There was no sugar coating one of the worst scoring slumps of his career.
Asked about the puck not going in the goal as much as he’d want this season, Tanner Pearson got into specifics.
“As much as I’d want?” he said. “I’d like one.”
Fifteen games into the season, Pearson has a zero next to his name in the goals column. The Kings winger is saddled with a 28-game scoreless streak dating to last season. He has one assist, which is as many as goalie Jack Campbell.
“It’s obviously been kind of tough, but I think I hit a low point six games into the year,” Pearson said. “I kind of had a look at everything and there was only one way to go up from there. I think recently my game has pointed up, but there’s still things I can do better. I feel like getting more chances than I have my first handful of games, which is obviously a plus. One’s bound to go in if you keep generating stuff.”
That nearly happened Thursday when Pearson had a deflection go wide and his breakaway attempt poke-checked away. That’s the way it’s gone for Pearson and Adrian Kempe, who has one goal.
Coach Willie Desjardins coached against Pearson while with the Vancouver Canucks, and he said the issue with Pearson is psychological.
“Confidence is so important in our game and if you lose confidence, then you just become a totally different player,” Desjardins said. “The other thing, too, is passion. You can tell where a team’s at or a player’s at if they’re not playing with passion…. I don’t think he’s playing his best right now, but I do think he has an upside in him, so our job is to try and get him back to that spot.”
Pearson, an expectant father, has consulted with Darryl Belfry, a well-known performance coach. He’s also studied video of his past success, such as his 24-goal season in 2016-17. It’s about taking more shots at close range and gaining what Desjardins referenced.
“I’ve been looking a lot lately at holding onto the puck more and not using the puck-as-a-grenade-type thing,” Pearson said. “Having confidence with it.”
If Kempe’s confidence has waned, he doesn’t let on much. But the number grows: He has one goal in 48 games. Kempe said he talks to some of the veteran players for guidance, but the formula that made him a 16-goal scorer last season still applies.
“I try to look at myself a lot,” Kempe said. “If I’m frustrated, I know I can play well. I’ve just tried to go back to the forechecking mind-set, the working mind-set. Because I know, after that, the goals are going to come.”
Pearson and Kempe have been on the same line but the lineup could change because Desjardins said Michael Amadio probably will play Saturday. Desjardins hasn’t been shy in analyzing the Kings’ dynamic of young and old players, and he called on the former to take a page from the veterans.
“The group needs that,” Desjardins said. “They need the second wave of guys to start come and be heavy, hard players. The older group that won, they’re just warriors. They come in and they play so hard and they know it. The second group hasn’t got that yet … the younger group has to start taking way more ownership on winning. It’s been too long and we’ve been relying on the older guys to do it.”
Stevens says thanks
John Stevens thanked the organization in a statement Friday in his first public comments since he was fired last Sunday.
“It was an honor and a privilege to work with the players, coaches and support staff who were so dedicated and committed to the process of winning,” the statement read. “My family and I will leave here with nothing but gratitude and respect for this first class organization. All the best to the Kings and a sincere Thank You.”
UP NEXT VS. CALGARY
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network).
Update: Calgary is the NHL’s best third-period team with 29 goals and five wins when trailing after two periods. Elias Lindholm has nine goals in his first season with the Flames.