Happy Practice Day, Insiders!
A short one today, as Todd McLellan indicated it could be. The first whistle blew at 10:58 AM and the final whistle commenced formal practice at 11:14 AM.
That’s what a practice day consists of, more often than not, at this point in the season. As McLellan discussed after yesterday’s game, practice was more about video work and on-ice flushing of the legs, as opposed to a ton of formal drills and agendas. The homestand is great and it’s nice to be here at home for an extended timeframe, but the stretch run grind has arrived and that takes its toll, regardless of where you’re playing it.
“I think at this time of year, it’s a grind,” McLellan outlined. “We’ve settled into home, we’ve settled into practice, but the practices have been short, it’s been quick. We’re either a day off, we’re having a practice that consists of about 30 minutes or we’ve got a quick cleanup skate, just to make players feel good and get the crap out of their legs for the following day. A lot of the adjustments are done on video right now, so we’re trying to conserve some energy and get keep them fresh. The difference at the back end of the year and the front end of the year is how you use the practice time.”
With all of that in mind, there was not a ton of formality in today’s skate as it pertains to line rushes and pairings. The most noticeable difference was that the team wore green and gold jerseys, as opposed to gray and black ones, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. The hard-hitting journalism you come to this website to discover.
'Tis the season 🍀 pic.twitter.com/Hq2PKK7eQ0
— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 17, 2023
So……..How About THAT Goal
Which goal am I even talking about?
Was it Drew Doughty’s terrific solo effort, moving around a couple of defenders on route to opening the scoring? Or what about Carl Grundstrom’s commitment along the boards, ultimately resulting in a terrific solo effort of his own? Or was it perhaps passes made by either Quinton Byfield to set up Anze Kopitar, or Trevor Moore to feed Viktor Arvidsson in the wheelhouse?
All due respect to the passes, which were tremendous in their own right, let’s look at the solo efforts.
Starting chronologically, Doughty’s game-opening goal was an outstanding display of stickhandling, coming on a night when he was impactful at the defensive end as well. On the game-opening goal, Doughty saw an oncoming defensemen who had his skates turned in such a fashion that he could scoot around him to the inside. Another move later, on his own rebound, Doughty batted the puck out of mid-air to complete the highlight-reel play.
“He just kind of turned his skates the wrong way and then I was able to step to the middle and go to the net,” Doughty said. “I got a little lucky, probably shot it earlier, I should have done that later on the game on my toe drag too, but I didn’t. I probably should have shot early, didn’t and made one more move, luckily it came right back to me and I just batted it in.”
Actually kind of funny he referenced the toe drag, which could have been an even better individual effort, had he gotten the finish to go in the third period.
Doughty’s goals have been down this season, but his assists have been way, way up. Perhaps a bit of a recalibration over the past six periods, with Doughty netting in each of the last two games, in different fashion. By his own admission, he used to attempt more in the vein of what he did last night earlier in his career, but felt he learned as he went along that a two-way game was more conducive to winning. Doughty, in his head coach’s eyes, has always had that difficult playing against nature to his game, along with the skillset to move pucks and create offensively.
“He was always tough to play against, his vision and his ability to break plays up, his offense, just his complete game,” McLellan said. “Now, he’s what, 1200 games into his career when you throw all the playoff games in, the Olympics, he’s played a lot of hockey and yet he’s durable. I think he’s maintained a pretty high level of play for a lot of years.”
On to Carl Grundstrom, who has been lauded by many as the team’s best goalscorer during practice.
Grundstrom is a bulldog on the ice when he’s at his best, with an enviable collection of tools. He plays a heavy style of hockey, brings physicality below the goal line, along with responsibility and a shot that’s sneaky good if you’re not aware of it. If you are aware of it, it’s just good. On the play in question, Grundstrom twice lost possession of the puck and twice won it back, before a slick little move coming off the goal line and a pinpoint shot on the glove side, without a ton of space to operate.
“I don’t know,” he said with a laugh, when asked how he got that puck to go in. “I lost the puck a couple of times and got it back and finally just got it into the good area to shoot and I just fired short side. It was good, it felt good.”
While Grundstrom was modest, his linemate, Rasmus Kuarpi, was more than willing to be less so. Calling that play “the perfect Carl Grundstrom goal”, he emphasized the traits that Grundstrom has on the ice and what makes him such an impactful player. Putting pretty much all of those tools to good use yesterday, the end result was the goal you see before you.
“What an individual effort by him,” Kupari said. “He just kept griding, pretty good shot too. It shows what kind of player Carl is, he just works hard and tries to win every puck battle, as he did there. That’s a pretty perfect Carl Grundstrom goal.”
McLellan had a bit of a smiliar smirk when asked about Grundstrom, calling him a player who means a lot to the group, calling him a “popular guy” amongst his teammates.
In his final stretch with the team, Dustin Brown admitted to taking a liking to Grundstrom throughout the course of his final season, recognizing some of his own game in a young player. Doughty was highly complementary as well in the post-game scrum yesterday evening. For all that Grundstrom beings to the table, with an honest approach to the game, it’s not hard to see why.
“He’s been persistent, he’s worked hard, he’s endeared himself to his teammates and they really want to see him to well,” McLellan said. “He’s come a lot way and his goal is a prime example. He takes a shot, he strips a puck, he wins a battle and he rolls out and shoots it again. Simple, straightforward, powerful, good teammate. Pretty good description of Grunny.”
All The Former Blue Jackets Men
Additionally, Insiders, embedding the full interview with Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo on the All The Kings Men podcast. I personally thoguht this was an excellent interview and an opportunity to hear an extended conversation with two of the newest Kings. We’ve also recorded with Zack MacEwen, an episode which will drop over the next week or so.
Short report today, but a full-length preview to follow in the morning. Enjoy March Madness, enjoy watching Kings prospects play in their conference tournament final fours and enjoy a night of NHL games without a game that impacts the Kings. Not many of those to follow, as the stretch run continues.
Proudly presented by Destination Vancouver. Pacific-ER. North-ER. West-ER. Go Norther.