Darryl Sutter did his best job of coaching this season, according to general manager Dean Lombardi and that includes several years trying to wring more from the San Jose Sharks in the 1990s, plus the Kings’ title run in 2012. New York’s Alain Vigneault left Vancouver after last season and got a fresh start with the Rangers, leading them to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since they won it all in 1994. He split two first-round playoff series with the Kings while with the Canucks.
Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr joined his teammates late in their morning skate Wednesday at the United Center in Chicago. He’s appears closer to a return to the lineup after suffering an unspecified knee injury in Game 1 of the Kings’ second-round playoff series against the Ducks. Then again, maybe he’s not, if you listen to Kings coach Darryl Sutter. Here’s what Sutter said when asked for an update:
“I couldn’t answer that. I’m not a doctor.”
The flight from LAX to Chicago was no big deal for the Kings. It was the usual four-plus hours from the West Coast to the Midwest. They didn’t have much time after eliminating the Ducks in Game 7 on Friday before they departed for Chicago and Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Sunday. So, finding enough hotel rooms was an issue for the second consecutive conference finals, though.
Like last year, the team had to change hotels because of a number of conventions filled up hotels in the downtown area. Actually, last year there was only one, but it was a big one and had Kings coach Darryl Sutter feeling nostalgic as he watched convention goers dressed as their favorite Star Trek characters.
“That was in my age group,” Sutter said Tuesday. “A lot of our players didn’t know who all those guys walking around in the blue-and-gold tights were. That’s what happens in the playoffs. You don’t know your schedule, especially with the city being so busy and conventions going on. We talked abut it before we got here. We knew we were changing hotels.”
Here’s what Darryl Sutter had to say when asked Monday if the Kings’ lacked the same emotion in Game 1 of their series against the Chicago Blackhawks that they showed in victories over the Sharks and Ducks in the first two rounds:
“Yesterday? I thought we played a hell of a game. … There was one scrum. The one scrum there was, if we were moaning about calls today, the one scrum there was that we got called on, too bad they couldn’t review it.”
Sutter referred to the cluster in front of the net of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, which led to Alec Martinez’s shove of the Blackhawks’ Brandon Bollig, which resulted in a roughing penalty and then a power-play goal for Brandon Saad.
Later, Sutter was asked to clarify whether he believed Bollig took a dive.
“No,” Sutter said.
The Kings’ ability to stop the Ducks in their tracks over the final two periods of Game 3 was still a topic of much discussion leading up to Game 4. Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of holding the Ducks to zero shots on goal in the second period Saturday and then three in the third of a 2-0 loss: “We weren’t trying to shut them down. We were trying to come back. Obviously, they were thinking more that way than we would be.”
The Kings lack of scoring in the final 40 minutes had more to do with the Ducks’ ability to keep them to the perimeter than anything Sutter’s team did or didn’t do in the final two periods. Here’s what Sutter said about fighting through the pressure: “How well they were able to keep you to the outside, that’s what jumps out at you. That’s not just forwards, that’s defensemen, too. They have to get through that, the blocking, the interference and the clogging up in front of the net.”
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say about the team’s rally from a three-games-to-none deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks in their first-round playoff series (spoiler alert, he’s not all that impressed);
“Well, I hope I don’t have to do it again. It’s hard. It’s tough to do. Everybody talked about how we got our asses kicked in Games 1 and 2. We thought we played pretty good in Game 2. Game 3 was an overtime game, which we could have won. We thought Game 6 could have been a clinching game for us. Games 3, 4, 5 and 6.”
Wait, there’s more.
“The history part doesn’t mean … that’s no big deal to me at all. We were trying to win a series against a team that home ice and was ahead of us all year in the standings. And we finally caught them.”
Darryl Sutter is a blood and guts, old-time hockey kind of a guy, if you hadn’t noticed. He coaches the Kings by the instincts honed over a lifetime in the game — as a player, a coach and an executive. He works the time-honored traditions and keeps his players on their toes.
He doesn’t spent hours analyzing statistics, especially the metrics involving time of possession and the like. He might give them a look now and again, as he suggested during his session with reporters after the Kings’ morning skate at Staples Center.
There are no secret formulas, as far as he’s concerned.
“When it’s all said and done, I know you’re really good at the math and the analytics, but you’re going to add it up … it’s going to be 3-2,” Sutter said, referring to the average final score. “That’s what it is. It’s .06 and .07. There lots else involved. It’s what you think about when there’s nothing else to think about.”
Here’s some of what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Saturday morning about center Anze Kopitar, a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy:
“First off, you look at playoff experience. He plays in many situations and plays many minutes. You learn to manage the game better. It all comes with experience. With ‘Kopi’, a big part of it has been the Kings being successful. He broke his ankle (near the end of the regular season in 2011) and probably learned a lot by watching it (the Kings’ first-round loss to the San Jose Sharks). Then he takes the next step by going deep in the playoffs.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter smiled when asked Wednesday about defenseman Drew Doughty’s plea for more ice time before Game 3 on Tuesday. Doughty leads the Kings in ice time in the playoffs, averaging 25 minutes, 51 seconds. He said he’d play 40 minutes per game if the Sutter would let him.
Sutter wouldn’t address the shoulder injury that forced Doughty to sit out the final four regular-season games and sent him to the dressing room for an examination during the Kings’ loss to the Sharks on Tuesday at Staples Center. Sutter would talk about Doughty’s toughness.
“He wants to play and that’s a good thing,” Sutter said. “I like those guys who try to stay out there and are not trying to get off because of who’s on the ice. He’s a guy who wants to go back out and not come off the ice. That’s a good trait to have.”
Sutter also said of Doughty: “He’s done a lot at a young age. He’s got to do for us what (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic does for them (the Sharks). That’s kind of how you match it up. … That’s what those guys who win championships, or are big parts of a team’s success, that’s why they are like that. We can all sit there and watch and say, ‘Oh, he can really skate or he can really shoot or whatever.’ But there’s something else special about top players. That’s why they’re all top players because there’s something else there.”
No question, the Kings played a sloppy game with the puck in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, giving up the puck frequently in their own half of the ice. The Sharks capitalized again and again while building a 3-0 lead after the first period and a 5-0 advantage after the second en route to a 6-3 victory Thursday.
“We’re not going to beat San Jose trying to score four goals, that’s for sure,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after the team held an optional morning skate Sunday at the SAP Center. Sutter’s message to the team going into Game 2?
“I think, first off, when you’re starting on the road and you’re in a building with one of the best teams in the league at home, it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “You ain’t going to steal it, that’s for sure. You ain’t going to surprise nobody. You line up and make sure you play really well.
“That’s what we talked about after last game. It’s an awesome building to play in. That’s what it is. Good place to play. You’ve got to be ready to play. Break it down, if you want to take it from a team standpoint, your top players have to be a little more on top of it and that’s right through your lineup.”