EL SEGUNDO, CA — Since the Los Angeles Kings lost superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick to a grade two groin strain (a partial tear) at Buffalo on November 12, they have not missed a beat, earning an 8-1-4 record since that game.
The Kings have gotten outstanding goaltending from backup goalie Ben Scrivens, and now, from Martin Jones, who was recalled from the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League on November 13. But improved team play, especially in the defensive zone, has played as much of a role in their success since Quick went down as anything else, including the play of their netminders.
When asked if the improved defensive play was a reaction to having lost Quick, goaltending coach Bill Ranford bristled, just a bit. Nevertheless, he admitted that teams often pay a bit more attention to their defensive zone play when a new goalie comes in.
“A team will try and buckle down and defend—I don’t know if you say ‘harder’ because you’re always trying to defend harder,” said Ranford. “But I think those first couple of games you get into that scenario where guys are like, ‘let this guy get his feet under him until he gets comfortable kind of thing.’”
“Everybody has the utmost confidence in Jonathan Quick, and what his abilities are,” added Ranford. “He’s proven it time and time again. [But] It was more the situation where we just had to play better, as a team. It just coincided with when Quick went down.”
Regardless, even with the improved defensive zone play, goaltending has continued to be a strength for the Kings, even with Quick out of the picture.
“It’s awesome to see both Scrivens and Jones come in and play as well as they have,” said winger and captain Dustin Brown. “They’ve made big saves when we’ve needed them to.”
But Scrivens has been criticized a bit by head coach Darryl Sutter recently, for a drop-off in his play, which apparently played into the decision to give Jones the nod in their last two games. But Sutter never really elaborated on his criticism.
Ranford provided the details a couple of days later.
“Movements, no delay in his post-save, having rhythm to the game, just the habits of what you do to get into your spots, [such as] edge control,” Ranford explained. “For me, that goes a long way. I’m not an overly technical guy. If there’s a technical deficiency, then yeah, you attack it. But I’m more about detail and work ethic, That’s the approach Kim [Dillabaugh] and I [have taken] since we took over here eight years ago.”
“It’s no different from when Ben was put into the situation to become our number one guy,” Ranford elaborated. “He won three or four in a row, and [I told him that] it’s not about winning. You have to realize that you have to be ready to go for the long haul. It’s not about ‘look what I’ve done now.’ It’s what you need to do to make yourself a consistent and reliable goalie in this league, and if you want to be a number one guy, and have the confidence of your organization, you have to have that consistency, and that detail in your game every night.”
“That’s how you get through the ups and downs—by having detail in your game, and not just because you’re playing well, and you’re on top of the world, [but] you forget about what you have to do to be successful, and the hard work you’ve done to get where you are.”
Ranford indicated that Scrivens’ attention to detail was lacking just a bit prior to their lackadaisical 2-1 loss to Calgary on November 30.
“It was probably previous to that,” said Ranford. “I don’t think [his skills] were necessarily starting to slip. There just wasn’t as much detail, and you don’t want it to snowball. I think he’s on the upswing again, and that’s where we need him to be.”
Scrivens appears to be taking the latest developments in stride.
“It was the coaches’ decision,” he said. “Jonesy played extremely well, and as a team, we got two points [on December 7 against the New York Islanders, a 3-0 shutout win]. That’s the important thing. That’s the only thing I’m focused on.”
Chances are, we will find out if Sutter’s criticism and Ranford’s counsel has pushed Scrivens back in the right direction, perhaps as soon as December 10 at Montreal.
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