Kings' Terry Murray: 'We can be a playoff team'
The standings say otherwise -- and so does common sense -- but Kings Coach Terry Murray said Friday that he believes his team can make the playoffs.
That was mildly startling, given the Kings' inability to hold third-period leads against Toronto and Phoenix in the two games they played before facing Columbus on Friday night at Staples Center. And given their lack of depth up the middle -- and erratic scoring, which left them with the fewest goals in the West and five points out of eighth place before Friday's scheduled games.
Murray isn't afraid to say what he thinks, as evidenced by his quote, while coaching the Flyers against the Red Wings in the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, that his team was in a "choking situation." Which it was.
Maybe his remarks after Friday's game-day skate were meant as a test to see how his players would react to the bar being set higher than any other Kings team has reached since the 2001-02 season.
They surely didn't pass that test in the losses to the Maple Leafs at home or to the Coyotes at Phoenix. In the latter game, Murray benched Alexander Frolov for a defensive lapse that helped the Coyotes tie the score, even though Frolov is the team's top goal scorer.
"When I now look at our hockey club after these many games and see how we have played, and (with) 17 one-goal games going into the third period, we are capable of becoming a playoff team this year," he said.
"I didn't know what to expect at the start. With so many new players and young guys that we had in our lineup, you have a group of players, basically. That's all you have, and you're trying
to bring it together to become a team.
"I'm seeing that. I'm seeing a team play hard on some nights and other nights we seem to be satisfied with 40 minutes or 50 minutes or 55 minutes. And that is not acceptable. We need to come for 60 minutes and compete at a very high level every night, not let that difference in the game being one play where [a player will say] 'I lost focus,' or that coverage that was lost as it was in Phoenix with Frolov.
"That cannot be acceptable and that's where players have to be accountable and that's the responsibility of the coach."
He said San Jose "is in" the playoffs and that the Sharks and Detroit Red Wings are pulling away from the West pack, and that the Kings can't afford to let the teams in the next six spots get too far ahead.
The process of making the playoffs has to start in players' heads before it can happen on the ice.
"We have to start to think of ourselves as a playoff team," he said.
If only it were that simple.
More tonight after the Kings-Blue Jackets game.
-- Helene Elliott
Photo: Kings Coach Terry Murray watches his team play the Colorado Avalanche on Sept. 24 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Credit: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images