EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Includes exclusive video of interviews with Colin Fraser, Jarret Stoll and head coach Darryl Sutter.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — One day after their 4-3 loss at San Jose, a game in which defensive lapses and turnovers proved too costly, the Los Angeles Kings, who are in the midst of a 17-games-in-31-days stretch this month, held an optional skate.
Most of the players took the opportunity to practice, but several key players, including Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Rob Scuderi, Jarret Stoll, and Slava Voynov used the time to rest and recover.
After practice, the big hit by San Jose Sharks center Andrew Desjardins on Kings center Colin Fraser early in the second period at San Jose, along with the response by Kings rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin, was the main topic of discussion.
Fraser said he was feeling no ill effects from the wallop he took on Thursday night.
“I feel good,” he said. “It was a big hit, it was a clean hit. I’ve got to put some of the onus on myself to know it was coming. If it was the other way around, I probably would’ve done the same thing.”
“I’m a big boy,” he added. “I can take a big hit. It didn’t feel good, but I’m OK. I [was] back out there for the game, and I’m OK today.”
Fraser gave Muzzin, who fought Desjardins after the hit, the proverbial stick tap for having his back.
“I think it’s great,” said Fraser. “You’ve got to have guys sticking up for teammates. It brings guys closer together. [Center Mike] Richards has done it in the past.”
As it turned out, Muzzin, who wears a visor, earned himself 19 penalty minutes‚ including minor penalties for instigating a fight, and for instigating a fight while wearing a visor. An automatic ten-minute misconduct penalty was also tacked on for instigating a fight while wearing a visor—all that was on top of the five-minute major penalty for fighting.
As a result, the Sharks got a double minor power play—four minutes with the man advantage, and scored two power play goals. Despite the consequences, the Kings were not concerned about being put into that situation.
“It was a natural, team thing,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “You know what, [Fraser] got drilled. [Muzzin] was right there. I wouldn’t say he was going into fight. That’s not [him]. He’s a team guy, he’s going to go in there. It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a tough rule, but I think we would take that ten out of ten times,” said center Jarret Stoll. “I don’t care if they did score on the power play. In the long run, you would take that any day of the week, to step up for your teammates, and back them up. I know [Fraser] would’ve done the same thing for him. That’s the type of team we are.”
“Yeah, that’s just a tough rule,” added Stoll. “It [got Muzzin] out of the game for awhile, and it [got] them on the power play for a little bit. It is what it is. You’ve just got to deal with it. It’s the same for both [teams].”
The automatic minor penalty/misconduct penalties for instigating a fight while wearing a visor is getting increasing opposition from players and coaches around the National Hockey League, and the Kings are no exception.
“It’s an old fashioned, archaic, antique rule,” Sutter stressed. “You know what, we continue to make all these rule changes when they get bored and have these committees.”
The big reason for the opposition is the apparent contradiction between the push to get all players to wear visors for their own protection, and then turning around and tacking on extra penalties as a consequence.
“I think it’s a tough rule [that] just because you wear a visor, it’s a double minor, especially with the controversy that they want everybody wearing visors, and he’s not doing a dirty play,” said Fraser. “He’s just sticking up for a teammate. To get punished for four minutes is unfair, in my opinion. But that’s the rule, and they capitalized on it.”
“16 players on our team wear visors,” Sutter noted. “I assume that 16 players on every team wear visors, and we continue to bring visors up when somebody gets hurt. But there’s a rule in the book that [says] that [if] a player [starts an] altercation, [he gets] an extra two minutes because he’s got a visor on. It’s pretty old fashioned.”
The Evolution of Shot Blocking
Unlike just a handful of years ago, due in large part to advancements in protective gear, blocking shots has become one of the top defensive priorities for NHL teams—it might even be at the top of the list, in many cases. In fact, no matter how you slice it, blocking shots has had a huge impact on the game in recent years, so much so that it has changed how the game is played.
“Shot blocking is such a big thing now,” Stoll emphasized. “It’s tougher and tougher to get pucks to the net, and not a lot of guys are, nowadays, sliding—going down, leaving their feet, like it was when I first came into the league.”
Indeed, as shot blocking has evolved and improved, players are using new tactics to get pucks through to the net.
“I was taught [the old fashioned] way [to block shots] in Edmonton,” said Stoll. “You leave your feet, you slide down, and you take away the [shooting] lane. But now, guys read that well, and they step around you.”
The ability to block shots is magnified on the penalty-kill.
“[Penalty-killing is] getting into the shooting lanes, trying to make the puck go through you, to get to the net,” Stoll explained. “Sometimes you’re in the lane, and it just misses you. Last night [at San Jose], one of the goals—I was in the lane, but it just slid by my shin pad. I was like, ‘aww jeez, this is going to be trouble,’ and it was.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to get into the lane, because guys are pretty smart players now—[they] are trying to get out of lanes, especially some defensemen,” Stoll elaborated. “[San Jose’s] Dan Boyle does it very well. Drew [Doughty] does it really well, sliding around guys.”
Of course, shot blocking doesn’t mean much when the defense breaks down, or when a blatant turnover winds up in the back of your net, both of which doomed the Kings at San Jose on Thursday.
Stoll said that better communication would be a step in the right direction in shoring up their defensive zone play.
“It’s just supporting each other better,” he noted. “Talking and communicating, and when there’s a tough play to make, under pressure, try to make [the play], and not turn pucks over.”
“We had a couple of turnovers last night that [put us] in our own zone for awhile, an extended period of time,” he added. “That tires you out, it tires the team out, it deflates your team a little bit.”
“[We need] more communication, more patience with the puck, [and] composure with the puck under pressure.”
Sutter on Martinez
During the media scrum interview after the optional skate, Sutter was asked about the play of defenseman Alec Martinez, who has struggled since his return on March 4 from an upper body injury, believed to involve his left shoulder.
Since then, Martinez has contributed just one assist in six games, and he has sat out one game as a healthy scratch.
To be sure, Martinez’ play, especially in his own zone, has not been on par with his play last season, especially in the playoffs. But even though he has been critical of Martinez in recent weeks, Sutter took a different approach on Friday.
“He’s coming off an injury,” said Sutter. “I wouldn’t call [his play], ‘timid.’ Marty’s got to play against 230 and 240-pound guys, so he’s got to be quick in, quick out. I don’t call that ‘timid.’ I just think you’ve got to be quick.”
Thursday’s media scrum interview with Sutter was one of the more entertaining ones this season, with much of the “gold” coming off the record.
Nevertheless, there were a couple of gems that can be shared. First, in a discussion related to the Kings being honored by President Obama at the White House on March 26 for winning the Stanley Cup last season, a reporter noted that if you visit the White House, and you look closely enough at the building, you will see a lot of old paint built up on the walls after many different painting jobs.
Of course, Sutter had an explanation for that.
“Old house,” he said, nonplussed. “Just think if your house had that many paint jobs. It’s not hard to figure out.”
In case you were wondering, 570 gallons of paint are required to paint the exterior surfaces of the White House.
When asked if there was anything that he wanted to ask the President about, Sutter’s thoughts turned to the family farm back home in Viking, Alberta.
“I want to ask him about [the Keystone XL Oil] Pipeline,” said Sutter. “It runs right through the farm, all the way to Chicago.”
Sutter will make a very entertaining lobbyist, no doubt.
Frozen Royalty Video via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube – Exclusive video of media interviews with Colin Fraser, Jarret Stoll, and head coach Darryl Sutter, March 15, 2013
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