Nearly half of Robyn Regehr’s 33 years have been spent on the roster of a National Hockey League team. A first round pick by Colorado in 1998, Regehr made his NHL debut as a 19-year-old with Calgary in the 1999-00 season and has spent the last 15 seasons with the Flames, the Buffalo Sabres, and now the Los Angeles Kings, with whom he has appeared in 23 regular season and 18 playoff games.
There is heavy mileage on Regehr’s body. Though there are limitations in his mobility, the veteran defenseman claims to have improved positionally in the second half of October, and his own observations are certainly in concert with many of those in observance following a pair of games this week that would likely constitute his two most productive outings of the young season.
“I think I’ve been feeling better the last three or four games, and I’ve just been in a little bit better position, and a little faster to close guys out, and that’s caused some good hits and some more physical play, which for me personally, I need that,” he said. “I feel like I play a better game, and I’m in the game more if I’m hitting, closing guys down and being hard on ‘em.”
Ranking third on the Kings with an average of 17 minutes and 11 seconds of even strength time on ice per game, Regehr was credited with five hits in both Monday’s loss to Calgary and Thursday’s win over Phoenix. He also blocked three shots against the Coyotes, recorded an assist, and finished with a plus-2 rating over 20:49 of total ice time.
“I think if you look at Robyn as a player, he’s always been known as a tough defender. He’s a really good defender,” said assistant coach John Stevens. “He gets people isolated along the boards and below the goal line, the plays he stops there. On top of that, he’s not going to lead the rush, but he’s capable of getting the puck and moving it up, getting it to his partner and making a support play. I think he’s been very effective for us in that regard the last couple games.”
Earlier in the season, there was an adjustment period in fine tuning his positional bearings and improving his timing and reads. As he has gained more in-game repetitions, the level of his play has risen.
“Timing is a big part of…positioning. Also, the speed in which you close down on a guy once you get the angle on him,” Regehr said. “So once you figure out the angle, you know where you’re going to meet him. You have to do it very, very quickly. Nowadays, a lot of guys, especially with guys with some very good speed, what they’ll do is they chip the puck past you, and then you can’t touch them, and then you go around that way. There’s a lot of things that kind of have to play into that, but just being a little bit sharper on all of them, having a little bit more practice to do that, and getting in more game situations to just improve at it.”
The challenges in winning battles for pucks chipped beyond the defending goal line was not an issue limited to only Regehr.
“I think early in the year, that’s an area where our whole team had to get better at,” Stevens said. “But certainly with him, Drew, going back for pucks and being able to get pucks that we get to first, either get your feet turned up or make a play. It’s something we’ve spent some time looking at, and he spent some time doing some extra work on in practice, and I think it’s starting to pay dividends. But clearly, when you do a good job defending, and you get possession of the puck, you want to be able to keep possession by making plays from there, and that’s something he’s worked hard at.”
Regehr also shared some specific objectives when the team is competing in its own zone and analyzed his assist on Dwight King’s goal as part of a fundamentally sound play in the win over Phoenix on Thursday.
On how to defend pucks chipped deep into Kings territory:
First of all, if he chips it in, and you can’t make the play on him initially – you have too much of a gap, or there’s just been too much time since he’s chipped it – you have to turn and race back. If you can get the puck first, you go back and get the puck first and try to make a play, get it to your partner or do something with it. That being said, if you go back, and it’s going to be a 50-50 puck, what you usually try to do as a defender, you try to get under the guy’s stick so he can’t make a play on the puck, and then kind of get your body in position so you can finish the check, and then separate him from the puck. That’s really what a lot of body checks are, are separating the opposition from the puck so either you can get the puck or someone else can get the puck. Those are the two kind of different scenarios. I guess the third one is, if he chips it past you, and you know he’s going to beat you, sometimes you leave him for your partner if your partner’s coming across, and he’s going to play that situation, and you have to go back to the front of the net. Or, if it’s you, then you look for the angle. So you know he’s going to get the puck. Figure out the angle he’s going to go, and try to cut off the back of the net, because you don’t want to allow him to get behind the net, because what that does, is it makes everyone on all of our defensive zone coverage then shift to the other side, and whenever you have that happen, it’s hard because there’s seams that open up. There’s usually time that it takes to do that, and time allows the offensive team to make a play. So you want to cut that – we call it ‘cut the ice in half’ – because you want to keep ‘em onto one side and finish him.
On his assist on Dwight King’s second goal against Phoenix:
I was just shooting at him. I was shooting it at Dwight. I knew that when Justin made the play across, and I saw the puck bouncing to me, but I also took a quick peek, and I saw that [King] was already in great position in front of the net, and as we just spoke about, the puck went from one side to the other. So what happened if, if you look at that play, those players hadn’t had a chance to come over and check him yet. He’s there, and he made a great deflection. I shot it at him. He did all the hard work.
On whether he simply tries to “shoot it low” in those situations:
[I’m] just trying to shoot it at them [so] they can get a stick on it exactly. You look – sometimes guys will have their stick up in the air. Sometimes they’ll have it out on their forehand or backhand. Wherever it is, you just want to try to shoot it so they can get at it. It’s very, very difficult to shoot on a goalie, on an NHL goalie, from the blue line, just you and the goalie, and score on him. The percentages are extremely low. You want to use screens, you want to use tips, you want to use things like that in order to try to set something up, whether it’s a goal or a rebound, or something like that where you can create some offensive chances.