Jonathan Quick

While Kings wait on Doughty, their goaltending looks way more than solid

The Los Angeles Kings’ training camp is being dominated by talk about how negotiations are going (or aren’t) between GM Dean Lombardi and restricted free agent Drew Doughty. The off-ice stuff is frustrating to read about for Kings fans especially since both sides seem to be dug in for a battle, but on the ice there’s a part of the game the Kings won’t have to sweat at all.

Los Angeles’ strength this year will come from having two strong balanced scoring lines and the ability to play tough hockey, but what makes them a threat to go deep in the playoffs and take aim on the Stanley Cup finals is their arrangement in goal. With Jonathan Quick set to be the starter and forever young potential future star Jonathan Bernier backing him up, the Kings aren’t likely to have many off nights from the goalie position.

Kings coach Terry Murray says that while Quick comes in as the number one guy, he won’t hesitate to ride the hot hand during the year when it comes right down to it. L.A. Kings Insider’s Rich Hammond finds out from Murray that goaltending is one position where the Kings have a wealth of riches.

“I have one No. 1 goaltender. Jonathan Quick is the No. 1 goaltender. Jonathan Bernier is a goaltender in waiting. I was real happy with his second half of the year. He played some huge games. In fact, I think he got points in every game that he played after the All-Star break. He’s starting to get his feel in the NHL. He’s moving in the right direction, understanding the shooters and the pace of the game now. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens, but Jonathan Quick is our No. 1 guy.

“Last year, at this time, I had looked at the schedule and penciled in the goaltenders until Christmas. `This is the game you’re going to get.’ I didn’t identify those, sitting down with the goaltenders and talking about it, but I followed my plan. I didn’t do that this year. I think I pigeonholed myself a little bit. I want to get away from that. I’m going in with a plan to play both goaltenders. They’re both, I know, going to be real competitive. They all want to play every night. So we’ll just take it from there and play the games.”

It’s not a bad spot for a coach to be in to have two outstanding goalies on the roster and for the Kings, both Quick and Bernier are young guys. Quick is 25 while Bernier is 23 years-old and while Quick didn’t come with the sky high expectations being a third round pick in 2005 out of UMass that Bernier did as a first round pick in 2006, Quick’s play last year put him on the map as one of the best goalies in the Western Conference.

Having two great goalies can work well but the pressure is on Murray to be able to practically and correctly manage their play. Having two great goalies didn’t hurt the Bruins last year and Tim Thomas’ great play made sure he kept playing for most of the season. Having Tuukka Rask there to help out when Thomas needed a breather made it easier for the Bruins to keep rolling.

For Quick, getting played a lot two seasons ago playing in 72 games clearly affected how he played in the playoffs. Last season, Quick played in 61 games and looked stronger in losing in six games to San Jose including a shutout in Game 2. Quick also had his best regular season as a pro.

If Murray can get that rotation working and have both goalies be top stoppers when they’re in, the Kings are going to be awfully tough to beat whether they’ve got Drew Doughty there from the get-go or not.

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”