People are now starting to take notice of the LA Kings. After a bumpy start to the season included several key injuries, the waters are calming, and the victories are piling up. With a 3-0 dispatching of the St. Louis Blues on Monday night, LA has now won five straight games — including a pair of shutouts.
Following his team’s latest victory, coach Todd McLellan shared the following thoughts:
On the benefits of having two effective power play units
Without a doubt. It can keep the opposition off balance. The second unit doesn’t mimic what the first unit does, in certain situations, especially off breakouts and entries. They do something different and it’s valuable when they’re clicking. Tonight, they got the winning goal. It was important for them to feel confident. I think we kept them out there a little longer than then we would have normally, but they deserved that time. Some of the other power play situations were good for them.
On the play of Andreas Athanasiou in his two games back in the lineup
It’s difficult to come back from what he went through, not being able to train basically at all for two weeks is a tough thing as an athlete in any sport. To come back and be able to integrate back into the lineup speaks volumes about his ability to skate and his quickness. Today we saw that a little bit more. He has quick hands, he has quick feet, that line was dangerous [Michael Amadio] playing with [Austin] Wagner and [Athanasiou], there’s some speed on the wings and [Amadio] can move the puck around. We were happy with the minutes that they gave us.
On the ceiling of Dustin Brown after playing in his 1,200th game tonight
I’ve been up against him a lot longer than I’ve been with him and I can tell you the 80-some games or 90 games, whatever it might be that I’ve been here, I’ve enjoyed it a lot more on his side than standing there watching him play against you. You can see why he’s had such a great career. He’s competitive, he’s been able to adapt and change. That’s the one of the biggest things for an individual that’s played that long, is understanding how the game is played, study it a little bit, figure out how you’re going to be effective in the game, accept change. Our group as a whole starts with the five veterans that we have and it works its way down. There’s nobody more senior than [Brown] and he’s getting rewarded for a lot of things that he’s doing well right now. Might sound strange, but we actually took some things away from him, which is never easy as a veteran player, and that would be penalty kill. As a result, he’s got more pop in his legs. Would he like to be out there? Of course he would. He’s got more pop in his legs and he seems to get more done without it, so good for him.
On what he is seeing from Brown this year that he didn’t see last year
He gets it now. He’s probably no different than the rest of the guys when we came in. There was a huge change for the way a lot of players have played in the past systematically, but he gets what’s happening on the ice now. I look at the power play, he’s been rewarded with a lot of power play goals and points, some adjustments over the summer that we thought would help, the power play in the zone, he’s been able to capitalize in those situations an awful lot. The big thing is he’s still having fun playing the game, he really is. It’s miserable when you’re losing. When you’re winning, doesn’t matter how old you are, you have a lot of fun doing it. He seems to be doing that right now.
On the comfort level of Sean Walker in his first game back
He was a factor in the game. His legs were good, he’d probably tell you he is a little rusty with the puck at a few points in the game where he could have made some plays. We’re just happy to have him back, he means so much to our team. Getting him and Matt Roy back into our line up makes a big difference. I’m not discounting what some of the guys, the young players, did when they came up. [Austin] Strand and [Kale] Clague and Toby [Björnfot] and Mikey Anderson, they all pinch in. Even [Kurtis MacDermid] when he’s in the lineup, they did a really good job of playing. Getting those two back into the lineup solidifies our back end a little bit more.
On if we should be surprised at the team’s success or the veteran core’s success this season
There’s two parts to that question. The veteran part, that’s the easy answer. We’re not surprised one bit. We’ve chosen those five [Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Doughty, Quick] to be here for a reason. They have championship characteristics and qualities that they spread throughout the locker room on a daily basis. We can win 3-0 and lose 3-0, they’re still doing the things that we need them to do to bring young players along. It’s such a good environment to be a young player right now. That part of the question, don’t be surprised one bit at what they’re doing. The other side of the coin, I think Marco Sturm mentioned it right now, we have some confidence. It feels right now like it did when we ended the year last year. Everybody’s in sync, we’re structurally pretty sound, we’re making plays, we’re getting some good goaltending, our specialty teams are providing us a positive boost most nights. Is that surprising? Probably not to any of us here, we believe we can do it. I’m sure the hockey world it is a little bit.
On if the pride factor comes into play with veteran players recent success
If I answered that question by saying “yeah pride does come into it” I may be accused of saying they lacked it in the past, they didn’t. It was just a tough couple years, the transition years are hard on veteran players. You won with a lot of your buddies and you see them leaving, you don’t really believe in what is coming until you see it and you get the play with it for a while. The hardest thing is transitioning from one group to the next. The five guys have bought into what we’re doing, they’re very coachable, they spread the word quite well from the coaching staff on through the players. I don’t think it’s a pride thing, I think it’s just getting through the pain of retooling the team and getting through it all. Now they’re in a spot where they understand where we are and that point we’re in, so it makes a little easier for them.
On if there were strategical adjustments to the neutral zone defending in this game
We have a certain way we want to play and we played it fairly well for most of the game. For the first six minutes we’re finding our legs and getting into it, and then the last five or six minutes they threw everything they had at us and that’s when your goaltender and the odd break, I think they hit a post, comes into play. Structurally, we did a lot of the things that we wanted to do and they worked out for us.
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