EL SEGUNDO, CA — When you talk to hockey players, you often hear them mention the “little things” that are part of their games, and it becomes apparent very quickly that those little things add up to something pretty big for each player.
For Los Angeles Kings backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth, one of those little things has turned out to be a pretty big thing on its own merits, and it has contributed to his stellar play in the two games he’s started this season, the latest being a 3-0 shutout victory on November 3 at St. Louis.
Enroth also beat the San Jose Sharks in San Jose on October 22.
In those two games, the 27-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden has earned a 2-0 record, with an 0.50 goals-against average, a .984 save percentage, and as mentioned earlier, one shutout. In all, Enroth has faced 64 shots this season, allowing one goal.
Back to that little thing that’s really a big thing…starting in training camp, at the urging of goaltender coach Bill Ranford, Enroth has changed his positioning, moving up in his crease in a more aggressive position to challenge shooters, cutting down the angle, giving them less net to shoot at.
“I felt depth [in his crease] was an area that he—he’s not a big guy, so his positioning is crucial,” said Ranford. “So we made some slight adjustments there, and I think each time he’s on the ice with our group, he’s getting more and more confident in the way we play.”
“It’s no different than when we dealt with Jonathan [Bernier] and J.F. [Berube], who aren’t as big as some of these giants who are out there today,” added Ranford. “Both Bernier and J.F., when they came out of the American Hockey League and got into more of the NHL shooters, they had to adjust their depth. That’s something I talked to Jhonas about when he got here.”
Ranford indicated that Enroth played deeper in his net previously because he was concerned about back door plays.
“It’s a little about the trust factor,” he said. “He was always worried about the back door. I tried to instill in him that our job is to limit those options and not give up those opportunities, but you’re going to be responsible for the shooter, and I think, as training camp moved along, he started getting more and more confident, and he was allowed to add a layer of depth to his game, which is going to give [him] a better chance to stop the puck.”
Enroth indicated that he is getting used to the change, which is, obviously, working well.
“It was little bit new, but we’ve been working on it since training camp, so I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable with it,” he noted. “It’s definitely something [Ranford] brought up to me, and I feel great about it.”
“Every team’s a little bit different,” Enroth replied, when asked about his concern about back door plays. “Probably not as solid as this team. We played a different [system] in Dallas. They have a little bit more offense going, and in Buffalo, we played OK defensively. We didn’t give up too many goals last year. But yeah, the system we have here is working great, and that’s shown the last [few] years here.”
Ranford indicated that Enroth’s attitude has also been a significant factor in his early success with his new team.
“It’s up to the goalie to make those decisions [regarding changes to how they play],” said Ranford. “My philosophy for anyone who’s come in here has been if you do it your way and start losing us hockey games, you’ll do it my way. But as far as he’s gone, from day one that I’ve worked with him, he’s very receptive, very coachable. I’ve thrown ideas out at him, and he’s tried them. The stuff that he liked, he’s moved on with them. The stuff that may not necessarily help his game—we move onto the next thing.”
“I don’t just throw things out there,” added Ranford. “It’s a discussion. We talk about it. It’s no different than with any of the goalies—anybody else we’ve had here. I’m not just throwing [stuff] out there just for them to be ‘yes’ guys. They’ve got to understand it, believe in it, and trust it.”
“Sometimes, it takes time to make little changes. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, and if they don’t, you move on and try something different.”
Character has also been key for Enroth, who knew what his situation would be when he signed with the Kings.
“I’ve been in this situation before, where I haven’t played too many games,” he noted. “I played behind a great goalie, so I know that I have to handle the situation, I guess, a little bit better than I used to when I was a little bit younger, a couple of years ago.”
“I kinda knew it was going to be that way when I signed,” he added. “I’d like to have a bigger role, but it is what it is, and I’m just trying to do the best with the situation here.”
Like any other backup netminder, Enroth wants to play in every game. But he also knows that he has a role to play, and that he must be a good teammate.
“Obviously, I want to play as many games as I can, but I knew, signing here, what that meant,” said Enroth. “It’s tough. It’s tough to get into a rhythm, but at the same time, it’s what you make it. You have to stay on top of your skill set, and on top of your conditioning during practice days, so it’s up to myself to stay sharp and be ready when called upon.”
“It’s definitely all about preparation and trying to stay sharp in practice. It’s really just bearing down in practice—don’t take it too easy. You have to prepare in practice just like if it was a game day.”
And when he has been called upon?
“He’s been very good,” said Ranford. “[At St. Louis], he wasn’t tested a lot, but when he was, they were huge saves. That’s what you’re looking for, and that’s what we got him for—to win big games for us.”
“[We didn’t know much about him], but he can play, man,” said defenseman Jake Muzzin. “He kind of turns into a different guy when he’s in the net during a game. He’s vocal, but he’s calm. He gives you confidence—he’s there, he’s going to make the save, and away you go.”
“He’s new to the team,” added Muzzin. “A new personality, a new guy, but as far as making saves, and playing goalie, it’s not really that much of an adjustment. You let him do his thing, and you do your thing. He’s done a great job for us, and he needs to continue that.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jhonas Enroth (right), shown here with goaltending coach Bill Ranford (left) during a recent practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Bill Ranford (4:59)
Jhonas Enroth (6:35)
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