After letting an early two goal lead turn into a tie game, the Kings came back to put away the Coyotes in a shootout on Thursday evening – now giving them points in four straight games.
Following the festivities in Arizona, LA coach Todd McLellan shared the following thoughts:
On what he has seen in the last three games that has given the team success
Some consistency with lines. I think establishing and getting some established defensemen back. Matt Roy just makes a huge difference back there, not that the group that we had in throughout the injuries, not that they weren’t capable, but he just stabilizes things so much back there and just makes us a little bit deeper.
On if the coaching staff is more focused on developing Gabe Vilardi’s defensive game and letting his offense develop naturally
His offense will come, I’m not worried about that one bit, he makes a lot of smart plays he’s got a lot of deception in his game, he sets people up, we’ve got to let this guy breathe a little bit offensively. Even I looked at his ten-game stint with us last year and he’s almost a point a game guy, that’s great, he’s gonna get sixty points and he’ll have 20 goals for us, it’s a hard, hard league offensively and we’re trying to establish a complete game with him, face-offs, defensive responsibility, the ability to check the other team’s top players, and he’s taking all of that in and working really hard at that part of his game. I don’t think the offense is ever going to be diminished because of those things, in fact, I think it’s going to open up as time goes on. He’s doing the same things he did last year when he put points up all the time, in fact, I believe he’s doing them better right now, just that it’s not quite going in quite as much for him, but that’s fine, we’re okay without it right now, just keep working on your game and become an overall better player.
On what the team did to push the game into overtime
Well, we were happy with the first, probably a little too happy obviously, because we didn’t respond early in the second. The first six minutes were certainly in their favor, they scored, we took a penalty, they scored at the back end of it, the TV timeout helped us, we had a chance to regroup a little bit and It was pretty easy. We talked about putting ourselves in the situation, all the work we did in the first period just gets us back to even now. I think that’s where the guys settled in and started to do things right again. They’re a hard team to play against, they weren’t going away, they weren’t gonna roll over and play dead for us and took us two goals to figure that out.
On the importance of the Austin Wagner, Matt Luff, and Blake Lizotte line to the team
All the lines are important. If you look at the game sheets from the past four games, I think somebody mentioned that we’ve had points in four straight and three wins, everybody’s important. Your name doesn’t have to be [Anze] Kopitar to be important, it can be one of those third- or fourth-line players and we’ve seen significant contributions from those two lines over the last 12, 13, 14 periods. All of a sudden, the team has a better chance of success. Those three played a very strong game when they got their ice time, they contributed on the penalty kill and I’m happy for them as well.
On if tonight was an example of how he wants the Kings to play defensively
We did a good job against a team that, in my opinion, is one of the most tenacious in the league when it comes to to the forecheck and their ability to sustain offensive zone time. We did a pretty good job for most of the game. We got sloppy for a 6-7 minute span, you’re never going to be perfect. They’re going to play in your end at some point. We’re going to breakdowns and that’s what we have goaltenders for and Quickie made some real good saves when we needed them. For the most part, I thought it was the type of game our team needs to play to win. That’s a good sign that we understand that.
On how he selected the players used in the shootout tonight
We had that four day span and we had a few shootout practices. Grunny, for example, I think everybody was holding their breath because some of the stuff that he does in practice to score goals, it’s pretty impressive. When he went down, he saw something, he tried to take advantage of something — which is fine, he’s got the puck, he’s under control — but, I think everybody was expecting something different. We went with his practice habits and his ability to score there. Then, obviously Kopi being a reliable guy; we didn’t go to Kempe the other day and he’s been a pretty reliable guy. Then, Gabe, in my mind, beat the last goaltender he faced, he just couldn’t finish it, so it was good to see him go in tonight and score.
AND DON’T MIND IF I DO:
— South Bay Beer Guy (@SouthBayJohnny1) February 19, 2021
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