The Kings were successful in taking away open swaths of the ice against a pair of up-tempo teams in the Rangers and Islanders in their last two games. Darryl Sutter has often spoken about his own team being a fast team, and for the last two games, it was Los Angeles, not the New York teams, that effectively used its speed.
Tyler Toffoli explained it as “just possession of the puck, getting pucks in and playing in their end, cycling the puck and just getting pucks to the net,” and noted that he felt club has done a good job doing so in all three games of the trip.
Certainly several of Los Angeles’ strengths are built around possessing the puck and establishing an offensive zone cycle, and, according to Dustin Brown, such characteristics lead to the ability to slow down teams known for their up-tempo play. If they don’t have the puck, they’re not going to advancing it briskly.
“I think that’s probably the end game because our puck possession is really good,” Brown said. “But I think the last few games, what’s probably have been cleaned up a lot, especially since the Vancouver game, is our neutral zone. If you can do our neutral zone the way it’s supposed to be done and limit the team’s speed and their entries and their puck possession, that’s what we’ve done the last three games. As a result, we have the puck more. I think it’s been well documented, once we have the puck we don’t give it up easily. Again, you go back to that Vancouver game, the biggest difference was our neutral zone was sloppy and allowed them to kind of have the puck more. We’re good in our D-zone, but when you’re defending all night the difference is the neutral zone and getting in on the forecheck.”
Nick Shore has won 20 of 26 faceoffs on this road trip and 54 of his last 85 draws. The rookie who was called up from Manchester on January 12 has improved to 52.7% at the dot this season, a mark that ranks second on the club (behind Jeff Carter’s 53.7%) amongst those who take faceoffs regularly.
Nick Shore, on whether getting more comfortable has led to greater faceoff success:
Yeah, I think as you keep going you get more comfortable. The more you take, even within one game, you start to figure out guys’ tendencies a little bit more and I think that certainly helps. But it’s really an effort from everyone. It’s your two wingers coming in and helping you. It’s the D jumping in. We’ve been well, good lately, so we’re just looking to keep going.
Shore, on how he has improved in faceoffs since joining the team:
It’s such a strong faceoff team, really. All the guys who take faceoffs here do a really good job. I think, especially in today’s game, they’re so important starting with possession after a whistle. There’s a big emphasis on that and I think we just look and go in there and compete in the dot.
Shore, on whether he’s riding a high after scoring his first NHL goal:
No, it’s all over with. I think right now, our only focus is coming in here tonight against a very good team and trying to get two points. [Reporter: Is it easy to put it in the background because it’s a crucial time in the season?] Yeah, definitely. Right after it happens you’re back to playing hockey. It’s cool for a moment, but the two points are the most important things right now. So looking to get two tonight.