Los Angeles Hockey: Todd McClellan

Can Kings win without good offense?

February, 8, 2012
In the video below, ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose discusses whether the Kings can still be successful without scoring goals.

What follows is ESPNLA's hockey blogger Dan Arritt's analysis on the same issue.

Really, it just comes down to one more goal.

Through 54 games this season, the Kings are averaging a league-low 2.11 goals a game. When they score three or more, they’re 15-0-1. When they don’t, they’re 11-18-9.

That should say it all. If the Kings hope to experience a third straight trip to the postseason, they'll probably need to average at least one more goal per game than they managed through the first two-thirds of the season. And the way the defense has collapsed in the opening round of the playoffs the last two years, the Kings might need to average four just to win a series.

It’s a tribute to Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and a stout penalty-kill unit led by veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell that the Kings are even in playoff contention at this point. Thanks to the NHL’s third-lowest goals-against average at 2.06 per game and the fourth-best penalty kill, the Kings are clinging to seventh place in the Western Conference standings. Five teams trail the Kings by seven points or fewer and the surging Ducks are 14 back heading into their game Wednesday night against Eastern Conference doormat Carolina.

And, let's face it, Quick and the penalty kill can't play much better. That puts the burden square on the shoulder pads of the forwards.

Vancouver, Chicago and Detroit, the heavyweights in the West, average between 3.07 and 3.13 goals per game. That’s a window the Kings need to shoot for the rest of the way, one that’s hardly out of reach for this starting group.

The top two lines are centered by former All-Stars who should be hitting the prime of their careers, Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. They’re flanked by proven scorers, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner, who have a combined 13 seasons with 20-plus goals. Williams is 30, Penner and Stoll are 29 and Brown turned 27 in November.

Hardly an over-the-hill gang.

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Kings: Series returns to L.A. for Game 6

April, 25, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 6

Kings (2-3) vs. San Jose Sharks (3-2) at Staples Center, 7 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Finest line: Who would have thought a month ago the most effective line of the postseason would be the Brad Richardson-Wayne Simmonds-Kyle Clifford combination? The trio spent most of the regular season playing obscure checking line roles, with a few brief appearances on the top line with Anze Kopitar. But when Kopitar suffered a season-ending ankle injury a month ago and trade-deadline acquisition Dustin Penner disappeared, the offense was thrown into disarray. Richardson-Simmonds-Clifford have emerged from the blue to produce six goals and seven assists in five playoff games.

2. Confidence awarded: Kings coach Terry Murray showed confidence in goalie Jonathan Quick when few others did. He put him back in net for Game 5, despite giving up 12 goals in the previous two games. Quick turned in his best performance in months, stopping a playoff career-high 51 shots in the 3-1 victory to keep the Kings alive for another day. Quick can get on a roll just as easily as he can morph into Swiss cheese, meaning this series can still go either way. Of course, it would help if the Kings scored three first-period goals like they did in Games 3 and 5.

3. Second-period blues: The Kings haven’t allowed a first-period goal since Game 1 but they’ve been horrible in the second period, allowing 10 goals in the postseason, including five in the 6-5 overtime loss in Game 3. The players can’t stop to exhale during the middle stretch of the game because the Sharks won't. San Jose is playing this series like it's a soap box derby, starting real slow and picking up speed as the games go along.

4. Brown is down: Another player named Dustin who is having a quiet series is team captain Dustin Brown. He has accumulated just two points in the series and is tied for the team lead at minus-4, a category that nobody wants to lead. Brown led the Kings during the regular season with 28 goals and was second at plus-17. Brown’s scoring slump extends to the end of the regular season, when he had just one goal and two assists in the final six games. No better time to erupt for a huge game than Monday night.

5. Antti’s back: Sharks coach Todd McLellan has twice pulled goalie Antti Niemi during this series. He took his first trip to the bench after allowing four goals in just more than a period in Game 3, and again in Game 5, after three goals sailed by in the opening period. McLellan is sticking with Niemi in Game 6, however, hoping the player who helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup title last season will reemerge. Or, McLellan might have done irreparable damage to his goalie's confidence.

Kings: Quick start sets up Quick finish

April, 23, 2011
Western Conference quarterfinals

Game 5

Kings 3, San Jose Sharks 1 (Sharks lead the series, 3-2)

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Facing elimination, the Kings scored three goals on their first four shots Saturday night and held on behind a record performance by goalie Jonathan Quick to defeat the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

THE STAT: Quick stopped a franchise playoff record 51 shots on goal to keep the Kings alive heading into Game 6 on Monday night at Staples Center.

TURNING POINT: Early in the first period, Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi took a slap shot that was redirected by Kings rookie Kyle Clifford and again by linemate Wayne Simmonds, skipping past the goal line to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. Coming into the game, the Kings had won 68.8% of the games when they scored first this season.

HOT: The Kings got worked in the face-off circle in Game 4, but Jarret Stoll mastered the draw Saturday night, winning 15 of 17 drops.

NOT: The Sharks came into the game scoreless on their previous nine postseason power plays and they didn’t help their cause by going 0-for-4 in Game 5.

GOOD MOVE: Kings coach Terry Murray has stood behind Quick, even after allowing 12 goals in the last two games, and the net-minder turned in a marvelous performance in Game 5 to make everyone look good.

BAD MOVE: San Jose coach Todd McClellan pulled goalie Antti Niemi after he allowed the first three goals and inserted Antero Niittymaki. It’s the second time in the series he has yanked Niemi. After a goalie change in Game 3, the Sharks rallied from a four-goal deficit to win, 6-5, in overtime. This time, the Sharks couldn’t turn the same trick and McClellan may have created a goalie controversy.

NOTABLE: The Kings have outscored the Sharks, 8-1, in the opening period of the series.

UP NEXT: Monday, Game 6, at Staples Center, 7 p.m.

Kings: Second period eaten up by the Sharks

April, 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES — After starting the second period on such a high note Tuesday night, the Kings hit rock bottom before it ever ended.

The San Jose Sharks scored five goals in the second period to tie the score in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinal, then won it, 6-5, on Devin Setoguchi's overtime goal, sending a shell-shocked Staples Center crowd walking slowly to the exits.

“That’s as bad as it gets in the second period,” said Kings coach Terry Murray. “We did this to ourselves.”

In the opening minute of the second period, the Kings extended their lead to four goals against the second-seeded Sharks, but then seemed to throw their gears into neutral, becoming helpless to stem San Jose’s surge.

Patrick Marleau slipped one by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to cut the deficit to 4-1.

No harm done.

Two minutes later, Dustin Penner went to the penalty box for an unnecessary roughing penalty at center ice. Ryan Clowe scored on the ensuing power play to cut the lead in half.

The crowd started gettig antsy.

With about 6 minutes remaining in the period, Logan Couture gathered in a cross-pass from Ian White and slammed it into the side of the net to cut the deficit to 4-3.

The crowd was no longer in a festive mood.

The Kings then got some energy back when Ryan Smyth scored 13 seconds later to retake a two-goal lead, but the Sharks turned Staples Center into a library when Clowe scored with 1:25 left in the period, followed by Joe Pavelski's goal with 31 seconds showing on the clock, putting the game back at square one and leaving the crowd gasping.

The Kings had not allowed five goals in a period all season.

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