How important were the efforts of the third and fourth lines to the Kings in the first round? Darryl Sutter, chatting with media members today, noted that without those two lines, we would all, at that moment, be standing there talking about Game 6 against Vancouver, not Game 1 against St. Louis. Fourth-line winger Brad Richardson scored the game-tying goal and third-line center Jarret Stoll scored the overtime winner. Sutter is demanding when it comes to his top players, but he’s equally demanding when it comes to the role players. There are no passengers with the Kings, in the eyes of their coach. Sutter likes to roll four lines, and if one or two players aren’t contributing, Sutter is not a happy man. While that intensity can be a challenge for players, they have seemed to embrace the type of all-for-one, one-for-all message that Sutter has been trying to drive home. Jarret Stoll, who moved to a third-line role for most of this season, said it is critical to playoff success.
STOLL: “Playing a team sport like hockey, I haven’t really seen it too many years in the past, where you can have one line or a couple players or one goaltender win you a championship. That’s just the bottom line. That’s just the way it is. You’ve got to have guys who have roles and are proud of their roles and take pride in doing their job and doing their job well. Everybody has a different skill set. Darryl says it all the time. Anze Kopitar is probably our most skilled player, and then you’ve got guys like myself or Trevor Lewis or Dustin Penner or whoever, who have a different skill set, but you have to use that to your advantage in the best possible way. Some guys kill penalties. Some guys take face-offs. Some guys are blocking shots or being physical. All of those things, together, make up a really, really strong team. If you don’t have that kind of stuff, it’s tough to win in the playoffs. Those are the kind of things you need to win. Strong goaltending, timely goals, timely saves and big special teams. You put all those things together, and that’s usually how a championship is won. I’ve never won a Stanley Cup. You can just see, from the team in the past that have done it, that’s how it’s done.”
Question: Every player has certain strengths and every coach has certain strengths. Is one of Darryl’s strengths being able to make everyone feel a part of the effort?
STOLL: “I would definitely agree with that, yeah. Making everybody feel like they’re just as important as our most-skilled guy, like say Kopitar or Quick or whoever. You’ve got a guy like Colin Fraser, who has been playing great. Brad Richardson, Nolan. That so-called fourth line, whatever you want to call them, the last two games for sure, they’ve probably been our best line. That kind of confidence, that Darryl has in those guys, they gain confidence just from that. You can see that on the ice. It’s fun to see that happen, and it’s great for those guys to get that opportunity.”