Todd McLellan on Kings’ Focus: “We’ve Got to Pick Our Poison”

Apr 12, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; LA Kings coach Todd McLellan wears a face mask in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at Staples Center. Vegas won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; LA Kings coach Todd McLellan wears a face mask in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at Staples Center. Vegas won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Having not played since Wednesday, the LA Kings were back at it on Sunday at practice. For Todd McLellan, though, it’s been back to basics.

It would be a significant understatement to suggest that the 2020-21 NHL season has been unorthodox. The COVID-related circumstances have prompted the beginning of the campaign to be delayed but they have also forced many games to be postponed. The LA Kings are one of the most recent teams affected by this as their weekend series in Colorado was postponed due to the COVID situation involving the Avalanche.

While it has only been a few days, it feels like a lot longer since the Kings last played. Nevertheless, they are back on the ice preparing for their next few games, beginning on Tuesday night at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

Following practice on Sunday, Kings head coach Todd McLellan spoke to the media about being back and what the day’s practice did — and what Monday’s practice will — have in store for his team.

“We’re trying to touch a lot of areas of the game where our forecheck hasn’t been effective,” McLellan noted. “It’s led to some long chances against. We’re trying to fix and repair some of that, basically going back and starting a foundation, repairing that a little bit, out-numbered rushes against, we can always work on offense.”

Entering this unplanned break, the Kings won just three of their last 12 games, including their last two — both against Vegas — while being outscored 10-4. Most recently, though, special teams have been a point of concern for the silver-and-black.

“We didn’t even begin to discuss special teams today,” McLellan admitted. “We’ll do a bit of that tomorrow.”

Here’s hoping that McLellan and the Kings will actually do a lot of that on Monday. After all, while the Kings were perfect in the special teams department last game — scoring on their lone power-play opportunity and killing off their only penalty last Wednesday — the club nonetheless had a forgettable evening on Monday in regards to their special teams’ efforts.

While they did surrender a power-play goal last Monday against the Golden Knights, the Kings nonetheless finished their two-game set with the third-best penalty-kill in the league. As for their power play, it wasn’t quite as effective. In fact, the silver-and-black gave up three breakaways while on the man-advantage with one of those resulting in a shorthanded goal, courtesy of Mark Stone, that shifted the game’s momentum in Vegas’s favor.

“It happens in a regular season where you’ve got to go back and basically review everything you did at training camp,” McLellan added. “You just get more time to do it. You may get a segment like we’re in, play a game and then get another two or three days, but we’ve got to pick our poison and those are some of the areas we looked at.”

For the Kings, their weekend series in Denver was postponed due to multiple Avalanche players testing positive for COVID-19. Of course, while the health of everyone involved is paramount, the break, it could be argued, was a needed one for the Kings, who avoided continuing their struggling ways against, among other teams, the (then-) West-leading Avalanche.

“Yeah, circumstances aren’t ideal,” McLellan said. “You fly all the way [to Denver], you want to play the games, but obviously the health of their team and ours, anybody else involved in, in the events, is more important.”

While not ideal, the postponed set of games gave the Kings a chance to regroup, go back to the drawing board — both figuratively and literally — and figure out a way to turn their slump around.

“We had a chance to come back and get organized,” the Kings’ head coach noted. “[We] had a pretty firm, stern meeting and practice before we went out to Denver, and coming back today, we had a real good practice, too: one of the first real true, heavy working-type practices we’ve had in a long time because of the amount of games and obviously, you know, having to make up the game against St. Louis and now these two, we’re not going to get this opportunity again. So today, tomorrow will be good practice days.”

On Sunday, McLellan certainly talked the talk. Of course, effective practice is only so good if it isn’t followed up with an effective game. This has, unfortunately, been the case for the Kings multiple times this season where the club’s practice was promising but the next game was anything but.

While it is to key to remember that they are still a young team getting to know each other for the most part, this trend can also pose as a harbinger of unpleasant times ahead. It is up to the Kings to avoid the latter as best as they can, even if this season, dare I say it, doesn’t end with a playoff appearance.

The bottom line, though, is that the Kings are back on the ice. But, they need all of their ducks in order (no pun intended, believe it or not) should they hope to get back into the win column and give their fans something to feel good about again.