Though their performances raised as the games progressed, the Los Angeles Kings struggled through swaths of road games Sunday and Monday in Calgary and Edmonton.
“They’re two really fast teams, so I think we struggled to handle speed and we weren’t fast enough ourselves,” Dustin Brown said. “When you look at both those teams, like I said, they’re fast teams and we didn’t play fast enough.”
The second part of Brown’s response is worth heeding. The Kings aren’t a team blessed with blazing speed such as the Rangers or Penguins, but they’re still a team capable of playing fast. “Playing fast” is reflected in getting into position quickly, moving the puck quickly from the hands of the defensemen into the hands of the forwards, and making swift decisions with the puck on the fly.
That cadence had been a staple of Los Angeles’ play during the zeniths of the team’s competitive success, but it was not there consistently in the two-game road trip.
“A lot of it is just the connection of five players. And it’s D, forwards, just trying to stay together quicker. Be quicker together,” Brown said. “Sometimes the D are holding the puck too long and the forwards are getting too far ahead, and then the D are looking to move the puck quickly but our forwards are not there. It’s a two-way street and sometimes we get disconnected in our spacing and our timing. As forwards we’ve got to be there for the D and as D they’ve got to move the puck as quick as possible.”
When their game has been on point, they have excelled in playing fast and moving the puck quickly despite a speed and skill deficiency in certain spots in their lineup.
Though Sutter didn’t have complaints about he Edmonton game, he also noted that the team “clearly” struggled with speed against Calgary.
“I mean, you evaluate top players, or if they’re playing fast, most top players play really fast, most top players play really hard, and if you look at the league now, it’s generally not a slow player that slows your team down, it’s when a fast player that is a fast player is not playing that way,” Sutter said. “The puck works a lot of times for you. It’s a big difference playing home and road for a lot of our players. It’s no excuse, but there are some inexperienced guys on our team at strong positions that still have a lot to do in terms of their preparation skills, and there’s a point where that’s their responsibility. Otherwise they’re not improving.”
Dustin Brown, on how the Kings improved their game in the later parts of the last two games:
It’s just that. You look at our game, when we’re moving the puck quick and close together we’re generally getting it out of our zone and into their zone at a much higher rate. [Reporter: Does that come from positioning? Does that come from a realization? A guy yelling in the dressing room? How does it…] It’s a matter of moving your feet and working, really. Not that we don’t – I shouldn’t say working because I think we work hard as a group. It’s more just being, I think the speed or making quick plays, is just being sharp.
Brown, on why the Kings were able to fight to stay in the race but not “find the next gear”:
I think it’s a lot of things. We’re not done fighting. We put ourselves in a really hard spot and we’ve got to fight our way out of it and at the end of the day we need other teams to falter. I don’t think there’s a been a lack of effort or care. We’ve just struggled producing offense. You look at our defensive side of the game. I think we’re top five PK, top five shots against, pretty good on the defensive of the puck and that allows us to claw, stay around, and then our power play has been really good the last month or so which has won us games. I mean, it’s no secret we’ve really struggled 5-on-5, so we’ve got to find a way now.