Was the puck that was tossed to the front of the net by Blake Wheeler and banked off Trevor Lewis’ skate before trickling past Jonathan Quick to give Winnipeg a power play goal and a 3-0 lead part of a larger trend?
Is it a trend at all? Are there any commonalities between the seemingly growing number of deflections, tips and redirections that have beaten Kings goalies recently?
“I mean, some of them are bad goals. You can say what you want, and some of them are bad bounce goals,” Darryl Sutter said.
Goals off deflections happen virtually every night in every game around the National Hockey League, so it’s not as if this is some bizarre breaking development. But take a look at the Nashville game from two Saturdays ago – Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm scored on goals that changed direction in front of Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones. Thursday night, against the New York Rangers, Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein scored goals that appeared to deflect off Kings and into the net.
“I don’t know what it is, but we still have to get better at eliminating Grade-A chances and scoring chances on the rush with back pressure and good gaps below and above the play,” Jake Muzzin said. “We have to get harder on guys in our zone as a five-some and break those plays off before they occur.”
The Kings have also scored similar goals in recent games, with Mike Richards’ deflection of Matt Greene’s point shot against Nashville, Justin Williams’ greasy third period deflection to Cam Talbot’s left and Kyle Clifford’s pinballing attempt from the crease that beat Michael Hutchinson serving as reminders that goals are most often scored from close range.
There does appear to be some luck involved in the number of pucks that have gotten past Los Angeles goaltenders on bounces, screens and caroms. The Kings have otherwise done a fine job in suppressing shots and are tied for seventh in the league with an average of 28.0 shots against per game.
“The only thing that frustrates you at all in any of those is we don’t give up any shots,” Sutter said. “That was one of our goals at the start of the season when we were fooling around with our defense and our personnel, was we had to get our shots down. So we got ‘em down, to now where the top of the league, within one or two when you think of it, and that’s not easy to do, and we’ve done that. Now we’re giving up too many goals. I’m not into pointing fingers or anything like that. We just collectively continue to work at it.”
Jake Muzzin, on his play and reuniting with Drew Doughty in the third period:
The other game wasn’t very good. Last night, I felt comfortable and I felt good. I have to continue to play that way, for myself and for the team. Most importantly the team, they need me and Drew to be a good pair. If we’re together, we have to do the things that we’re capable of doing. [Reporter: Is it more physical or is it more positional?] No, it’s being hard on guys and being physical for me and that sets up the rest of my game. When I don’t do that, I don’t deserve to play on the top pair.
Muzzin, on handling the losing Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson for an extended time:
It hurts losing those guys. They bring a lot of energy and a lot of offensive ability, but we’ve got other guys that can step up, no problem.
Muzzin, on whether he was a Maple Leafs fan or Red Wings fan growing up:
I was a Leafs fan growing up. Obviously growing up an hour from Toronto, it’s hard not to be a Leafs fan. So it’s always fun playing against them.