LA Kings: Todd McLellan says defensive inexperience is showing

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: John Locher/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: John Locher/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports) /

A visibly frustrated Todd McLellan spoke with the media following Friday’s game, indicating the LA Kings inexperience on defense is showing.

Despite LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan indicating the team competed in practice following Tuesday’s embarrassment against their rivals, the results failed to carry over on Friday. The Kings were down 5-0 heading into the third period, scoring two goals in the final frame to salvage an otherwise lost game.

McLellan spoke with the media after the game, shedding light on the lack of experience along the blue line. The Kings are missing Matt Roy and Sean Walker so much right now.

On what failed to translate heading into the matchup with the Golden Knights

Well, their speed overwhelmed us early. That was pretty evident. You know, the transition from offense to defense and their defensemen, when jumping into the rush, our D handling anything outside with any type of pace, we did a poor job. It took us quite a while to adapt to it. And by then, it was too late.

On whether the loss had to do more with Vegas’ speed or the LA Kings lack of intensity

I didn’t mind our you know, our compete, our battle. [It] was a lot better today than it was against Anaheim a few days ago. The commitment to playing was good too. Sometimes you just got to recognize what’s coming at you and know your range as far as pace and foot speed. We made some poor decisions diving in on 50/50 pucks and they skated right by us.

So the other night, we were very upset, all of us, players, coaches, that the effort we put in. Today, we made mistakes and mistakes are repairable over time. You know, some of the younger players that saw this speed coming at them, it was tough. Some of the older players that should have known better also got caught. But we’ll fix it as we go.

On Austin Strand‘s NHL debut

I thought he, you know, once, like everybody, once we calculated the pace of the game and how it was going to be played with their forwards streaking down the wall, I thought he adapted well and defended well. He is dangerous in the offensive zone, you know, [he] had a shot blocked that led to a penalty, but it closes on you a little bit quicker at this level. And he learned that tonight, but he was just fine.

On Austin Wagner‘s first goal of the 2021 season

Well, that was probably his best game of the season. I thought he was aggressive. He was skating. He drew a penalty, created turnovers on the forecheck, like that’s what he needs to be doing. And, you know, now we saw where he was last year. Hopefully, he’s back to stay at that level and that pace, you know, so that’s a positive. There’s some things that we worked on in practice yesterday –  that we saw up here in the game, which was a real positive sign.

On Martin Frk‘s injury

He left and didn’t return – didn’t look good. I’m sure he’s gonna be out for a little while. And again, I haven’t got — that’s my visual. I haven’t got an update from the trainer.

On teaching the inexperienced players how to play in this league

Well, we’ve got to find other ways to recognize their successful shifts. We have to recognize it. We have to acknowledge it, make sure that they know we’re catching them doing things right. We have to make sure that we acknowledge the group as a whole for their effort again, they didn’t quit tonight. So that was positive. We talked about that between the second and third.

“Right now, the six [or] seven defensemen that we’re playing – there’s a lot of inexperience back there. And I believe it’s showing.”

We’ve got to just keep playing them. They’ve got to learn and cut their teeth in this league. You know, until we buy time to get a couple of veterans back there. You can see the difference that they make and by no means is that putting a spotlight on the young defenseman and accusing them of having the inability to play.

It’s just that it’s a tough league to learn on the fly. And when you have one guy doing it, that’s it’s not a bad thing. But when you have four or five on the back end, it’s a tough, tough thing and we got better as the night went on. But the start wasn’t where we needed it to be and hopefully, on Sunday it’s better.

LA Kings Schedule

These two teams will meet again on Sunday for a noon (PT) puck drop.