Kings hoping for more offense from their defense
Kings defensemen played a role in all four goals in the team’s 4-3 victory over Phoenix on Saturday, and Coach Terry Murray would like to see that happen a lot more.
Matt Greene got a stick on the puck in the neutral zone before Phoenix turned it over on the first goal, which was scored by Justin Williams; Drew Doughty scored the second goal after a nice fake; Alec Martinez scored the third goal with an assist from Greene, and Jack Johnson’s blast created the rebound that led to Jarret Stoll’s diving game-winner.
“That would be a very good thing to continue,” Murray said, “and that’s really where you have to come to today, with the way teams play on the structure and their [protect] home-plate attitude. You’ve got five down tight. There’s not a lot of room to make plays. Unless something good is happening off the rush or you get now second options off of rebounds.”
Murray was asked if he had ever considered using Johnson or Doughty up front to capitalize on their mobility and shots, but he said he never thought about it. The notion of using Johnson at forward isn’t so far-fetched: General Manager Dean Lombardi has said Johnson played more like a rover than a defenseman while at the University of Michigan and contributed a lot offensively.
Murray said San Jose defenseman Dan Boyle often plays like a rover, finding open ice away from the puck and sneaking into the offensive zone.
“You can do that from the back end and be more effective than as a forward player because you’re coming from up top. You’re very hard to identify,” Murray said. “You can lose people. Defending players are focused more on the puck sometimes and now you lose that player on the back side coming in.”
Johnson has had seven assists in his last 10 games and is three points from the career-best 36 he scored last season on eight goals and 28 assists. Doughty has two goals and five points in his last 10 games but with four goals and 25 points remains well off the pace he set last season in collecting 16 goals and 59 points. He hasn't been as assertive or effective at either end of the ice as he was last season, and that was true even before he suffered a concussion and missed six games in October.
But Murray said Doughty has been more actively involved in the offense lately and hopes that’s a positive sign.
“The last half-dozen games he’s really got his feet going. That’s the big difference in his game for me, is his skating,” Murray said. “He’s alert. He’s jumping. He’s got nice energy level. We’re seeing a lot of puck-carrying but we’re seeing a lot of good things happening away from the puck in the offensive zone.”
Murray said the coaching staff had been reviewing video with Doughty and telling him to become more involved but it might have taken time for the message to sink in.
"Your effectiveness, you have an impact in every game whenever you’re jumping and using your skating ability in the game today," Murray said of Doughty. "Just moving the puck and standing there and looking for a shooting opportunity -- that was good maybe a decade ago, but it’s a different animal that we’re looking for at the back end and he’s got all the tools, he and Jack, with their size and strength, the minutes they can play and the way they can skate. They can generate a lot on the secondary part of the scoring for us and that’s the game that he’s been showing recently."
-- Helene Elliott