but we need that consistent pressure on the puck. Once we get that, then you can have a guy go stand in front of the net when we have the puck. Our main priority right now, I think, on the offensive side of the puck, is dumping in with pressure and getting the puck back. You look at the good forecheck teams, and those are always the guys that have 30, 40 shots a game. It’s because they have the puck. If they don’t have the puck, they get it back and spend time in the offensive zone.’’