EL SEGUNDO, CA — When Los Angeles Kings superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick went down with what appeared to be a groin injury at Buffalo on November 12, and again, a couple of days later when it was learned he had suffered a grade two groin strain, and would be out at least four to six weeks, grave concerns arose regarding how the team would fare without him.
But backup netminder Ben Scrivens shocked just about everyone by beating each of the three teams in the New York metropolitan area, the New York Islanders, the New Jersey Devils, and the New York Rangers.
For good measure, Scrivens posted consecutive shutouts against the Devils and Rangers, helping the Kings earn six out of a possible seven points on their four-game road trip.
For his valiant efforts, Scrivens was named as the National Hockey League’s First Star for the week ending November 17. During the road trip, he earned a 3-0-1 record, a microscopic 0.66 goals against average (GAA), and a .977 save percentage, to go along with the two shutouts.
The 27-year-old, 6-2, 193-pound native of Spruce Grove, Alberta has not allowed a goal in his last 155:02 of playing time, and leads the NHL with a 1.24 GAA, a .955 save percentage, and three shutouts in eight games played.
Scrivens deflected any praise for his accomplishments to his teammates, very much like the guy he’s filling in for usually does.
“That just shows how well the team’s been playing around me,” said Scrivens. “Shutouts are a team accomplishment. I can only stop shots. These guys block shots, they play well defensively, they keep shots to the outside, and if there are rebounds, they’re clearing them away.”
“It’s great playing behind these guys,” added Scrivens. “They’re very responsible with pucks, there are very few turnovers at bad spots on the ice—at the blue lines, and in our own zone—that forces myself, Quickie and Jonesy, when he gets a shot, to just be ready when you’re called upon. We don’t have to do anything crazy. Just stop the pucks that we’re expected to stop, and give the team a chance.”
“It’s unfortunate that goalies get that little number in their stats line, but really, a shutout is a team accomplishment. The biggest thing it says is that the guys are playing well, and they’re playing well for me. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Likewise, Scrivens’ teammates are deflecting his praise right back at him.
“I was so happy for him,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “He’s played unbelievably for us, he really has. To come into a position like that is tough. You’re going in after one of the best goalies in the whole league after he got hurt, and that’s a lot of pressure to come into.”
“He’s dealt with it unbelievably,” added Doughty. “He’s played great for us. He’s playing with confidence, and because he’s playing with that confidence, we all have confidence in him, that he’s going to do the job for us.”
Indeed, the Kings have so much confidence in Scrivens that, unlike what many seem to believe, the Kings have not made changes to the system, or defensive zone coverages, to account for Scrivens being in goal, rather than Quick.
“We’re playing the exact same way,” Doughty countered. “We’re not doing anything different from when Quick is in [goal]. Right now, he’s playing just as [well] as Quick. He can do the job, obviously, with two shutouts in a row. I’m really happy for him.”
“We have so much confidence in Scrivvy,” Doughty added. “We shoot on him in practice, so we know how good he is, and he showed how good he is in the last few games. We don’t hold back anything. Defense is always our number one priority, as a team. We’re one of the best defensive teams in the league. Part of it is our goaltending, and part of it is that our coaching staff makes sure that’s where we start our game. When we play well in the defensive zone, that starts our offensive flow.”
“We have a lot of guys stepping up right now, but it begins with him.”
With the Kings having returned to Southern California to host the Tampa Bay Lightning, Devils and the Colorado Avalanche this week, Scrivens was in high demand by the media following the team’s off-ice workouts on November 18, and he was asked how he was able to jump right into the role of starting goaltender and filling in for Quick so admirably and so—pardon the pun—quickly.
“We put in some good practices [over] the past couple of weeks, trying to get better and develop,” Scrivens noted. “That’s exactly how you stay ready, by doing what Jonesy is doing.”
Scrivens was referring to goaltender Martin Jones, who was recalled from the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League after Quick was injured. Jones was on the ice, working with left wing Kyle Clifford, who skated for the first time since he suffered what is believed to be a concussion on November 9, when the Kings hosted the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s a tough job, being a backup,” Scrivens emphasized. “You probably don’t get the credit you deserve for the amount of work that you put in. I mean, optional skates aren’t in your vocabulary. You’re usually one of the first guys on [the ice for practice], and definitely one of the last guys off, with guys who may not be playing that night. A lot of your games are practices. That’s where you’ve got to stay sharp, and hone your craft.”
Honing his craft is exactly what Scrivens has done since he joined the Kings after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs this past summer. As reported in this space on October 27, Scrivens has had to blend the teachings of Maple Leafs goaltending coaches with those of Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford and Kim Dillabaugh, who handles goaltender development for the Kings, and that was not an easy task.
But as his play during the Kings’ recent road trip seems to indicate, the hard work is paying dividends.
“The hard work he’s put in from training camp, up to this point, I think it’s paid off,” said Ranford. “The biggest thing for me was detail in his game and urgency—a combination of those two things. I think he’s shown that, and he’s gotten better as each game has gone along. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Ranford went into more detail about what he means by “urgency” in his comments for the October 27 story, referenced earlier in this story.
“Just the aspect of the tempo of his game—we focused on a little more urgency, we eliminated delay in his game to give him more time to take in information when he’s moving from spot to spot,” Ranford explained. “That’s probably the first thing that we worked on right off the bat, and [then], putting a little bit more urgency in his post-save, any time that situation comes about.”
During training camp, and in pre-season games, Scrivens displayed a scrambly, uneasy, all-over-the-place style that was the subject of chatter among some members of the local media who cover the Kings on a regular basis.
But on the last road trip, that scrambly, nervous style was nowhere to be found.
Ranford explained the reasons.
“The problem he was having was that all of a sudden, he had to be urgent, and he wasn’t used to being urgent, and then it looked like he was scrambling,” said Ranford. “It was more his inability to have urgency in his game, post-save. He was very robotic about it, so it looked kind of clunky.”
“That’s basically what we’ve been working on for the last month-and-a-half—cleaning up that footwork, and having flow to his game, versus being choppy, and I think that’s made a big difference,” added Ranford. “It’s night and day. He’s worked hard at it, so you’ve got to credit him for putting the work in. There’s been a lot of technical stuff we’ve done with him, to help his game. But the urgency in his game has been huge.”
Although Ranford went into detail about Scrivens’ hard work and improvement, Scrivens was less forthcoming.
“I tried to narrow my stance a little bit, and be a little bit more active out there,” he said. “It’s tough to talk about the process when you’re in the middle of it. It’s like assessing your career halfway through. It’s tough to see the forest through the trees, sometimes.”
“My analysis is on a day-by-day, game-by-game basis,” he added. “You’re trying to stop pucks every day. Unless you’re Martin Brodeur, and you’ve been doing it forever—this is what I do, and this is how I do it—one day, you feel like, ‘OK, this is how I’m successful,’ and then, the next day, you feel like you’re doing the exact same [thing], but it’s not working for you, so you’re continually adjusting and trying to make sure that you’re right in the middle of the road, and that you’re steering clear of the ditches, and trying to stay consistent.”
Ranford noted that planning ahead to have Scrivens start against the Islanders last week was key to his success.
“The positive thing was that he was starting against the Islanders, no matter what, so we really focused on that,” said Ranford. “But he got a couple of extra ones on the trip. I think the focus was there, and the detail was there, leading up into that game. That was the most important thing. It wasn’t a big surprise that he was going to play. I think that was huge for him.”
Noting the refinements in Scrivens’ game in just a couple of months, one has to wonder how much better he might be down the road after more work with Ranford.
“Working with Billy has been great, the past couple of weeks,” said Scrivens. “Playing well is a huge credit to the guys around me, but also to the coaching staff keeping me ready.”
Sutter Being Sutter
As he often does, Sutter tries his best to avoid praising players when he is speaking to the media, as a means to send a message and motivate his players through the media.
He did the same thing when asked about Scrivens on Monday.
When asked for his thoughts about Scrivens playing so well in Quick’s absence, Sutter recoiled.
“I would think that if I was making $600,000 or $700,000 to play in the National Hockey League, I’d be trying to earn it,” he said.
When a reporter noted that Scrivens earned NHL First Star of the Week honors, Sutter reluctantly gave his goaltender a little praise.
“Good for him! He deserved it,” said Sutter. “If you have a couple of shutouts, and you save 95 percent of shots, you get that. It’s nice to see someone on the West Coast get recognized for it.”
But then Sutter went into what he believed was most important.
“Everyone’s talking about Scrivens,” Sutter noted. “But we won the game last night because Anze Kopitar was a dominant player. Clearly. He took over the game. I mean, the goalie had to be solid, but he didn’t have to be a guy who stood on his head.”
“From behind the bench, it was a very impressive showing by Kopitar,” Sutter added. “You guys are talking about Scrivens because you see him as a backup, as a lesser player [compared to Quick], right? But you should talk about—like I told the media after the game in New York, you guys don’t get to see Kopitar. You guys should see him live so you know how good he is.”
At that point in the interview, the local media present reminded Sutter that they do get to see Kopitar live, and rather frequently. But he continued on.
“I’m not interested in talking about a goalie because he had two or three good games,” Sutter lamented. “He’d better have ten good games. That’s what he’s going to play. It doesn’t matter if the other guy was hurt or not. It’s what he’s going to play. He’d better play well. Otherwise, somebody else plays. It’s not that hard to figure out. You either perform, or you don’t.”
Frozen Royalty’s Ben Scrivens Coverage
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- Newly-Acquired Backup Goalie Ben Scrivens Is Looking To Learn Through Osmosis With LA Kings
- New LA Kings Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens Make A Quick Stop In Southern California
- LA Kings Trade Jonathan Bernier To Toronto: Good Deal For Both Teams
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Ben Scrivens (5:33)
Drew Doughty (3:41)
Darryl Sutter (9:31)
Bill Ranford (3:09)
Thank you to Bruins Daily for mentioning this story.
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