Kings pregame: They've got to do what worked all season
Aggressive forechecking, smart defensive play, good goaltending and a system players bought into got the Kings into the playoffs this spring for the first time in eight years.
They abandoned just about all of that in the Game 5 loss that put them on the brink of elimination before they faced the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday at Staples Center in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.
Coach Terry Murray reminded his players that resorting to individual play, as they did after the Canucks began cruising to a 7-2 victory Friday in Vancouver, didn’t get the job done in that game and that it wouldn’t work in what could be their last game of the season.
“I want to stay with the structure and stay with the team play and I was pretty irritated after the second period. Not because of the score but how we were starting to play,” he said Sunday. “We were starting to get a little bit of an ‘I can do it, I will do it myself, I’ll show you how’ attitude and it never works. And I nipped that problem right in the bud between periods.
“We have to stay with what we’ve been doing the last couple of years. It’s been a lot of hard work. You’ve got to trust your system. The good teams, the winning teams, will always trust their play. And it might not work today but if you stay with it, it will work tomorrow.
“That is the attitude and the philosophy I’ve been trying to push here from the time I got here. We were starting to show signs of cracking in the last seven, eight minutes of the second period. And we came back right away in the third with three or four really good shifts. That’s where it’s important. You’ve got to stay with that. Young people have to know that.”
They also have to know that blowing coverages won’t work, either.
Some things can’t be helped: as Murray said, the game “got a little quick” for Sean O’Donnell and Matt Greene seemed to lose concentration the bigger the Kings’ deficit grew, so that defense pair struggled.
But some can be helped, like not getting tight enough coverage on the faceoff play the Canucks have successfully used several times and not allowing Henrik Sedin to set up behind the net to orchestrate the Canucks’ offense.
"Every play that they make comes from the back of the net. It’s automatic. That’s where Henrik is going to park,” Murray said. “He has a [Wayne] Gretzky-like attitude that that’s his home office and he’s going to make a lot of good plays from there.
“We push it out right away. We’ve done a pretty good job overall. Our read on that is we push the puck out the side it goes in and it’s automatic. You go. If he’s in the trapezoid we don’t hesitate. We’ve got to get going and not let him have the time to make a play. And we know what he’s going to do. He’s going to come out the weak side and throw it through the crease. That’s where you have to be ready.”
Murray reiterated his belief in goaltender Jonathan Quick, who gave up four goals on 21 shots, was replaced by Erik Ersberg and then came back in after Ersberg gave up two goals on four shots. Murray wanted Quick to get a respite but felt he had to put his starter back in when Ersberg couldn’t stop anything.
“I’ll be quite honest. I was afraid the score was going to get to about 12. Two goals on four shots and there’s still 14 minutes left in the game. I wasn’t going to leave him in there for that,” Murray said of Ersberg.
“There was an opportunity for him to play in his first playoff game and just shut it down, clean it up and give Quicker rest and move on. But he’s not ready to go, either. I’m not going to leave him in.”
So it’s back to Quick, with his 3.58 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in the previous five games.
Murray said he had planned to talk to Quick on the team’s flight home from Vancouver Friday but instead left that to goaltending consultant Bill Ranford.
“I was going to have Quicker come and sit down beside me and just talk for a while and [Ranford] assured me he’d already had a conversation and everything’s fine. He’s able to deal with it. So I just kind of left it at that,” Murray said.
“He’s always shown the ability to get over it quickly. That’s what I like about him.”
One more note: Murray decided on a fourth line of Scott Parse, Jeff Halpern and Justin Williams, scratching tough guy Raitis Ivanans.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
Photo: Kings defenseman Matt Greene checks Canucks winger Jannik Hansen into the boards during Game 4 of their playoff series last week. Credit: Chris Carlson / Associated Press