Stevens on That 70’s Line, offense, Vegas, the team’s identity, more

On reuniting That 70’s Line, and whether it means he’s looking for offense:
You know what? No, we’re looking for a good, 200-foot game from all our guys. Tanner and Ty have moved around all year. Jeff’s gone up. They’ve played with Juice. We’ve mixed them up. Those guys have moved up and down our lineup, but clearly we’re going to need contributions from everybody. We need more offense, we know that. We need more zone time, we know that. But I think just in general, our whole game has just got to take a step here. Those guys have played together lots, but we’ve made those adjustments in-game. Juice – Adrian Kempe’s done a really good job in that situation, and Toby, we moved him around as well, and he’s played well. Those guys have had success before, and we’re going to need ‘em to be good again.

On what the team will need to do to generate more zone time:
You’ve got to take care of the puck in the first two zones. They do a really good job of getting over top of you, and everyone talks about their ability to skate and play fast and create offense – and they’re a really good offensive team – but I think they use their speed to check well, too. We just have to do a really good job of managing the puck, and then we need to make sure that we’re tough on walls and tough on pucks that don’t allow pucks easy in and outs where they can spend time in our zone again. We always talk about having fuel tanks full in that zone. If we manage the puck well and execute cleanly, we’re going to get into that situation with lots of gas in the tank as opposed to spending too much time in your zone, and now you’re looking to get a puck in and change because the tank’s empty.

On whether he anticipates another game with excellent goaltending:
I don’t think they’ve surprised anybody, to be honest with you. Jonathan Quick, I think he’s been one of the top goalies in the world since I’ve been here, and he’s a big-time playoff performer, and I think Fleury’s record speaks for itself. I think both those guys get excited for games like this. I think they get excited for playoffs, and I think their performance is exactly what everybody expected it would be.

On whether having the same trusted core is an asset when facing adversity in a playoff series:
I think you can just reflect on our season, first and foremost. This isn’t the group that won in 12 and 14. This is an entirely different group. We have people who’ve been in those situations before, and we’ve said all year in game, we haven’t let an early goal against us or a bad situation, one incident in a hockey game dictate the outcome of the game where guys just drop their shoulders and shrug it off and think ‘well, maybe it’s not our night. We’ll move on until tomorrow.’ Our guys have had the ability to handle ability to handle adversity in-game and handle adversity during the year where things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to go. You’re playing a good hockey team where there are going to be some obstacles in your way, and as long as there’s time on the clock, we still think we have an opportunity to win a hockey game. Well, there’s obviously time on the clock in a series, and we have an opportunity to climb back in the series.

On any different preparation for Game 3:
We spent a lot of times planning through this couple weeks here in terms of practice times and when we get the group together. We delayed that a little bit because we got in later than we obviously thought we would. But we just made sure that the players had everything at their disposal in terms of recovery resources. But we’d had a plan to stay downtown, we had a plan to meet last night, and we had a plan to skate this morning, and that part hasn’t changed, but I think there was just a real extra focus and emphasis on recovery coming out of a game like that in a hot building that was extended time with guys playing big minutes.

On whether he enjoys lower-scoring games, or whether he would prefer more offensive games:
We could about this all day, but it was interesting. When I was coaching in Philadelphia, there was lots of talk of making the nets bigger. So, we’d sat down with Mr. Snider, and he wanted our opinion. I said, ‘I’m not ready to do that, I’m kind of a traditionalist.’ So, I said ‘let me go back. I want to go watch the 1-0 game with the Bruins and the Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. Let be go back and look at that.’ It was a 1-0 game, and to me, the game, we all love scoring. But the thing I came away from watching that game, you know what we love as hockey people? We love the emotion in the game. Every time Bobby Orr got knocked on his but, the crowd was on their feet. Any time there was a confrontation, a big save, a chance going down the ice, to me it’s about the emotion of the game and the confrontation that makes the game great, and I think when you see two teams playing hard whether it’s a 1-0 game or a 4-3 game or a 5-4 game, I think what we love about the game of hockey is the emotion that it brings, and I’m good with 1-0, 2-0 games. As long as we have the 1-0 and 2-0. … [Reporter: So, Mr. Snider changed his mind?] Well, the nets never changed. But it’s a good point. I think we’ve tried to change the rules and everything – the great thing about hockey is the emotion in the game. If you want to see a hockey fan, and somebody comes to the game live, they’re hooked for life. I can’t tell you how many people when I played in the minors in nontraditional towns like Hershey, Pennsylvania, people go to a game live, they’re hooked for life because they love the emotion of the hockey game. [Reporter: Vegas, I guess, is an example of that, right?] They’ve done a great job there. The fans have really embraced the team there. The playoff atmosphere there was terrific to play in, just like it is here, and they’ve had an exciting team to watch this year, so I think they’ve really taken in that team. Lots of of people watch games and they love the emotion they play with, so it’s not surprising.

On whether the game is different at all since the last time he was a head coach in the playoffs:
It’s really not. I think if anything the speed of the game has increased. But if you go back in a playoff game, the intensity, the physicality in a game, how important every play is, the importance of goaltending, special teams, the discipline. Everything matters. Back when I was coaching 10 years ago, all those same elements were the same. I think the game has changed a little bit in terms of the speed of the game and the mobility of the game, but competitive skill and playing a man’s game this time of the year are still going to rule the day.

On what makes Vegas unique:
All the games have been tight. They’ve got a deep team. They’ve got good team speed, and they play fast. They don’t … slow the game down. They’re getting the puck up to speed. They’ve got a deep group and four lines that can all play, and because of that, they’re allowed to play with pace all the time. They’ve had eight defensemen most of the year that they dress six that can all play, and they’ve got really solid goaltending. I know they had some goaltending issues, but it’s not surprising. They hockey people are smart people. They all thought that Vegas was going to be a competitive team before the draft even took place. They’ve got quality people that have experienced coaching and in management, and I think they had access to players that are good players, so they’re a deep team. But, having said that, we’ve had a really good head-to-head series with this team this year, and all the games in the regular season were tight games. Obviously the playoff games have been tight games. We’ve just got to take another step here to end up on the other side of those tight games.

On whether the Kings still have the same intensity and battle element they’ve traditionally had:
We sure do. We just won the Jennings Trophy. You don’t do that by guys not having intensity about their game. The makeup of our team I think has changed a little bit in terms of some of the mobility, the way our back end is built. We’ve got some young players in our lineup at key positions that I think has changed a little bit. But we love how hard our team plays and how committed they are, and to me, that factor is still in place like it was a few years ago.

-Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI

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