A quick update from Anaheim: Both the Kings and Ducks held optional morning skates at a quiet Honda Center as most Kings kicked a soccer ball around downstairs and took part in meetings with members of the team staff. I spoke with both Jake Muzzin and Darryl Sutter on a variety of topics related to the defenseman’s continued emergence and trust in key situations. Those transcripts are below.
Darryl Sutter, on what he liked about last night’s penalty killing:
Didn’t have to kill many. [Reporter: While you were killing, too, it seemed there were a lot of full, length-of-the-ice clears. Anything that stood out to you?] Those clears would’ve been based on probably faceoff wins, I would think, most of ‘em.
Sutter, on Jake Muzzin’s growth into absorbing a variety of situations:
For the players to become top-four defensemen, they have to be able to play first minute, last minute, probably more penalty killing than power play, to be quite honest, to be top-four guys that are on good teams. There are top-four guys that can only play on the power play or can’t play in situations, they’re basically offensive guys that don’t play consistently on good teams. And he has, obviously, come along very well into a top-four role, and we think the ideal place for him is with Drew, so that means you’re on the ice in a lot of situations. I think you see Muzz is still developing. He’s still maturing as a player, and if you look last night, in the last minute, how important [it is] bringing in a role player in that can play 20 minutes like Scuderi can.
Sutter, on if there are more all-situational, balanced defensemen in today’s game:
I think we’re all looking for that, Jon. Are there more? No, there are not. Just do it. Just go back to your room today and just do it. There’s not more. If you look at everybody’s six defensemen, there’s still a blend in there. I think that that’s way blown out of proportion, this wheel-and-deal thing. Championship teams, look at the Boston and Chicago teams, there’s a blend of defensemen there. Guys who can play the whole 200-foot game that have a good skill set that are also great defenders.
Jake Muzzin, on last night’s penalty killing:
I thought we did a good job not letting them get set up. When you let teams get set up, they’re obviously going to create chances and opportunities, and we kind of limited that on the rush and got pucks out and made them do a lot of breakouts. It was big for us.
Muzzin, on how Rob Scuderi affects the team’s defensive rotation:
He’s obviously a great penalty killer and has been his whole career and calms down the back end a little bit with a veteran presence and a guy who’s been around and showed his leadership and experience on the penalty kill and five-on-five and near the end of the games as well. Just keeping things calm and not getting too frantic in our zone, it helps.
Muzzin, on how he has grown into becoming a trusted, all-situational defender:
A lot of it comes from experience and them giving me the opportunity and building that trust with the coaches and yourself. It’s a position you want to be in. You want to be the guy that they look to go to, whether to score a goal or defend a one-goal lead or whatever the situation is. You want to be the guy and get excited for the opportunity and to help the team win. A lot of it comes, like I said, with experience and getting put in those situations and succeeding in them and learning from them when they don’t go so well, so it’s just a process. That’s pretty much it.
Muzzin, on how he’d evaluate his season:
I feel good. Obviously there are ups and downs throughout the season, and points come and go, but the defensive part of my game I feel has come a step this year with the penalty kill responsibility and the trust factor with the coaches and stuff like that. I’m happy with it, and there’s obviously room for improvement, and we’re going to need it coming down the stretch.
Muzzin, on what makes Anaheim’s forecheck unique:
There are teams that come and they want to forecheck the puck, and there are teams that come and they want to forecheck you, and this is a team that’s going to come and hit you. You know they’re coming to hit you, so you’ve just got to be ready for it and answer the bell, hit them back or set picks, give yourself a little bit more time. If we’re quick and executing properly, we can use it to our advantage.