It’s been a while, but the Kings picked up a regulation win. And it was a rather dominate performance – the kind of which LA was expected to put on Anaheim on Monday. In their second try, the Kings delivered a 5-1 win on the back of Adrian Kempe’s two goal performance. They’ll now head out on the road for a weekend series in Colorado.
Following the game on Wednesday, McLellan shared several thoughts:
On Troy Groesnick stepping in at the last minute and his play tonight
When we signed him in the summer, we were excited about having him. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him in San Jose. He’s got a lot of character. He just wanted an opportunity to maybe to get a game in here or there. Tonight, it presented itself and he took advantage of it. Really good for him, the guys played hard for him. It was a bit of a motivating factor for our team to get off to a better start. He made a save fairly early in the game, they made a pass out from behind the net and he made a save there. After that, he just settled in. It was good to see, certainly not easy circumstances for as little as he’s played this season with all his travel and quarantine, but good for him.
On if teams tighten up defensively with a less familiar goalie in net
That’s accurate. A lot of times, teams play with the goaltender or for a goaltender. It’s more valuable when they play for a goaltender. Tonight, we played for him and tightened it up a little bit. It wasn’t mistake free, but that’s an impossible game. When we did break down, he made some good saves.
On if he and Groesnick talked at all about his last game in 2014 together
No, there wasn’t anything about it. It was ‘put the equipment on and go play’. He’s a mature player now, it’s not like he’s just entering the league. He’s been through different organizations, different situations. Stressful ones, relaxing ones, and he’s been able to handle it. Put the equipment on and go play, and we’ll try to do the best we can in front of you with our structure. You give us your best and it’ll work out, and it did tonight.
On the team’s first regulation win since the end of February
It’s nice to be able to play with the lead. You learn a lot about some of your players when games are tight or you’re in overtime, but you also learn a lot about your players when you’re up 4 or 5-1. Do they get loose, do they get casual, can they check in those situations? For the most part, a lot of our guys passed that test tonight.
On his preseason expectations of Andreas Athanasiou
We expected to get a hungry player. I used those words when we signed him. We thought we’d have a really motivated young man that wanted to prove to himself, and to the hockey world, that he wasn’t a one hit wonder, that he was able to come in and do what he’s done in the past. We were prepared to give him the opportunity, it’s up to him to take advantage of it. Offensively, we’ve seen great flashes from him. His speed and his elusiveness has been effective for us in those situations. We’re working on the checking part; he’s beginning to value it more. I feel more and more comfortable about playing him in checking situations, and that’s going to continue to grow where we completely trust him all over the rink. When he gets that, he’s really going to be a factor.
On if Alex Iafallo is never going to get his full due playing with two high profile players in Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown
Probably not. Outside of our offices, there’s probably a whole world out there that says ‘Well, why can’t [Kopitar] have some big scorer on his line?’ Sometimes it works with a trusting, hard-working, detailed player. The three of them can mesh together and you get it done. If we had one of those high scorers, would we play him with Kopi? Kopi would be happy with Iafallo right now because he does a lot of the simple things for the line to have success.
On if this team is different when playing with the lead
Yeah, it is too easy because it’s hard to get the lead in this league. We have a lot of confidence in how we play in all three zones. We have some predictability amongst our team, and it makes it easier for us to play with the lead. We don’t have to open up as much. To get the lead in the National Hockey League is not easy by any means, and certainly a two- or three-goal lead is not a regular event for any team.
On balancing keeping Adrian Kempe with the line that he has chemistry with versus moving him up in the lineup
We’re not even thinking about that. Why would we take a hot player and take him away from the stove or the oven where he’s hot? It makes no sense at all to even think that way. He’s playing just fine with the players he’s with. He’s getting a ton of chances, they’re comfortable with each other. The last thing in any of our minds is moving Kempe off that line, at least tonight.
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