LA Kings: Per Todd McLellan, “Puck Management” needs addressing

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

Like any of the 31 teams entering this NHL season, rust is a central issue. While most teams played in this past summer’s — yes, summer — Stanley Cup playoffs, there were a half-dozen teams who hadn’t played since March. Since the LA Kings were one of these teams, a bit more leeway can be given for a sluggish start.

Don’t tell that to Todd McLellan, though.

Following Saturday’s loss in St. Louis, the Kings fell to 1-2-2, and the club’s head coach addressed this with the media following said defeat.

While there were certainly some positives to take away from Saturday’s tilt, McLellan, while not angry, certainly changed his tone when the topic of puck management was broached.

“I guess it’s the definition of puck management is what we have talk about,” McLellan told the media. “Some of the turnovers and some of the situations that we created came off of our stick. It wasn’t just, you know, those plays that are just bonehead plays. It was sometimes really good passing situations when we just didn’t handle the puck very well.”

An upfront McLellan continued.

“We didn’t receive, we didn’t– we didn’t throw the ball or catch the ball very well, for lack of a better analogy, and as a result, we were in between stops, starts, wasting shifts. Even some of the execution off won faceoffs where we know exactly what we want to do with the puck, and the passing was poor, and it stayed in our end. So, you know, for me, that would be puck management of not nec– there are nights when you just flat-out turn it over because of some really dumb plays. I just think tonight, our passing skills were very poor.”

Of course, while puck management, or lack thereof, was an issue for the Kings on Saturday, credit is due for their opponents as the Blues did an outstanding job shutting down their opposition’s attack.

“Not a team you want to come from behind against,” a matter-of-fact McLellan said of the Blues. “This team can lock it down, is very comfortable playing with a lead, they give up very few chances and defend well. In my opinion, they’re one of the best 5-on-5 teams in the league, they’ve got size, they defend well, and they have confidence doing it, and they did it. We didn’t get many opportunities or looks down the stretch in the third, even on the powerplay. That has to do with us a little bit, but it also has to do with them. Sometimes, you’ve got to tip your hat at how well they can check. It’s unfortunate we put ourselves in that situation, but we did it in we couldn’t draw back in.”

As frustrated as he may have been by the aforementioned, McLellan didn’t hesitate to point out what did work for the Kings on Saturday and what the team can build on for Sunday’s rematch and beyond.

“First time, I think, in the regular season, I may be wrong, but that we ended up on the plus side of power play/penalty-kill situations,” noted the Kings head coach. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get that second one on the power play, [but] it’s nice to see us draw more than we can take. We did a better job of checking with our legs and avoiding the penalty grade that we incurred in the first four games.”

We are at a point in the season where, although still very early, the rust factor has since fallen by the wayside. Now, it is a matter of teams working with what they have and playing as competitively as if they opened the regular season under normal circumstances — with, among other things, a preseason under their belts. Despite their 10-month layoff, the Kings are no exception to this.

dark. Next. Three takeaways from Saturday’s loss to the St. Louis Blues

No one said this was going to be an easy season for the LA Kings, but the desire to return to the playoffs is there regardless, and it is prevalent as it’s ever been in recent memory. However, before returning to the playoffs can be a consideration — much less a reality — Todd McLellan and the Kings need to address what hasn’t been working if they hope to contend this season.

Puck management may not be all that the Kings need to work on, but it is certainly a good start.