December 2 practice quotes: John Stevens

On what the team has had success with on the road trip:
I think we’ve been very committed without the puck, to be honest with you. I think we really tried to put a focus on our team game, and I think our leadership group has been terrific and has really kind of led the charge. You always hear the term ‘your best players need to be your best players,’ and I think our best players have really led the way on this trip, and I think when they do that, it strengthens the rest of your group. I think the team has played really hard, and the team game, they’ve really depended and trusted the team game on the trip, and it’s helped us.

On whether Drew Doughty’s game has been more “patient” on the trip:
I don’t know. I thought he was terrific last night. I thought he controlled the hockey game. We have those games where just has an impact with and without the puck, and I thought he did that last night. He had really good jump, he was the fourth man on the attack a lot. He eluded the forecheck, he defended really well. He looked like he was right on top of his game last night. I don’t know if ‘patient’ is the word I would use with Drew, but I think he’s been really dynamic, and I thought last night might’ve been his best game of the trip.

On what stood out about the third period performance last night:
I think our team, I thought Kopi’s line was really good for us last night, but you go on the road, and they’re going to match-up. Stastny played against Kopi last night, and that means other guys have to play against Tarasenko and Schenn and Schwartz’s line and some of the other people there, so I thought our other guys really stepped up and played a solid game. I thought we did a good job moving pucks out of our zone. When the puck was in our zone, I think the commitment to keeping the puck out of our net has been really good, and I thought the idea of playing fast with the puck was really key on a couple of the goals we created last night of getting pucks through a team that checks really well in the neutral zone and created some good opportunities.

On whether the fourth line’s performance gives him more freedom in rolling four lines:
We need that group to give us quality minutes. Jussi’s been kind of a utility guy that’s oved around for us, but I think that group really has to give us momentum shifts. But we’re going to spend time in the offensive zone, they’re going to go out there and create some chances for us and give us some physical play, but I think that line is really important. If you look at St. Louis’ fourth line, I think they’ve been tremendous for them in a lot of areas. We expect the same thing from our group.

On whether he felt the team defended well last night, despite allowing 40 shots on goal:
Our goalie was really good, but the quality chances that we tracked were really close in terms of what we gave up and what we created. I think both teams had a little more rush play than zone play, which was something we’ll definitely look at. I think we’d like to see our forecheck create a little more for us coming out of our situation, but back-to-back game, it was pretty clear. We tracked breakouts last night, and we usually get somewhere between high 40’s, low 50’s in the game, we had 30 in the first period. St. Louis clearly had a plan to put every puck in and establish a forecheck. Part of that was the game plan we were faced with, but I thought our guys did really good. I thought our D did a really good job going back for pucks, and even when the puck’s in our zone, our goalies have been really good, but I think we’ve put a lot of stress on a lot of those shots where the goalie’s not worried about four options because we’re getting to people and they have that different scheme in the offensive zone. I thought we did a good job in terms of recognizing it. We were happy with the progress in that area.

On keeping the lines intact during the road trip:
Well, we’ve kept them because we’ve made the commitment to go back to them. We were kind of all over the place in a couple of those games, but we feel like if guys are on, we like the way the lines are set up. With Gabby coming back in, the Kempe, Gabby and Lewie line has been really good for us. Shoresy with Ty and Tanner has been a solid line for us, and Kopi’s line has been solid all year. It’s the fourth line that we’ve been trying to get some point of consistency with, and I think we’ve had that on the trip. But I think when you’re in a stretch like we are this week with the games and the opponents, they play four lines and they come with pace and they play a heavy game, you need more than three lines. You need more than four D.

On whether Adrian Kempe gets more favorable match-ups on the third line:
If you call playing against Tarasenko favorable matchups, no. You’re going to see guys like Toews usually check the top players, which means Kane and Sharp and DeBrincat and guys like that are having great years. You’ve got to check those guys. I think he’s done a really good job of showing the responsibility without the puck, and I think we all love his game and his speed with the puck, but it’s the responsibility without the puck that’s encouraging.

-One quote withheld for today’s practice report
-Lead photo via Scott Rovak/NHLI

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