Sometimes, the elephant in the room has to be dealt with; it needs to be talked about.
Goaltender Cal Petersen hasn’t had the best of seasons, and his inconsistent play even goes back to last year. It’s all part of a larger story that’s been written about and talked about for quite some time — he’s expected to be the heir apparent to Kings legend and future Hall of Famer Jonathan Quick. It just hasn’t happened on the timetable most were expecting.
Earlier this week came the surprise announcement that GM Rob Blake and the LA Kings had placed Petersen on waivers. It wasn’t to permanently release him, nor did management have any grandiose ideas that another team was going to swoop in and pick up a contract that has two additional years remaining and more than $10M owed on it. Instead, the move was made to give Petersen a chance to get his season — and perhaps his career — back on track.
And just like you can’t make the playoffs in November, but you can sometimes lose them, the first game of Petersen’s road to redemption was an important one. Nobody, especially not the 28-year-old netminder himself, wanted to see another disappointing performance when he started for the Ontario Reign on Friday night.
Petersen stopped 27 shots, including 13 in the third period, and was named First Star of the Game. He also was given the ‘Hard Worker of the Game’ award by Quinton Byfield (note: the previous winner passes it on to the next teammate worthy of such an accolade).
“The guys battled tremendously for me, which was awesome,” Petersen said after the 3-1 Ontario win. “It’s cool to see them, and a lot of guys I’m meeting for the first time and they’re willing to lay their bodies down for me and block some shots. So that was awesome to see. It was a great team win. Being down a man at the end, getting some huge blocks, a bunch of sacrifice. It was really, really cool.”
It was a somewhat nostalgic moment that wasn’t lost on him either. He was returning to a building he dominated in for several years, yet he was still the new guy of sorts for this one.
“It’s different, it’s an adjustment,” he noted. “But I’m going to make it the best thing for me at the time right now. [I know] where I want to be, and this is the route to get there. That’s the way I’m going to look at it.”
Where to from here, though? There really isn’t a linear path of where to start.
“It was a bit of a shock, a bit of an adjustment, but it’s a reality,” continued Petersen. “All you need is a net to showcase yourself and to show who you are and who you can be. So, I’m very fortunate to have an opportunity to come down here and play. They have great fans and it’s a building I know well, so it’s going to be a great opportunity.”
Even a few days after the dust was kicked up, Petersen was still processing everything that had taken place in the days preceding his solid start in Ontario.
“I’ll kind of keep what was said between [me and GM Rob Blake] between us,” he added. “But the fact of the matter is, he felt that this was the route for me to get back to where I want to be in the NHL. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s the reality of it. So, that’s how I’m going to look at it. This is a great opportunity to be able to play consistent games. That’s something that I felt like I’ve needed, and this is going to be a great opportunity to get a lot of game reps. The next time I get the opportunity go up there and play, I’ll be better.”
When specifically asked what’s been ailing him, as part of an assessment of his overall game, Petersen indicated that while he’s still searching for clarity in some areas — one thing hasn’t changed, his supreme confidence in his abilities.
“It’s a hard answer,” he said. “I’m obviously the harshest critic of my game. I have a great team around me that cares about me deeply. I know where I can be. I feel like I can be a starter in the [NHL] and one the best goaltenders in the league. That belief hasn’t been shaken. I don’t think you ever really know the road that your hockey career, your pro career, is going to take you. It’s been a crazy ride just to get to this point. If a little detour is what’s around the bend, that’s what the universe has in store for me. That’s how I’m going to approach it. I know what I can do, and I know who I am. But right now, it’s a day-by-day process to get better and it goes through Ontario.”
Fortunately, for Petersen, he’s not in this journey alone. A plethora of people have reached out to him over the last 48 hours to pledge their support.
“Honestly, too many to count,” when asked about this aspect of the story. “Guys I haven’t spoken to in a long time [called and sent text messages]. A lot of friends did. That was really supportive. I had a lot of people that were in my corner, even a few people I haven’t even met. To see them, and to see them recognize how this is a hard situation, and that they have my back and wish the best for me is the reason I was able to come out here and have a good game and hopefully carry this forward and then hopefully get to where I want to be.”
Lead photo via Daniel Stopani
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