There’s never any love lost when the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks meet. As we saw on Tuesday night, it doesn’t matter when those teams get together, the emotions will be incredibly high.
In what was probably the game of the young season, the Kings edged the Ducks 4-3 in overtime. It’s an easy game for the players to get up for, and it’s certainly one of the NHL’s most underrated rivalries.
“I read up on a couple things the day after the game and one of the fans was saying that if it was two Canadian teams it would be one of the most talked about rivalries going on,” Kings forward Tyler Toffoli told PHT on Friday. “It’s kind of funny, but I think for us as two teams, it’s definitely a game that we look forward to. It’s a big game, a conference game, division game, and we’re happy we got the win.”
The Kings and Ducks rivalry is also part of LA’s partnership with Delta Air Lines. Toffoli is one of the ambassadors involved with the Kings Class fan program, a season-long promotion that offers fans the opportunity to win experiences such as traveling to see the team take on the Washington Capitals in D.C. later this month.
Toffoli also appears in an ad with Kings mascot Bailey, though it’s brief and he didn’t get any lines.
“Well, Bailey stole the show and he did a good job of getting us through it. I did my part and I thought I did a really good job there,” Toffoli joked.
We spoke with Toffoli about the Kings’ off-season coaching change, appreciating winning, some of his celebrity encounters and more.
Q. Going from Darryl Sutter to John Stevens, this is your first coaching change at the NHL level, was it a pretty seamless switch considering John’s been there for a number of years?
TOFFOLI: “Yeah, that definitely helped, but also in the summer Johnny did a good job of staying in touch with all the guys from last year and previous years — just seeing how summer was going, how training was going, just talking about what he had planned for this season coming in. I think guys have done a really good job of not only training in the summer but buying in to what Johnny wanted to bring in early on in the season here.”
What’s different about John’s approached compared to Darryl’s?
“John’s just doing a good job of getting all the players involved. He’s doing a good job of bringing the right emotion in the games and just staying with us. I think everybody’s buying into the system and I think we’ve done a really good job of when we’ve been getting down in games, just staying together as a group — not just the players, but the coaches. We’re just really positive throughout games.”
Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are having bounce-back seasons. What are you seeing in their games this season that’s contributing to a return to form?
“I think their chemistry together has been really good. I think Brownie’s done a great job of taking the leadership role of doing a really good job on the power play. He’s just been playing good hockey so far this season. Those two have done a good job and the rest of us have just been following along and just sticking together.”
Your first two years in the league you go to the conference final and then win a Stanley Cup. The last three years haven’t been so memorable. How much did the last three seasons show you just how difficult it is to win in the NHL?
“Definitely, I’ve learned a lot. I’ll never take for granted what those first two years brought for myself because some guys never get a chance to win — not only win, but make it that far in the playoffs. It’s one of those things where I miss and I want to do a really good job of helping our team make it that far again because it’s the best time, it’s the funnest time for all the guys, and winning is the best feeling.”
Regarding your line mates, we know about Tanner Pearson, but what about Adrian Kempe? How has he been able to jump in there and mesh so well?
“He’s done a really good job of stepping in for Jeff [Carter]. When he got hurt it was the next guy to step in and step up and do a job. And I think Adrian’s done a really good job of using his speed, just playing some really good hockey for us and it’s obviously one the big reasons why we’ve been successful so far this season.”
I want to go back to that crazy overtime goal versus the Bruins. You’re lining up there. There’s 0.9 seconds to go. You’ve got to be thinking there’s no way to beat the clock there, right? No matter how perfect the draw is?
“It was one of those things… We line up for that at the end of games, people do it all the time. Going in we just wanted to try and get a shot off as quick as possible, either Drew [Doughty] or myself. Kopi snapped it back so quickly and I got it off as fast as I could and it went in. It was one of those things. It was crazy and the emotions were definitely flowing at the time.”
I watch it and I’m surprised at Tuukka Rask’s position. You have a left-hand shot taking the draw on his off-side and then Tanner on the left wing. Can’t believe Rask wasn’t thinking of you as a possibility.
“I think it was just one of those things where he maybe didn’t think of anything because there wasn’t that much time left. But it happened so fast. I’m not going to complain about it. We’re not going to complain about getting that extra point in overtime. We’re just going to take it and run with it.”
Finally, having lived in LA for a few years what’s the coolest celebrity story you’ve got?
“My fiancee works for the Dodgers so when I go to some of those games I get to meet some pretty cool people. I’ve met Magic Johnson before. Tommy Lasorda is cool to talk to. He’s super intense and when I get to talk to him he’s very intimidating. There’s definitely a lot of people you see around. They just walk around like they’re normal people when they’re by the beach with us.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.