Darryl Sutter has a go-to collection of refrains that regular readers of his practice and postgame quotes will instantly recognize. “Pardon.” “Quite honest.” “If you do it.”
There’s another saying used frequently, even if didn’t work its way into his vernacular between Games 2 and 3.
“It’s not that hard to figure out.”
It’s an adage applicable to the elevation in Tanner Pearson’s play correlating with his added experience.
Pearson made his NHL debut in the playoffs last spring, and even though he logged only 5:44 of ice time in Los Angeles’ Game 3 loss to San Jose, it provided a base for his improvement when he was recalled earlier this season.
“He’s a little bit older, a little bit more experienced. He’s learning about the league,” Darryl Sutter said on Wednesday. “We brought him up, played him a little bit in the playoffs, gave him the exposure, not as playing as much as just seeing what it’s like to be consistent in terms of your work ethic and your preparation and your practice habits and all those things that come with being a better player. So he’s taken a step. He hasn’t played every playoff game for us this year. There’s still lots there. He’s a young guy that’s just sort of getting his feet under him.”
The added year of experience has paid dividends for Pearson, who has enjoyed his most consistent production over the last two months for Los Angeles.
“I think it’s just because of confidence, and playing more games and more games you kind of get used to things,” said Pearson, who has two goals and nine points in his last 14 regular season and playoff games.
Sutter than delved into the topic of how he begins to trust younger players, which evolved into an interesting discussion.
“Somebody said it after the last game – they asked about Tanner and Tyler. Well, Tanner and Tyler played just as much, and it’s always a Tanner and Tyler question,” he said.
“When they dress, we expect them to play as much as everybody else, and if they’re playing well enough, then they do. And if they’re not, then they don’t. It’s no different than any other player. It’s very much, as playoffs go along, just the way it works. Hey, it’s a harder game. We were very fortunate, quite honest, to win the game in overtime that we won because we had to use a short bench because some guys weren’t up to standards. We were very fortunate to win that game. Some guys played too much, some guys didn’t play enough. All you had to do was look at ice times at the end of the game, and you know on our team pretty much how guys were playing. Because we expect them to perform, and that’s a big adjustment in the conference, to be quite honest, is you need a whole. You say there’s depth, or you use your bench, well they’ve got to play a lot, and they’ve got to play against good players. It’s not junior or college where you’re playing freshmen against freshmen or seniors against seniors or 20-year-olds against 16-year-olds. This is a different deal. The young guys have to be better prepared for that. When you look at our team, quite honest now, with the injuries on the back end, those guys, hey, they’ve got to step up and play against top players. We’re going to win and lose that way. We’re not going to win and lose by somebody playing 35 minutes. We’re going to win and lose by somebody going from a 13-minute guy going to an 18-minute guy.”