PART III: ALL TERRY MURRAY WHEAT, NO DEAN LOMBARDI CHAFF
Here is part III of breaking down Terry Murray and Dean Lombardi’s quotes, except these are all Terry…mostly because our GM didn’t say anything that seemed particularly interesting after the last round of quotes in parts I and II.
I. IMPROVING SCORING
One of the way is certainly by putting more shots up. It’s not just carelessly throwing pucks to the net. It’s not about that either. You’re looking to do the right thing when you get pucks to the net, so that you can set up a rebound, a loose puck, for your teammate, who is middle-lane driving and looking for something good to happen off that kind of a play. We’re like 28th in the league when it comes to average shots per game. It’s going to have to get up there where the big boys are, on the offensive part of it, to be in the top 15. That way, your offensive numbers will increase as a part of that.
Color me confused. I mean this in all seriousness. What is our coach talking about? Shot mentality has suddenly developed a limitation, post season, of not “carelessly” throwing shots at the net. What is “carelessly” defined as exactly? We have heard all season to get the puck on net immediately and without getting “cute” or trying to hunt for lanes. Suddenly, we are hearing about “middle lane driving” which is exactly the opposite of Terry Murray’s system of cycling and puck recovery along the half boards to get the puck to the point. There is no middle lane anything within the LA Kings’ offensive system or execution and those top teams that lead the league in shots also have an offensive system that doesn’t live and die along the boards.
Playing a good defensive system allows you to have the puck more, so you go back the other you. You have to check. I think our forecheck system is a very aggressive forecheck. We’re going with three on the attack, all the time, on our forecheck. We have reads, and it allows speed to the puck from the three forwards, and then one of those guys has to recover, and there’s a read there that he has to make, in order to be that high shooting guy. Whenever we do recover the puck, he’s the scorer. He’s the guy that’s going to get the puck and put it to the net. We do encourage our defensemen to be aggressive on the pinch. We pre-pinch on the strong side, we pinch on any pucks along the boards on the weak side. So, compared to any other team in the league, structurally, system-wise, we’re as aggressive offensively as anybody. Now we need to be better to find a way, whenever we are keeping pucks alive, and to me it ties into shot mentality. We have to be better at that.
I just wish one question was asked – “what happens when the defense is prepared for the pinch and recovery along the half boards to the point, where the puck appears to go the far majority of the time? Do the players have other options or do they keep trying to recover the puck and sending it to the point until it succeeds?” That answer would have been illuminating.
II. WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SAN JOSE SERIES? EXECUTION, STRATEGY, PRESSURE BY THE SHARKS?
Absolutely. You’ve got to give the other team some credit there, too. Just go back to the last game, the first period. San Jose came out to avoid a seventh game at all costs. `We’ve got to make sure we get this thing done here today.’ So they came out with that kind of pressure, intensity, really on the puck relentlessly. They pinched for the first time in the series, and were very hard down the boards with their D-men. So part of the credit does go to them. But on the other side of it, when you go back through the other games, and staying with Game 6, our attitude in the first period of every game was, literally in the first 10 minutes, to get the puck in behind the defensemen and get our part of the offensive game established. That’s where a good feeling comes. That’s where players want to play. They get their legs going, they get into the game physically, emotionally. You get a real good sweat going, you’re moving all the time, you’re just playing the game on the fun side of it. That’s the sexy part of the game, is in that end. Why not chip pucks and get it deep? That’s where we, literally, refused to get pucks deep. Sometimes we tried and we’d hit a stick, hit a shin pad. The attitude, that’s the concern. `What happened, guys? Why did we end up coming and chasing pucks back into our own end in the first 10 minutes, when that’s clearly when we wanted to establish that other side of the game.’
It has nothing to do with character. It has nothing to do with being good people. System-wise, the system has been in place for three years. Instinctively, you’re playing the game. There’s not a change there. So how do we deal with this emotionally, mentally? Again, I think there’s quite a bit that can be tied into — and I don’t want to use this as an excuse, and please don’t interpret it that way — but when you have your top player out of the lineup, who can grab a big part of the start of the game like that, against a team that’s putting a big push on, they have the ability of settling things and doing things right. That helps the game plan get established right away. But even saying that, everybody else has to be on the same page. We’ve got to learn from it.
It’s a long quote so I focused on the bolded parts. First, San Jose adjusted. It wasn’t for a lack of effort on the LA Kings’ part. The San Jose Sharks clamped down on the defensive part of the game in game 6. Their defensemen especially fell back and were looking for the dump in and more focused on getting the puck back out and being first to the puck. We, on the other hand, rinsed and repeated the same offensive zone entry and even though they were giving us the middle of the ice (but not the boards), we chose the boards without fail. Whether you call that the Kings’ failure to adjust accordingly to the Sharks’ defense or the Sharks outsmarting the Kings, it’s 6 or half a dozen.
As to the second quote, including the one about Kopitar, Terry Murray is right. He is not using it as an excuse here but he did do so before and, call it what you will, he is telling us that the system or execution of same apparently doesn’t work with one injury to a top player. I am not certain if that is a system failure or the Kings just need more talent. Perhaps both.
III. ON TAKING THE NEXT STEP
From Terry Murray:
I think the big step would be to have home-ice advantage. I think that would be a very big step. That’s a very simple way of throwing it out there, but the expectations have increased by saying that. You can’t get into that slide in January. You have to keep going. You’ve got to play like you did post-All Star, 32 games. I think we had 19 wins in 32 games, 43 points after the All-Star break. That’s being a hockey team. That’s a great hockey team right there. That’s responding to the pressure, because we were 11th coming into the pre-All Star, and then coming out of it and making it [the playoffs] with that kind of record, that is incredible. That’s the kind of game that we need to show from the start of the year. That would get you into a home-ice advantage, and now the expectations grow from there, as you get into the playoffs, clearly. You have that seventh game at home, to use it to your advantage the right way is something we have to learn how to do, mind you. We haven’t been successful in our playoffs at home, we know that. We’re very aware of it. It’s actually been very disappointing for our fans, that we haven’t put up enough wins for them, for the way they supported us here in this year’s playoffs. It was pretty amazing. So that’s a challenge that’s out there, that will be a good thought to maintain over the summer time.
I agree with everything Terry Murray says here, except one. The goal should not be home ice advantage. The goal should be the Stanley Cup. That is the goal every season or the team failed before it began.
IV. ON SCOTT PARSE
Murray was asked about cutting Scott Parse’s minutes.
He should have. I was upset. In the meetings I have, it’s, `I’m ready to go, it’s 100 percent, I want to contribute.’ You have to play then. You’ve got to go. The easiest job in hockey is to be the weak-side forward in your own D-zone coverage.
Raise your hand if you believed for one second that Scott Parse was going to be effective coming back from a layoff since November that included surgery? If you raised your hand, remind me to shake my head at you at some point. Terry Murray may have been the only one who believed this.
It’s going to be an interesting off season. So much more to discuss in the coming months. As always, GO KINGS!