Kings Room: McLellan Not Impressed by the Power Play, Tips His Hat to Demko
A power play that is sorely missing Kevin Fiala and Sean Durzi right now.
The Los Angeles Kings dominated the possession game on Saturday, but couldn't turned that into two points in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite putting 40 shots on net, the Kings only put two past Thatcher Demko, who ended the game with 38 saves, 1.39 goals saved above expected and two saves in the shootout.
Demko's found his game down the stretch after a tough start to the season and showed just how dominate he can be on Saturday.
"I think, first we have to tip our hat to him (Demko) he played a hell of a game," said McLellan. "And that's the type of game they (the Canucks) needed as the night wore on. We had a ton of chances and the goaltender made a lot of saves. We didn't, I don't want to say we didn't bear down, because we were putting a lot of effort into trying to score, it just didn't go our way. And then they're a lethal on the power play and we gave them one chance, it was in our net. Which is disappointing, because I think we can handle that situation a little bit better. But, in any case, we loss the special teams situation. Same thing I said the other day, I think against Nashville; power play, penalty kill, penalty shot and overtime."
Losing the special teams battle against this Canucks team is especially disappointing given their penalty kill is anchored to the bottom of the league. The Kings power play has been the one area that's struggled over the last few games and that continued on Saturday. A power play that is sorely missing Kevin Fiala and Sean Durzi right now.
"I wasn't impressed with our power play again," said McLellan.
"There's no doubt about it," said McLellan when asked if the power play is missing Durzi and Fiala. "They're important pieces and they're creative, effective and dynamic. Both of them in their own way. Each of them belongs to a unit, so all of the sudden, both units are affected. Others are trying to fill in, and they're doing a good job. But right now, it's looking for something when we should just be playing it. We'll fix it."
It was also a first game back for Jordan Spence, who was called up after Durzi's injury and has played just one game before tonight.
"It's going to be hard for him, because he's going to be in and out," said McLellan of Spence's game. "But when he gets a chance he's got to go, he made some really good plays (tonight). I think there was a series of one or two plays that he would probably like to handle the puck a little bit better. He turned the puck over in the third period, I think, that became very dangerous. But I think the puck was rolling on him and that made it difficult for him but he was fine."
The Kings ran into a hot goalie in the first period of Thursday's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets too, but were able to solve that issue after the first 20. Both players and coaches emphasized the importance of sticking with your structure and doing what's worked for you when an opposition goalie is hot. And they needed that mentality Saturday.
"I thought we did it (stuck to their gameplan)," said McLellan. "Again, it's a tough game for me to describe, because I think we could play that game over again and have a chance at success. I just ring off opportunities with Kempe's penalty shot, Danault walking in all alone, Kopi had a three-on-one and I can go on-and-on. And some of those have to go in. And I think we always say we have to bear down, that's a common thing, I think we were trying to bear down and it just didn't go for us tonight."
Seeing Spence draw back into the lineup is something fans have been calling for and he proved again why he should be in the lineup on Saturday.
His offensive talent has been clear since day one, but his defensive growth has been evident as well.
"Yeah, obviously, there are still some things to improve on, but throughout the season I feel like my defensive game has gotten better and better," said Spence. "And for me, I have to do that in order to play in the NHL, so that's what I've been thriving on."
A big reason fans have been calling for Spence to dress is because of his ability to quarterback a power play.
But, like the rest of the power play, he wasn't able to do any damage on the man advantage Saturday. Even for a player with his tool kit, it's difficult to jump onto a power play unit you don't have a ton of chemistry with.
"Yeah, I mean, chemistry is really important, especially on the power play," said Spence. "I think the unit I was on was there with open arms. I was pretty comfortable with them, just because last year I played with them. And got to experience a little bit of it on the second unit as well. So, today I thought we had some chances, we couldn't bury them, but hopefully next game we can."
To go along with his offensive talent, his work ethic has also been clear since day one. And it's something McLellan has pointed too several times this season.
"Obviously, you never know when you're going to be in the lineup," said Spence. "So, for me, I just want to be ready, get my foot speed going. Practice like you play, that's a quote that goes a long way back, back to when I was a little kid. I just want to work hard, and when I get the chance, I want to perform well on the ice."
Despite not coming away with just one point, the defensive solidity the Kings have shown in the last eight games was still there.
They've allowed two or fewer goals, in regulation, in each of those games including Saturday.
"I think we talk about how we need to play as a team," said Alex Edler. "I think it always starts with playing solid defensively and then you build your game from there. I think we've done a pretty good job of that so far."
McLellan has talked about the teams identity crisis earlier in the season, but that is gone now. The buy in is evident across the lineup now and it's paying off.
"I think you always find your way as the season goes on," said Edler. "We've done that and we realized how we have to play to be successful."
He's been a King for almost two seasons now, but scoring against the Canucks is still a little extra special for Edler.
"Yeah, like you said, I'd prefer to win," said Edler. "I think we played good enough to win, their goalie was good and he took it to overtime and the shootout."