Kings Coach Darryl Sutter talked to the media Thursday morning to discuss the Game 1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Final. Below are highlights from the transcript (provided by the NHL) of the news conference.
Q: What do you think you did really well last night and maybe a couple things you didn’t do well enough?
COACH SUTTER: Thought we had a good start to the game. We did a good job in the first period based on New Jersey, the way they’ve played in first periods in the playoffs. We knew that was going to be a challenge for us.
With the travel, our guys felt sluggish yesterday. That’s an area that I thought we were good at. Obviously an area we can get better at. We’ll use tomorrow’s practice for that.
Q: What did you know about Anze [Kopitar] when you came into the job? What has he shown you? Has he elevated his game in the playoffs?
SUTTER: Well, I think he’s recognized as a top centermen in the league, one of those young top centermen. That’s what I knew about him. That wasn’t anything that was any different than anybody else.
What has he done different or done better? I don’t know. He plays lots of minutes, plays lots of situations, takes faceoffs, doesn’t bother what style is going on, he can handle it.
I think the big thing I tried to impress upon him was just being consistent. It’s no different than any other young player. Obviously he’s getting to play in the playoffs, which is something he’d only done six games before in his career. So obviously if you ask him, that’s probably the biggest -- what he would say is getting to play longer in the playoffs.
Q: The Kings played their best games of the playoffs in Game 2 of each series. Can you explain the mind-set the team has had going into Game 2?
SUTTER: I don’t know prior. I’m only looking ahead. I think it’s a funny setup again, between Game 1 and Game 2, we only played one game in four days since we got here. That’s how it was going to be.
So now it’s get ready for Saturday again. It’s not about what happened, who we played last time, anything like that. I think we know our opponent is a lot tougher than anyone we played yet. Going into last night, I think they were, what, 6-2, something like that, in home games. I think we know what the challenge will be on Saturday.
Q: Players on both sides talked about how they felt some jitters in Game 1 of the final. Do you think Game 2 will be any different in terms of play or more of the same?
SUTTER: You know, our guys said today they felt sluggish. If that was nervous, then so it was. Our guys felt they could play better. That’s a good thing. I’m sure the other team is saying the same thing, too.
Q: Jonathan Quick is getting recognized a lot more this year. Would you say he might be playing better since the start of the playoffs?
SUTTER: Since the start of the playoffs? No. Better than last night or the night before?
Q. The regular season.
SUTTER: He had an awesome regular season. He had that gap in March there where he struggled. [Steve Bernier] came in, did a good job for him whenever we needed. He’s back out here again. Tried to manage his schedule in the regular season after the All-Star break. I forget what it is, he only played maybe three back-to-backs the whole time after that...
Q: When you took over the Kings, was there one element beyond any other that you felt you had to instill in the hockey club that you were successful with and that has continued through this remarkable playoff run?
SUTTER: It’s not “instill.” I don’t know what the word is. Allow them freedom to maximize their skill set without getting in the way of the team structure. I know that’s hard to understand, but it was to allow them to use their ability a little bit more.
Q: You did seem to play your fourth line in significant situations last night. Was that the plan from the get-go or a feel thing?
SUTTER: I think when you have time off, it’s interesting from a coaching standpoint. You think you can shorten your bench because guys are fresher. But really when you have time off, the first thing I could see last night, we did have some sluggish guys, and it was at the top end of our skill set in terms of players. It doesn’t bother me to play, I don’t call them our fourth line, I call it Colin Fraser and whoever is playing with him. So if they’re on, they can play against anybody.
If you look at it, the goal last night was against Zajac’s line. You know what, I’m confident whoever is playing with Fraser, as long as they’re doing the job, you know what, there’s nights where maybe the other team is playing their top line or their top two lines more and you got to be careful. But at the same time, it’s still about performance and the quality play. Last night worked out.