Kings Coach Terry Murray Sizes Up His Defense

Alec Martinez (photo by M. Zampelli)

While much is being made – and rightfully so – about the gaping holes created in the Kings’ offense now that they’ll be missing Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams, never forget that old sayings often become old sayings because there’s some truth to them.

Ever heard of the best offense is a good defense?

Or defense wins championships?

In hockey you could add ‘goaltending’ to the equation and that would probably be just fine for Kings coach Terry Murray – because he looks pretty solid there, with Jonathan’s Quick and Bernier.

Yet, what about LA’s defense this year? Murray recently weighed in with a report card, of sorts, on three of the key components to his defensive line-up – guys who will be counted on heavily for the balance of the regular season and into the playoffs…

On Jack Johnson – “His game has been OK, it’s been OK. It needs to be better. And he was very good at the start of the year. There’s pockets in the games that we’ve played so far this year where he’s been right here (raising his hand high), very good, and there’s other pockets where his game has dipped. To me, it’s a young defenseman, of learning to focus and concentrate and give that part of it the best effort every night, every game. Whenever you lose that concentration for a moment you end up like a goal that was scored with Calgary. It’s a line change, it’s a breakout from behind their net and you’re just not quite, maybe, focused enough to see that guy coming – although he’s coming about 75 miles per hour. But, that’s your responsibility. That’s the read you have to make as a defenseman. So, he’s been great on the power play at times this year. A lot of his points have been special teams. Again, there’s a dip. We need him to get back and we need that part of our game to be better and he’s a big part of it.”

[Johnson has only one point, an assist, in his last 14 games. His last goal was February 2nd against the Oilers.]

On rookie Alec Martinez – “He’s really impressed me this year. Quite honestly, coming into the training camp, I probably, in my mind, had a couple of other young guys who were in front of him – Jake Muzzin being one, because I did see him in the playoffs last year in the American League. Marty has been dealing with everything the right way. From the time he went back down to Manchester in the early part of the year, worked out his game and really pushed the physical side of it. But, he really has grown emotionally and mentally to the NHL pace. So, that’s what’s impressed me because he has taken major strides in that part of the game. That’s why we see him in the line-up every night and he’s a contributing player every game.

On Willie Mitchell‘s game – “It’s really gotten better. The injuries were obviously a disappointment for him, for us. But, it does happen. And he’s come back in the last while, months, and played very well. He’s a great defending defenseman. He’s got incredible range, his stick is incomparable – and (Rob) Scuderi has a great stick. So, those two players are outstanding on the defending side of it – using their sticks, stick on puck, getting in the passing lanes on special team play. That’s the kind of player that we agreed to when we signed him in the off season. And the other part of it that has gotten better here recently are those little ten foot, 12 foot passes. He’s making pretty good decisions with the puck. He’s finding guys in the middle of the ice for those nice little handoff plays or gets us out of trouble. Again, that’s something we saw when we talked about him in the summertime and I’m starting to see it at the right time now.

special note: Willie Mitchell will be a guest on MayorsManor before the game with Vancouver on Thursday

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