Sunday: Quotes from Stoll, Williams, Mitchell, Richards

Comments from LA Kings players Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Willie Mitchell, and Mike Richards after the team’s practice on Sunday…

Q.  Do you feel that you have gained momentum

STOLL:  Every game is its own little deal.  You have to try to come out and play well and win. You see little things going on in the series now that hopefully we can keep pushing and pulling the right way.  We want to frustrate them.  We want to be in their face smart.  Still taking too many penalties for our liking.  Try to get those down. It’s no secret when you got a lead on a team in a series, you want to keep pushing.  We all know what can happen with momentum, especially in this playoffs.

Q.  You were brought over at the beginning of the rebuilding process.  From then to now, was it a steady rise in the structure of the identity and culture?

STOLL:  I think making the playoffs is the first step.  They had a great core here.  A lot of those guys are still here.  Great draft picks, building through the draft. It’s not easy to make the playoffs.  We know that now.  It’s a long season, a long grind.  Those first two seasons that we lost in the first round, we lost to Vancouver I think and we lost to San Jose.  I think we learned a lot in those series.  We were close.  The one round against San Jose we didn’t have Kopy.  I think we learned a lot in those two seasons. In ’12, everything went our way, bounces, the play, our goaltender, everything was kind of on our side.  Sometimes you learn quick, sometimes you don’t.  Sometimes it takes a little while.  I think it was a little bit of both with this team.  Just great trades, great little additions here and there. Once you get a taste of winning a playoff series, winning a couple, winning a championship, it’s not underrated how hard it is, everyone knows it’s hard, but the things you can learn from those runs is endless what you can learn from different series, winning a championship.

Q.  Does the style of play change as the series goes on?

STOLL:  No, no, I don’t think so.  We looked at film already this morning on some things we got to do better, especially in the first period, the way they came at us. No, you got to play whatever style of game is your game.  They have their style.  They’re going to for sure try to come out and play that way in Game 4.  We have to limit our mistakes and manage the puck, do all those things, be disciplined, be aggressive, be on our toes, which I thought we were more so as the second and third periods went on.  Therefore we got some goals and the lead and got the win.

Q.  Four penalties on your side and three on their side is not excessive.  What is the optimum number?  Difficult line to walk.

STOLL:  You have to be on that edge.  Probably two or three is the number.  The type of penalties, too, you got to look at that.  Too many men.  High sticks.  Stuff like that, we can’t be taking.  We know that. Yeah, maybe it’s not many.  But it’s the types of penalties, maybe the time of the game.  Yeah, the way we want to play, we want to play physical, heavy and hard, on the edge.  Just walk that line, I guess.

Q.  Talk about your penalty killing and how good you are.

STOLL:  Yeah, we’re getting back to a little bit of being confident with each other, doing those little things, what it takes to kill one off at important times.  Even go through a penalty kill where we’re not giving up any shots, which is key, up-ice pressure, reading off our defensemen, our defensemen reading off our forwards, getting some shot blocks and big saves.  You need saves.  It all works together to kill a penalty. It’s hard work.  It’s using your head out there.  Yeah, we had some big kills the past couple of games.  We got to continue to do that.  It can win you a series.  It can lose you a series.  I think we’ve picked it up and we’ve been better.  We’re going to need that.

Q.  How much of a luxury is it to be able to spread out the ice time amongst the forwards?

STOLL:  It’s very important, I think.  For a while now we just can roll four lines.  I think all four lines can play against any line really.  I know Darryl probably feels that way as well. There’s been a lot of games where our four lines have been around 15, 17 minutes.  Your pace of play has to be high.  It should be.  That’s how we want to play.  We don’t want to have dips in our play.  We want to keep our play high, the speed of the game. Once that third period comes, when it’s tough hockey in the third period, we still got some gas, some jump to play the way we want to play.

Q.  Darryl doesn’t want to play a matchup game.  Tactically does that help you guys not having to shift?

STOLL:  Yeah, that could be difficult.  Darryl, since he’s been here, he’s not that kind of a tight, tight matchup guy.  He trusts his players to play against anybody.  He demands it.  I think as a player you want that.  You want to have that on your shoulders, to know you can play against anybody and do the job.  We know we can.

Q.  On the penalty kill, when you know a team is struggling, does it allow you to do different things, take advantage of a team that maybe is pressing?

STOLL:  You don’t want to think about them too much.  You want to do whatever is within your penalty killing unit to do, be aggressive – maybe even more aggressive in that situation, if their confidence isn’t that high in the power play. Be smart, too, because they have dangerous players with a lot of skill.  You don’t want to be overaggressive because it opens other things up. Probably a little bit of both.  We have to be smart, keep our confidence high on the kill, other parts of the game as well.

Q.  With the momentum you have, do you feel you’ll be in good shape if you continue to play like you have been?

STOLL:  You can always be a little better with managing the puck, penalties.  I think we need a better start in Game 4 than we had in Game 3. Yeah, just that aggressive style, in their face, trying to frustrate them, try to let them know it will be a tough game.  If we start with the puck, they’re going to have to come through us 200 feet to beat us.  Have that attitude and mindset. Yeah, we feel good about our game.  We know we can do better in Game 4.  We know we can bring it.  In front of our home crowd, we got to take advantage of this opportunity.

Q.  (No microphone.)
WILLIAMS:  A lot of scoring in the playoffs is second effort.  Not a lot of pretty plays.  It’s stripping somebody from behind, a second effort on a blocked shot, a dive to get a puck.  That’s how most goals are scored. In the playoffs, you seem to have just a little bit extra because every time you’re out there it’s the most important play of the game.  We have a lot of guys who are able to give a little bit extra.  Probably feel that’s the best way to explain it. Q.  Justin, how different is this team right now than it was after a couple games against the Hawks?

WILLIAMS:  I think even though we played a couple Game 7s, we are relatively healthy, as healthy as you can be this time of year.  We still got a couple guys out.  For the most part we’re getting healthier as we go. I think losing last year makes you drive a little bit harder to win.  You don’t want anyone to take anything from you.  Chicago took it from us last year.  We’re trying to reciprocate. Q.  Willie, Slava’s game seems to be back on track.  What have you said to him the last couple games you’ve been together?

MITCHELL:  I don’t know.  He’s a great player.  Everyone was their ebbs and flows as far as their performance.  You know, obviously missed hockey last year.  Played with him in our good run a couple years back.  We’re just trying to find our game together. He’s a guy who, as you saw, can shoot the puck really well.  He did that last night.  I think just played on the right side of the puck.  Making good plays against a potent offensive team like Chicago, that’s what you have to do, is make them work for it, play through you.  Those are the things he was doing, had an excellent game for our club. Q.  Can you both talk about Darryl Sutter’s coaching style.

WILLIAMS:  I think as a player, it’s obviously a lot easier when you don’t have to get on the ice, get off the ice, have a lot of quick changes.  That kind of takes away from the flow of the game. I think really his trust with the players that he puts on the ice, regardless of who he puts out there, they’re good enough, they’re good enough checkers that they’re going to get the job done. There were a few times yesterday where you think a line is coming off, but he was like, No, go ahead.That obviously comes with trust.  That makes the players feel good, as well, knowing that their coach gives them the opportunity.
MITCHELL:  I guess, yeah, I think he kind of really has maybe three lines and his four D that he feels comfortable about putting out against anyone.  I think the strength of our hockey club is down the middle.  I think everyone knows that.  I think he feels comfortable having those matchups.  We have great guys on the draw who can control the game.  We have puck possession.  That allows him to roll and keep guys fresh. As players, you like that.  You kind of stay in the rhythm and flow of the game a little bit better.  Everyone does, for that matter. Q.  You talked about wanting to reciprocate.  Do you smell blood yet with this Blackhawks team?

WILLIAMS:  No, certainly not yet.  Every game gets harder to win the further you go.  Just to reiterate what I was saying before, we won in 2012, then we lost last year. I don’t know, that might get the fire going a little bit more knowing that someone got the better of you.  I know a lot of guys on our team, you know, hate losing just as much as they love winning.  We don’t want anyone to get the better of us.  We feel we owe them something. Q.  Has your confidence grown at all with these last two wins?

WILLIAMS:  Sure, I think it was important to get Game 2.  We kind of turned it around in Game 2.  But that game really would have meant nothing if we didn’t win last night. I mean, heck, it’s a playoff series.  It’s going to be ups and downs.  We need to maintain this up right now and put a little pressure on them.Q.  Does Game 4 feel particularly crucial because of home ice?

WILLIAMS:  I suppose.  The next game is always the most important game.  That’s the best I can explain it.

Q.  How are you working on being more aggressive from the get-go?

WILLIAMS:  They’ve scored the first goal the first three games so far.  I’m happy with the way we’ve been able to respond and come back.  We’ve had a lot of contributions from our whole lineup. But I think obviously getting a better start, getting the first goal would be ideal for our club. Q.  Willie, you’ve been champions, these guys are defending champions.

MITCHELL:  You know, it was probably more the hockey they felt everybody was going to see between the two clubs in Game 3.  Game 1, we played pretty good, Chicago didn’t have their legs.  Game 2, we found our legs in the third period.  Game 3, it was more up-and-down hockey, fast-paced. You could see it by their captain who came out and led the charge that they wanted that game.  We were right there, you know, pushing that game, as well. I expect the level to just keep growing and growing and growing in the series.  Like I said, I thought in Game 3 you saw that.  I think you’ll see that in Game 4 with the urgency. They’ve been there before.  They’ve been there in this playoffs.  You don’t become champions and winners without knowing how to turn the dial up at the right times.  We expect that. We’re going to have to be a team that matches that.  We feel we can with our experiences as well. Q.  Can you describe the resiliency factor right now.  You seem to be able to push the button when you need to.

MITCHELL:  Yeah, I don’t know.  I take it all the way back to 2012, we had a lot of adversity as a hockey club.  Got our coach fired.  We weren’t playing good hockey, weren’t scoring a ton of goals.  A combination of a bunch of things.  Team finding some urgency to get in the playoffs, Darryl coming in, having some success. I think going through that adversity, coming out the other end a champion, when you start to push up into those tough areas, you have a quiet sense of confidence within your group.  We’ve always done that, almost to a fault.  That’s put us in bad situations in this series where we’ve been down and had to claw back. We always seem to be a team that plays well the bigger the game is, when more is on the line. Against a good hockey club like Chicago, we have to kind of find that sense earlier on because a good team like that will put you away in a hurry.

Q.  When you first joined the organization, was there a different level of confidence to win than there is now?

WILLIAMS:  Yeah, I mean, that’s a pretty simple answer.  It was a non-playoff team trying to find their way and trying to rebuild.  Now we’ve built ourselves into a team that we want to have the respect of everyone in the NHL.  Throughout the past couple years we’ve done that, we’ve earned that.  We want to continue to do so.

Q.  What did Darryl fundamentally change?

MITCHELL:  Well, I think Terry deserves a lot of credit, because we’re a good defensive hockey club.  A lot of that is a testament to the things he was teaching young players on our team.  When you look at a guy like Kopitar, how much he learned, one of the best two-way players in the league. Anyone who knows the Sutters and knows Darryl knows he’s all about preparation.  Always say he kind of keeps us comfortably uncomfortable before games, and game day is game day.  He’s a motivator.  He’s big on preparation. I think maybe as a hockey club at certain times we lacked that.  I think he brought that into our dressing room as a whole and we’re prepared for every game.  There’s no game we’re not prepared for. I think that’s a big reason for a change in our success, is organization. Q.  Is he a better communicator than people give him credit for?  Direct is better if you’re a hockey player.

MITCHELL:  Yeah, he’s different how he does it, that’s for sure (smiling).  He played a few years and he has his own tactful way of getting the message across. Like I’ve said numerous times, I think the first time you kind of go through it, you’re kind of wondering what’s going on.  Then you kind of try to see it through his eyes, see what he’s trying to accomplish. He’s just a motivator, he really is.  He’s a guy that tries to get the best out of his players.  He’ll do whatever is possible to get it.  He does a really good job at it.  He kind of reads the tea leaves really well as far as when to push the buttons and when not to. I think that’s probably his number one kind of attribute as a coach, master motivator. Q.  Justin, when you see suspensions, coaches getting kicked out of practices, what do you think?

WILLIAMS:  I think most of the time we feel it’s not worth it.  At times it’s tough to be a whistle-to-whistle team.  Most of that stuff expends energy, most of the time negatively.  You want to be a team that has the last laugh, looks away knowing you got the better of somebody. That’s kind of what we want to be.  We don’t want to get into all the mudslinging, this guy is this, this guy is that.  We’re respectful of each other’s team, but we want to kick their butts.        

Q.  (No microphone.)
RICHARDS:  Just what you said, a team concept.  Everybody is pushing forward for the good of the team.  When you have that, it’s not who scores the goals, it’s not one guy that we rely on, it’s a team concept like you said. When you have that, it’s easy to play with each other.  It’s easier to push forward, to get better, because everything is all about the team.
Q.  How confident is this team going into Game 4?
RICHARDS:  We’re confident.  I mean, they are, too.  You don’t make it to this point without having confidence. We played well.  In the last couple games I thought our start wasn’t very good.  We have to address that and be better tomorrow. But that’s what playoffs are about, making adjustments.  Whatever it is, confidence or whatever, we’re playing some good hockey.  We just have to keep trying to get better and keep moving forward. Q.  On Jeff Carters performance. Does his game change when he plays center?

RICHARDS:  It goes back to the confidence thing.  When you have confidence, it just seems like the net gets bigger.  When you don’t have confidence, it seems like it shrinks a little bit. He steps up big-time.  He’s a big goal-scorer.  That whole line has created a lot for the momentum of our hockey team throughout games. It seems whenever the team starts to create momentum or have momentum, they step up in a big way.  With those three, they don’t need much room.  They just seem to find the areas.  They’re all natural goal-scorers.  Especially Jeff is just a natural goal-scorer.  He doesn’t need much room or many chances to capitalize.

Q.  Is it important to be able to roll four lines

RICHARDS:  Yeah, we take great pride as a team.  When we get into a rhythm of rolling four lines, I think staying out of the penalty box is good as a hockey team because it allows us to roll all four lines.  Come at the other team in waves, keep that relentless pressure on. I think it’s big for our team.  Staying out of the penalty box is big for us in a lot of different ways.  Obviously you don’t want to be killing penalties all night.  That wears on a lot of people.  When you stay out of the box, like I said, you roll those four lines, and we’re tough to stop when we do that. Q.  Does having four lines help with your offense

RICHARDS:  It’s not easy, that’s for sure.  You got to work for ‘em.  I think once we got Gabby, it creates that confidence or gives you that confidence that you have that natural goal-scorer.  We spread out the scoring in different lines. When you’re getting contributions from all four lines, it’s tough to match up against, especially when you’re the other team trying to look on paper who you want to check and what D pairings you want to play against. In our case, we just roll four lines.  We’re not overly a matchup team.  It allows everybody to get into the game early.  It creates that confidence that we have.  Once we got Gabby, I think that’s when we kind of had a four-line attack. Q.  When you’re playing this well, is there anything the Blackhawks can do?

RICHARDS:  They’ve done a lot.  They carried the play yesterday in the first period.  We had four shots in the second.  They’re obviously having some success.  We have to I think be more consistent with our game throughout the game, not just have bursts of one period here, a couple shifts there.  We have to try to play it more consistently throughout the game.  It starts with that first shift. But they’re a great hockey team.  They’ve proven it over the years, especially this year.  They’ve got some good players.  They’ve done a lot of good things.  We just seem to be getting the bounces right now. Q.  You don’t you have them figured out in some way?

RICHARDS:  I don’t think so. Q.  You faced the Blackhawks before.  Does this Blackhawks team seem any less resilient?

RICHARDS:  They just have a lot of good players on that team that step up in big situations.  It seems like whenever they’re behind the eight ball, they always have their big players step up, whether it’s Johnny, Kane, Duncan.  They have a lot of stars that can do that. We’ve been fortunate of having some bounces and getting some luck.  That’s what you need at this point in the season. Q.  Your team was so banged up this time last year.  Did you almost feel like you were fighting with one hand behind your back?
RICHARDS:  No.  Everyone has injuries in playoffs.  It’s just a matter of playing the cards that you’re dealt.  You can’t use it as an excuse. Last year is last year.  This year we’re focusing on things that we can control.  We’ve had some injuries.  They’ve had some injuries.  We’re just playing hockey at this point.

Q.  You guys have fallen behind in all three games

RICHARDS:  I think we’re a team that thrives off of having the lead.  It’s taken us a while to get going.  We’ve given them some opportunities that we shot ourselves in the foot with for them to score goals. But I think if you follow this team for a while, we’re a team that plays well in the third with the lead.  We’ve been lucky to have that the last couple games.  I like the way the team is finishing, but I think we have to focus more on the start and carry that through.
Q.  Did you detect any difference in Jeff?
RICHARDS:  I don’t know if he needs that little extra something.  I think he’s always a confident player when he’s on the ice.  I don’t think he struggles with that. I think being in the center may help him a little bit just with getting more speed.  He’s always stepped up ever since I’ve known him in playoffs.  He’s always been the guy in big games and situations, he always steps up, like I said before.  In key points of the game, if we need momentum swings, it seems like it’s that line that is giving it to us right now. Q.  The wingers are really physical.  Talk about that.

RICHARDS:  When you put yourself in good positions, it allows you to have the puck on your stick, you don’t have to waste energy chasing the puck if you put yourself in good positions. Tanner has that speed and gets on defensemen quickly and gets to the puck.  Same with Jeff really.  He’s fast.  Tyler is just a smart hockey player.  He puts himself in good situations.  I played with him a little bit over the last couple years.  He just seems to find that open ice, that knack for where he needs to be.  That’s something you can’t teach; that’s just hockey sense you get over the years. Jeff and Tanner are big guys, Tyler.  They’re big guys that have that physical ability to have that size advantage.  They’re tenacious, young legs, whatever it is.  But they seem to have a lot of energy.  As a team right now, we’re feeding off of that.

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