Kings general manager Rob Blake remembers well the vibe surrounding the team’s new era last year. With their offense stagnated, Blake and first-year coach John Stevens laid out their plan in a fan forum.
In short: More goals. More offense.
But in the back of Blake’s mind, he knew one pillar had to stand.
“We talked about only offense, but believe me there was never a sacrifice defensively, and our guys know that and our top players believe in that,” Blake said. “I don’t think we were ever going to sacrifice anything defensively for those changes. There’s a reason why this team is at the forefront of that department every year, and I think a lot has to do with John’s structure defensively. That wasn’t being sacrificed.”
The numbers bear that going into the Kings’ regular-season finale Saturday, with their playoff opponent still not decided between the Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks. The Kings lead the NHL with 2.44 goals-against per game, which also would give Jonathan Quick his second Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed.
Several staples easily explain the stinginess, namely Quick, Norris Trophy (best defenseman) candidate Drew Doughty and Hart Trophy (MVP) candidate Anze Kopitar, who is also in line for the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. But it’s also a continuation of the philosophy that has long been in place.
It ties into that revamped style of Kings’ hockey, specifically an offense that has gone from 2.43 goals a game last season to 2.90 through Friday.
“[There was] a lot of talk during the year [of] you want to get better offensively,” Stevens said. “Well, you need the puck to do anything offensively.”
With playoff seeding still at stake, Stevens said he won’t change his approach. He tweaked the lineup Thursday because of illness to Paul LaDue and Torrey Mitchell but indicated he won’t rest anybody.
Blake said Alex Iafallo is day-to-day and is hopeful that Jake Muzzin will be available for the start of the postseason, but “we don’t know yet for sure.” Derek Forbort won’t be available when the playoffs begin, Blake said.
Stevens isn’t paying attention to their potential playoff opponent.
“I’ve learned a long time [ago], you don’t wish for anybody,” he said. “You just want to get in and you deal with who’s in front of you.”
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 790
Update: Jonny Brodzinski was assigned to the AHL’s Ontario Reign. The Stars’ Tyler Seguin is their third 40-goal player since the franchise moved to Dallas.