LOS ANGELES — Darryl Sutter wants to know, what constitutes a "good start"?
The Kings head coach has been asked time and time again in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs why his team starts off so slow. So far in the Stanley Cup Final, Los Angeles has looked tired in the first period of Game 1, unengaged in the first period of Game 2 and listless in the first period of Game 4.
But the Kings won two of those three games and they’re 3-1 in the series against the New York Rangers. The odds are in favor of the L.A. coming into Friday night’s Game 5 so Sutter isn’t really sure why all the chatter of slow starts is taking place.
"I mean, what does ‘start’ mean?" he asked. "Does that mean shift, period, till the first time out, O zone, neutral zone, D zone, faceoff? What does it mean?"
In four of the Kings’ last five games, they’ve fallen behind 2-0 in the first period. A good start, some might argue, would be not falling behind by two goals at the onset.
"I think that, you know, we had three games there, but I think that early on we had some better starts and stuff like that," said Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell. "It’s just the eb and flow of the playoffs, it stresses you to score first only you’re not. You’re trying to accomplish that every game but (don’t) necessarily execute every time."
Center Anze Kopitar said the team has had frequent discussions about their lack of first-period production. It’s no secret that it’s been an emphasis, the Kings have been open about it, but ultimately, the good periods have outweighed the bad.
"We’ve talked about it quite a bit lately," Kopitar said. "I think our third period was pretty good in New York so we want to do stuff that makes us successful and that’s playing a fast, physical game and just really stick to our game plan. That’s all."
Sutter, the club’s resident philosophy professor, will continue to ponder the greater meanings of the game’s opening frames.
"How important is a good start?" he said. "Well, that’s why they put time on the clock always, that’s when it starts. Then you get 30, 40 seconds of it, then somebody else gets to go. It’s not just the start."
Other morning skate notes
— The Rangers felt like luck was finally on their side in Game 3. But after two weeks of lamenting their lack of it, the Kings are ready to finally stop talking about luck in the playoffs.
I asked Kopitar if he was tired of hearing the word luck in the Cup Final. His answer: "Yes, absolutely!"
Blaming a win or loss on pure luck in the Stanley Cup Final is trivial.
"I guess we didn’t have it in Game 4 but it doesn’t matter," Kopitar said. "Everybody in here is confident enough that if we do throw our A Game, it should be enough. We just have to get ready. What happened before happened, we can’t change that obviously. We have to look ahead towards tonight’s game and just make sure we’re ready for it."
— Looking for a job with the Kings? Stat heads need not apply.
When asked about the Kings’ seemingly dominant third periods — in particular their 15-1 shots-on-goal advantage in the third period of Game 4 in New York — Sutter’s response made all of the fans of Corsi and advanced analytics roll their eyes.
"Quite honestly, you’re probably saying that because of shots for and against, right? It’s pretty much irrelevant," he said. "If you only had one shot and you needed that to score the goal and you did, then you’d take that, so …"
You can add third periods to list of items Professor Sutter likes to ponder.
"I think domination in third periods is not the right way to look at it," Sutter said. "I mean, there’s different reasons that you have good third periods. Maybe you’re down. Maybe you’re up. Maybe you got penalties or power plays. Lots of different reasons for third periods, the way they are."