Jake Muzzin enjoyed a mostly positive return to the lineup Saturday night and accounted for two assists in Los Angeles’ 5-2 win over Dallas.
“I just talked to [Assistant Coach John Stevens] this morning. He said I did a good job competing off the rush,” the second-year defenseman said Sunday morning at the team’s practice facility.
Muzzin earned 1:43 of power play time as part of a relatively light workload of 14 minutes and six seconds. Though he acquitted himself well in many regards in Saturday night’s win, the defenseman with a heavy slapshot and crisp wristshot was once again challenged to get shots through traffic. Though Muzzin has a goal and three assists through four games, he has five shots on goal – and eight shots that have been blocked.
It’s early in the season, and eventually the number of attempts blocked will turn around. He identified players within his locker room and outside the Western Conference as those who provide a strong model of getting shots through traffic when defenses collapse around the net.
“Guys like number eight on our team is pretty good at it,” Muzzin said of Drew Doughty. “Karlsson on Ottawa – he can move and creates lanes. So you just try those things in practice, and try ‘em in a game and see if they work. You’ve got it in you to try it, just watching and trying to create an angle. It’s tough. These guys block shots a lot.”
Muzzin’s confidence with the puck has grown, and if last season’s head fake of Saku Koivu can be used as an example, he has shown a promising ability to play the puck with his head up, which affects the way he receives pressure.
“If you look like you are in control, guys won’t come out at you as hard. If you look kind of like you’re in panic, or your head’s down, they’re going to charge at you. But if you have your head up and you kind of buy some time for yourself, you can see options. You’re not just set on one play. You can see if there’s a guy open here or there. You can fake or make a play with your head up a little bit better than skating with your head down.”
Of course, Muzzin’s play without the puck and his ability to assert himself physically and use his 6-foot-3 frame will continue to keep him in the good graces of a coaching staff that places considerable value on size and strength.
“I felt pretty good,” Muzzin said of his Saturday night performance. “I wanted to play physical and make simple plays, hard plays, and let the rest look after itself. I could’ve been a little better, a little more composed with the puck, but for a first game back in a while, I felt pretty good.”