Once upon a time in Southern California, you couldn’t watch a local TV station for more than an hour without seeing at least one Cal Worthington commercial. The ‘Go See Cal’ jingle was nearly omnipresent for decades.
And at this rate — once fans are allowed back inside Staples Center – the LA Kings may want to start pumping out their own ads, ‘Come See Cal!’
Long talked about as the heir apparent to Jonathan Quick, the time may be coming quicker than many expected. Signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2017, after he couldn’t come to terms with the Buffalo Sabres, who had drafted the Iowa native several years earlier.
By early 2019, he was already the No. 1 prospect in the Kings organization. Later that summer, Petersen was signed to a three-year extension that basically spelled out the plan management had in mind – one more year in the AHL to fine-tune his skills, a call-up to the NHL in 2019-20, and then a full-time NHL gig this season. The only real question remaining was who would get the majority of starts in 2021?
Petersen’s numbers thus far have been rather staggering, even for a limited sample size.
Debuting with the Kings in the 2018-19 season, Petersen played 11 games that season and posted a .924 save percentage. Last season, he carried a .922 save percentage over eight games played before the league shut down in March.
In eight games played thus far this season, Petersen has a .926 save percentage. He’s also third-best on the Goals Saved Above Expected list, trailing only Andre Vasilevskiy (TBL) and Jacob Markstrom (CGY).
While Kings coach Todd McLellan clearly doesn’t want to anoint him LA’s number one starter just yet, Petersen has started the past three straight games. Early in the season, McLellan was using more of a rotation between Petersen and Jonathan Quick.
Amidst an unusual break in the schedule, with allowed the Kings to host consecutive practice days on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, Petersen opened up about his season to date:
On if he is feeling good in net after starting the last three games
It’s all about building into the season and I feel like I’ve become more comfortable game by game and the experiences that I’ve gotten. It’s more so just taking everything I can from the previous game, building on it, and just continuing to feel more confident in there.
On the relationship he has with Jonathan Quick
I don’t think anything changes. We’re both really competitive guys, so I think we’re both obviously going to be battling for any starts that we can get. I don’t think that’s going to change throughout the season. At the same time, I think whoever is playing, the other guy has that guy’s back and is nothing but supportive. I think it’s a great, real relationship in that standpoint.
On what he’s been working on with Bill Ranford and Quick during practice
A lot of what we’re doing right now is more so geared towards whoever our opponent is gonna be coming up. One of the nice things about playing these two-game segments is you get to kind of key in on some certain tendencies that maybe the other team has and really work on those. Usually, it’s kind of geared around some of the drills that we do after practice; tendencies in the offensive zone or what other teams really look for. That’s something that we’ve been really working on and Billy has done a good job of really identifying things so we’re as prepared as we can get whenever the two games come around.
On if three practice days in a row is helpful to him, or if he prefers the routine with a day off
I think anytime you practice you have a good opportunity to maybe gain some more confidence or we’re working on stuff that you don’t really get to work on when you have a string of games. I think from that standpoint, it’s great. The thing to always monitor is building into the game, so you’re not too gassed for that. The unique thing about having these different practice days is that you get to work on stuff. I think it only helps your confidence going into games when you have two or three days of good practices under your belt.
On if he’s building his own book on tendencies of different teams and players or if he relies on Ranford for that information
I think a little bit of both. The main thing is it’s a collaborative effort. I think Billy probably does more of the identifying through video and lets me know the different tenancies. Then, if you’re playing a two-game segment, you kind of picked up on some stuff that they’re trying the first game. You’re a little bit more prepared for the second game. I haven’t played every team in the league, so some of the teams and their tendencies are a little new to me. I’m just rolling with it, absorbing anything I can that will help me the next time that we play each other, especially with this format when you’re playing teams eight times – any little piece of information or tendency you can pick up can only help you later on in the season.
On if the net-front traffic and speed of the NHL game is what he expected
I think the thing that’s benefited me over the past two years in a way is I somewhat know what to expect. I’m also trying to learn with each game. It still feels something like that is relatively new for me. Like I said earlier, I’m feeling more comfortable in the net with the day-to-day and it definitely feels like it’s the place I’m supposed to be and the level I’m supposed to play at. For me, I’m really enjoying every day up here and settling in and trying to build my game to be the best I can and help lead the team to a few victories.
On if being on the Covid list at the beginning of the season disrupted his preparation for the season
It was one of those things that in a way, once I was put on the list, I didn’t really have any control over it. It was more so doing everything I could from that point on to be as prepared for the season. I think that’s the thing, the players and teams who can manage those little disruptions, the best are the ones that are gonna have the most success. Coming right after training camp, I took it as a way to maybe let the body rest a little bit and be even stronger and in better shape when I come back. It was hard the first couple games back, those were my first games in however long. So it took a little bit to get my game management and understanding back. Since then, it’s been pretty good in that regard.
On if he has had a chance to mentor goalies on the taxi squad
[Matt] Villalta has been up a little bit, mostly it’s been Jacob Ingham. I think those guys are – first, they’re really hard workers and I think it’s the way that they have been able to approach it. They have to come out early for practices and stay out late. It’s a hard thing to have to come out and take some more unfavorable shots that are a little bit more geared towards forwards and scoring at the beginning and end of practice. Those guys have had great attitudes and come in and worked really hard. It’s a great opportunity for them to basically get NHL shots every day. They’ve been awesome in that regard and they’re really cool to have out there with us.
On the difficulties of learning the tendencies and communication methods of the many defensemen who have played in LA this season
The good thing is a lot of the guys that are coming up, I’ve had a relationship with and have played behind before – whether it’s been with the Reign or just getting to know them here. I think it’s a collaborative effort. Every single game, individual guys and then us as a group, have gotten a lot better. Our transitions have gotten better and our understanding of where each other’s gonna be in the zone have been a lot better. It’s something that a lot of guys have taken advantage of, the opportunity. You could see from the last game, we’ve really grown from the when Walker and Roy went down. I think it’s a great thing that there’s gonna be a lot of competition back there. There are a lot of guys that can step in and fill roles and have that success. It’s been a very positive thing in that regard.
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Lead image via Getty Images / LA Kings
Some quotes may have been slightly edited for brevity and/or clarity.