Need more of a `presence'

A bit later, I will have thoughts from Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar about the new-look first line, but first, here are Terry Murray’s thoughts about the line’s play against Philadelphia, a game in which the first line was kept off the score sheet. The line combined for 15 shots, but lacked the strong play in front of the net that the injured Ryan Smyth so often brings. Murray is staying with the Frolov-Kopitar-Williams line, and here’s what he thought about Wednesday’s game…

MURRAY: “Good possession time, good offensive-zone time. Structurally, pretty good but just not quite there on the net-presence side of things. As a team, we were at the net pretty good in the first 15 games. Specifically with that line, that was a big part of their success early. Right now, and I showed that in the video today, in the team review, we’re not establishing that presence. We’re reluctant to shoot the puck because of it, because we’re kind of waiting for someone to get there. Even when the puck goes from forward to D, up top, and we’re looking to make plays from the blue line, the D are hesitating because now we’re waiting for them to get there. Net presence is the issue, but offensive-zone possession time, cycling, they did a good job against the Flyers.”

Later, a question brough Murray back to the importance of the first line establishing a net presence.

MURRAY: “That’s an important part of what they need to start to get to again, as a line. We’re probably anticipating the cycle too much, and looking for the cycle to happen. Getting pucks to the net, and that net presence, has got to be there on a more consistent basis. The thing is, in this league, if goaltenders are going to see shots, if they’re going to see pucks, they’re going to stop it. They’re too good now. Not only with the goaltender’s skill, but with the five-man collapse in front of the net, they’re going to block shots. So we have to get that mindset again, for sure.”

And how to accomplish that?

MURRAY: “Talk about it, as part of our system and the repetitions that we do in different drills in practice. We review it in video.”

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