The Kings have won three of four games and have maintained their recalibrated objective in the wake of their early season injury binge to remain in the thick of the teams battling for a playoff spot, so there aren’t exactly alarms sounding at the moment.
But teams will always look to continue to refine their detail and address their shortcomings, and at the moment, that fine tuning will focus on the way the team starts games. Los Angeles fell behind 3-0 in the first period to Detroit on Thursday in a 4-0 defeat and yielded a pair of goals in the first period against Minnesota on Saturday before rallying for a 4-3 overtime win.
Drew Doughty hypothesized that the team flipping its meetings and morning skate on Monday – the team didn’t take the ice until roughly 10:30 – was due to the desire to etch out a better start.
“That’s always our focus going in to the game, is having a good start and get the lead but obviously we weren’t able to do that the last few games and we know what we’ve done wrong, so yeah, I think that’s why practice time kind of changed up, just to change things up a little bit and see if we can get a better start,” he said.
If they’re looking for improvements, the traditionally tight-checking and defensively sharp club could stand to generate more offense early in games. Through 40 games, Los Angeles has scored just 20 first period goals. They’ve also ceded 28, representing their only negative goal differential in any period.
Devin Setoguchi noted that the team had a “brief talk” about their starts.
“I mean, the last six games we haven’t started very well and we haven’t scored very many goals in the first period, I think one to be exact,” he said. “For us, starts are crucial. A lot of times you don’t come back. The team that scores first has a better chance of winning games, so we just need to focus and prepare better heading in to the first periods and be ready right when the puck drops.”
Setoguchi was correct – the lone first period goal scored over the past six games belonged to Tanner Pearson in the 3-2 win over San Jose on New Year’s Eve. In the last 11 games, the team has three total first period goals: Nick Shore’s in Nashville, Jeff Carter’s in Dallas and Pearson’s.
Drew Doughty, on what the Kings could improve in their first periods:
Well, I think when we let in one goal early in the game, early in the first period, I think the energy — not that the energy on the team goes down, but we don’t take the energy in the right way. We kind of just keep playing and not that we’re not determined to tie it up, but a lot of times another goal comes right after that and then when you’re down two right off the bat it’s hard to get any momentum going because clearly the other team has it also. Yeah, I think it’s important that even if we get down one that we get the next one and tie it up right away.
Doughty, on how the Kings feel at the midway point of the season:
We’re all right. Obviously we could be better, we’d like to be in a better position in the playoff race. We realize the reason why we’re in this spot right now and it’s due to inconsistency and winning three games and losing three games so we’re looking to be more consistent in the second half.
Devin Setoguchi, on whether winning the regular season match-up against a team is important:
I mean, I think every game right now when you look at the standings is an important game for us no matter who it is. So as far as approaching [Dallas], we know them, we know how they play but a lot of it is always about us; how we play, how we start, how we react and are we going to push or are we going to push back. We need to make sure that we’re ready to start tonight and worry about what the Kings are going to do because we already know what they’re going to play like.
Matt Greene, on defending against Tyler Seguin:
Just try to keep the puck out of his hands. He’s a dangerous player, he’s a top, top offensive guy in the league, him and Benn, Spezza, Sharp, all those guys. So the less time you can limit them with the puck it’s always good.
Greene, on Spezza’s skill on the walls and how that affects his game:
It’s just another high-powered offensive guy that you’ve got to be aware of when he’s out there. You know, I think it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, you don’t want to give up the middle of the ice and try to keep him contained on the outside and limit his chances.