ANAHEIM AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — After earning his first National Hockey League win in his NHL debut, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center in Anaheim on December 3, rookie goaltender Martin Jones remained the center of attention in the Los Angeles Kings’ dressing room after practice on December 5.
Jones spoke with the local media in greater detail about his first NHL game.
“It feels good, for sure,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure that I made the saves that I needed to, and give the guys a chance to win, because we’ve got a great team in here. They played real hard tonight. All I had to do was give them a chance.”
“The first 25 minutes of the game, I barely had any shots [against],” he added. “[His teammates] did a great job, and in overtime, [they were] killing penalties, blocking shots, they did a great job.”
But so did Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, leaving the teams tied, 2-2 after overtime, meaning that the wet-behind-the-ears rookie would have to face Ducks star forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne in the shootout.
Not only did Jones face each of those snipers in the shootout, he stopped all nine Anaheim attempts.
“It was intense, for sure,” said Jones. “I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared and as focused as I could be, and try to enjoy it, a little bit, if I could. It was an intense game, and a hard-fought game. We’re happy we got the the two points.”
“The shooters are at a higher level here,” added Jones. “I just wanted to try to stay patient, and stick to what I’ve been doing down there [with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League]. I was fortunate on a couple, and I came up with saves on a couple. I wasn’t focused on making nine straight saves. I was just taking them, one at a time.”
Jones’ strategy worked. Indeed, it kept him calm and composed, even when Selanne, one of the best forwards ever to play the game, came right at him in the shootout.
“I definitely knew it was him,” Jones noted. “The crowd made sure that I knew. It was pretty loud in there. I just wanted to make that save. I just wanted to keep the guys in it. I knew we were going to get one, eventually. It was pretty exciting to face a guy like that, a future Hall-of-Famer.”
“I tried not to think about [the fact that he stopped Selanne in a shootout],” Jones added. “That stuff hits you after the fact, and after the game, when it kind of hits you a little bit more.”
Head coach Darryl Sutter did not have much to say about Jones right after the win at Anaheim.
“It’s good to see a kid in his first game get a win,” said Sutter.
Two days later, Sutter pointed to Jones’ comfort level with the Kings.
“He was here as our third guy through a lot of our [recent] playoffs,” Sutter noted. “That’s experience. He’s in the same age group as a lot of these guys, and he’s played with a lot of them. I think the characteristic would be that he’s comfortable.”
Jones’ teammates clamped down defensively on the Ducks, allowing 28 shots on goal, but limiting their quality scoring chances. Nevertheless, Jones had to be on his game, and he was.
“It was a tough building to go in, with their home record, and the way they’ve been playing—it’s nice,” said center Anze Kopitar. “He stood his ground. I thought he looked really calm back there, and I think his calmness spread throughout the bench.”
“We were playing comfortably in front of him, trying to help him out as much as we could,” added Kopitar. “But once the shootout came around, I don’t think there was a lot of stuff to say. There were probably a couple of future Hall-of-Famers [in the shootout for Anaheim], and it seems like it didn’t faze him.”
Defenseman Matt Greene, who remains on injured reserve, was also impressed.
“Jonesy played great,” said Greene. “He’s really calm in net, really smooth, too. I shouldn’t be giving goaltending critiques, because I really don’t look at either side, but he looked really good.”
“It’s really special for a guy to get his first win up here, and the way he did it, in that shootout—there’s some big name guys shooting against him,” added Greene. “It’s fun to watch. It’s a big accomplishment for him, and everyone’s happy for him. It’s pretty cool. He can tell his buddies about that one.”
Jones said that he was not too nervous heading into the game, even though he knew right after the Kings’ 3-2 win over St. Louis on December 2 that he would be starting at Anaheim.
“[I was] a little bit [nervous],” said Jones. “There was a little bit of lost sleep last night, and [only] a little bit of a pre-game nap. [But] once you start going through your routine, everything is pretty familiar, and it’s the same game. I felt pretty good out there.”
“It was a great experience,” added Jones. “It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time, to play in an NHL game, and to get the win. It was everything it was cracked up to be. I was trying to be as prepared and as focused as I could be, but you only get one of those, so I was trying to enjoy it as well.”
Even if Jones did not get a lot of time to enjoy the win, his friends and family did.
“I got a bunch of [text messages] from back home, and then, the next morning, from the guys in Manchester,” Jones noted. “It was lots of friends and family watching. It was great. Some of the boys back in Manchester were up late.”
“[My parents] were just happy and excited,” Jones added. “I think my Mom was relieved. She was pretty nervous.”
With his first NHL game and first NHL win under his belt, for Jones, it is time to move forward.
“[Playing in his first NHL game] was an exciting time,” said Jones. “I’m happy with the result we got, but it’s back to work today. It was exciting. It was something I’ve worked towards for a long time, so it was nice to get that one.”
For those wondering if Jones has been involved in such a long shootout before, the answer is “yes.”
What Did Ranford Think?
From the time Jones found out he getting the start in Anaheim, he was under the watchful eye of goaltending coach Bill Ranford.
“He was really good,” said Ranford. “I thought the guy who played so well in Manchester—composed, good rebound control, was the same guy we saw in Anaheim. Not an easy building to go into.”
Ranford also noted the the firepower Jones was up against, especially in the shootout.
“Three future Hall-of-Famers, and he shut the door,” Ranford beamed. “I was proud of him. We wanted him to go in there and do well, and he did. That’s all on him.”
“We knew what they’re about,” Ranford added. “They’re a big team, and we thought it was important for him to utilize his size, because they like to put a lot of traffic in front. I thought he handled the traffic very well.”
“[We also talked about playing] a simple game, and he did. He took care of the little things—rebound control, he wasn’t fooled on anything. That’s what we talked about, going in. He had a pretty good handle on things.”
Was there anything that Ranford didn’t like about Jones’ performance?
“He played a pretty clean game,” said Ranford. “There were maybe a couple of depth issues on two or three plays. Other than that, the defense/goalie work was really good. The communication of our guys—they knew they had to be loud and quick. I think that helped him out, and got him in the game.”
“He got a lot of handles early in the game, which was important,” added Ranford. “A lot of times, when you go into a little quicker game, the pressure is on. The little touches are important, and he was good.”
Video interviews from the Kings’s December 5 practice featuring Jones, Doughty, Greene, Kopitar, defenseman Jeff Schultz, and Sutter are available for your viewing at: Frozen Royalty Video: Interviews with Greene, Jones, Kopitar And More After December 5 Practice
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Bill Ranford (2:02)
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