Where’s Scrivens? Sutter’s handling of goalies has fans guessing

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For a guy who’s at or near the top of every goalie stat in the NHL, the Kings current “#1 goaltender” Ben Scrivens is all of the sudden having trouble getting playing time.

Scrivens, who earned the backup position in LA, was thrust into the limelight when the Kings franchise goalie, Jonathan Quick, went down with a serious groin injury. Immediate concerns for the team were quickly replaced (pardon the pun) with adulation for a little-known goaltender who has only lost one game in regulation play in 10 starts since taking over. Scrivens, for all intents and purposes, has performed far beyond expectations… at least the expectations of most everyone not named Darryl Sutter, the Kings head coach.

This past Monday and Tuesday saw the Kings play the first back-to-back games against the Blues and Ducks respectively since Quick’s injury, leading to speculation that the Kings new backup goalie (and recent call up from the AHL) Martin Jones would get his first start in the NHL. Jones, who has performed well in Manchester (the Kings minor league affiliate) led the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. His call up to the big club marked an unexpected, but welcomed twist to his season as a result of Quick’s absence.

Back-to-back games often represent a perfect time to give the #1 goaltender a rest and give the backup much-needed playing time. But would Jones’ complete lack of NHL experience preclude Coach Sutter from starting the rookie? Especially on the road against a cross-town rival who is ahead of the Kings in the tight Western Conference standings? It seemed like a coin toss of a decision to most but in reality, it appears Sutter’s decision to start Jones was fairly easy. More on that in a moment.

Scrivens and the Kings beat an excellent Blues team handily at home on Monday 3-2, having been up much of the game 3-0 only to give up two late goals (one on a power play and one with the Blues goalie pulled). It was another strong performance for Scrivens overall. The following morning however, Jones left the ice first ahead of the Ducks game, indicating he would start, although no official announcement was made per Sutter’s policy. Jones did start and went on to win his first game in a stellar shootout performance, stopping all 9 Ducks shooters. It was later revealed that Sutter told Jones he would start immediately following the win over the Blues Monday night.

The next game wasn’t until Saturday against the Islanders at home. Naturally, Scrivens would resume his starting role, right? Not so fast. After Tuesday’s game, Sutter hinted at what would turn out to be serious concerns about Scrivens’ recent play. In his post-game interview, he said of starting Jones, “Why not?” He continued, “the other guy (Scrivens) is not used to playing every game, and some things are slipping in a little bit,” meaning he sees some bad habits starting creep into Scrivens game despite his strong numbers.

That was Tuesday night. Wednesday was an off day for the Kings and Thursday revealed nothing about who might start on Saturday. Friday, on the other hand, proved to be somewhat of a reporting mystery as the top Kings blog, LA Kings Insider, apparently left out a critical part of Sutter’s post-practice interview regarding Scrivens.

Side note: Like most NHL cities, LA’s hockey media constantly jockey for angles on stories about the team. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter who might get the scoop on a story because the vast majority of fans visit the ever popular LA Kings Insider blog believing it is the be-all and end-all for everything about the team. This is far from the truth as multiple sources not employed by the team itself often reveal information that gets overlooked by many so-called die hard fans. Such was the case Friday.

In his practice quotes reported by the Insider, Sutter didn’t even mention Scrivens name. However, later on Friday over on the old Insider blog at the Daily News, which has little-to-no fan interaction, this quote was reported regarding Scrivens bad habits alluded to earlier:

“Just little things,” Sutter said. “You can’t do it at this level. You’re going to get scored on. We did a lot of work with Ben at training camp to get him into our program. There’s a reason why we don’t give up a lot of shots. There’s a reason we don’t give up a lot of goals around our net. … A big reason is the goaltender. If he’s getting away from that, he’s not going to play.”

He’s not going to play… that’s a pretty big hint. Most fans had no clue Sutter said this on Friday. Indeed, Scrivens was hardly a topic on the chatty Insider. It wasn’t until Saturday morning, when Scrivens and Jones left the ice at nearly the same time, did speculation grow that Jones might get the start. But even this move, which is unusual because the backup goalie will typically stay on the ice after the pre-game skate to get in extra work, was considered a ploy by Sutter to keep the opposition guessing.

Sutter did drop another hint after the skate, however, claiming that Scrivens “has been off-and-on lately,” when clearly if we’re talking about hockey, Scrivens has been nothing short of lights out. The guessing continued as Scrivens led the team during warmups at Staples Center, which is an almost certain indicator of who the starting goaltender will be. But Sutter was not done with his chess moves as Jones stepped on the ice at game time to start his second consecutive NHL game. As it turned out, Jones recorded his first NHL shutout, an impressive performance that only adds to a brewing goalie controversy in Los Angeles.

After the game, Sutter added more fuel to the fire when he said Scrivens was “supposed to” start against the Islanders, not Jones. When asked after the game what changed after warmups, Sutter caustically replied, “I don’t have to clarify that.” Today, however, Sutter decided to supposedly clarify things by telling the LA Times that Scrivens was “dinged up” and “didn’t feel right” after warmups, leading to the decision to start Jones. However, it was also revealed that Sutter apparently told Jones he was going to start the game on Saturday afternoon, which is more than a small contradiction. That leaves us about as clear on the decision to start Jones over Scrivens as a foggy day at sea.

Was this Sutter sending a message to Scrivens about his recent play “slipping?” Did Sutter really tell Jones he was going to start as the Times reported? If so, why would he say it was Scrivens who was slated to be in net and not Jones? Did Scrivens really not feel well on Saturday? Or was that something Sutter made up out of whole cloth?

When asked this morning if he was expecting to start Saturday, Scrivens skirted the issue saying, “that’s the coach’s decision, and I’ll leave it at that.” When asked about being injured, he said, “I feel good, skated today.”

Before the game on Saturday, Kings star defenseman Drew Doughty had this to say about Scrivens:

“He’s been playing really well for us. He hasn’t been letting very many goals in, and he’s doing a great job back there for us. We have all the confidence in him, the same confidence we have with Jonathan Quick. For him to step up to the plate like that and play the way he’s playing, it’s a big confidence booster for the team, and it makes us happy for him, too.”

By all accounts, it seems Darryl Sutter isn’t nearly as confident as the rest of the team.

Next up: The Kings fill face Montreal on Tuesday and Toronto on Wednesday. Yes, another back-to-back scenario for the Kings and their goaltenders. As if it needed any, to add some more plot to this drama, Wednesday’s game will mark the Kings first matchup against Scrivens’ former team since the Kings acquired him and Matt Frattin in a trade that sent former Kings backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, to the Maple Leafs.

Who will start in goal? Stay tuned…

  • YoBro

    Good read Pablo. Trying to read Sutter, however, is darn near impossible. Guy like Scriv comes in when JQ gets hurt, plays lights out as you say, and seems to somehow find his way into the doghouse? If he IS dinged up okay, but if not, WTH? If Sutter can find fault with a guy who has stepped in and been so darn good, WAY better than his injured starter btw, maybe Scrivs should have thought twice before farting in DS’s office. ;)

    • http://kingsfandaily.com/ Paul @KingsFanDaily

      The “bad gas” theory. I’ll have to investigate this indigestion.

  • Kingsfanone

    OK. I guess were all confused about what’s happening. Moreso tho is why wasn’t this disclosed on Insider as you say? Since “everyone” is going there for information, yet it seems some pointed info was not either let out or was purposely not divulged. What gives?
    I’m with you, Paul. I’m confused a little here. Thanks for doing your part in this drama that seems to be developing.

    • http://kingsfandaily.com/ Paul @KingsFanDaily

      It’s an odd episode in an otherwise great season so far. I’m not sure why that quote wasn’t included on that post on LAKI. Perhaps it was an oversight or maybe JR wasn’t there for that particular interview or maybe it is on the site somewhere else I overlooked but I checked many times. Regardless the contridictions remain unexplained.

      • shiny

        I don’t want to say anything negative about Jon because he’s been great, however I have noticed that often he leaves out quotes that I see in other places. I don’t know if he holds them back on purpose for stories, which he does sometimes, but most often there’s a quote or two missing. A lot of times I’ll see it on Mayor’s Manor or in an LAT story. Usually I’ll see it in a Daily News/Inside SoCal story that a quote is there that isn’t on LAKI.

        I wonder if Jon’s position as the “Insider” makes Sutter trust him less. Like, he’s not an independent journalist such as Hoven or Bernstein (who doesn’t usually attend media scrums anyway as far as I know) or Lisa or Helene, etc. I don’t want to even try and get into Sutter’s head, though, because there’s no way I’ll crawl back out with my sanity in tact

        • DetroitSons

          It’s called J.O.B. security ;-)

  • Neil

    Good story…

    • http://kingsfandaily.com/ Paul @KingsFanDaily

      Thanks Neil.

  • shiny

    This certainly adds an interesting wrinkle to things in LA. Sutter is notoriously difficult to please and I can see where some bad habits had creeped into Scrivens’s game. But you would think with the extra practice time, Scrivens would have earned his ice time back. And I know Sutter isn’t fair, but that’s grossly unfair to Scrivens given how he (Sutter) treats Quick. Bad habits creep into Quick’s game? No problem, he’ll play through it; he doesn’t need the rest. Bad habits creep into Scrivens’s game? Well then there’s an issue. I wonder if Sutter just holds Scrivens to a higher standard as the “backup” (which is ridiculous and in fact, he should be held to a lesser standard, IMO. Basically, go in and be solid, which is all he seems to expect from Jones)

    • Pili

      Not so much a higher standard as a smaller sample to base confidence in. Ben’s numbers have been stellar but lapses have crept in and DS isn’t ignoring it.

  • DetroitSons

    Beautiful, I’ve found a site, thank you.

    • http://kingsfandaily.com/ Paul @KingsFanDaily

      You’re welcome.

      • DetroitSons

        Paul, you are very welcome, glad to find a site that doesn’t sugar coat.

  • http://lakingsinsider.com/ Jon Rosen

    I left the quote out because I was planning on withholding it for my LAK.com goaltending feature. I don’t like using quotes twice. Really, any time I leave a quote out it is because I’m using it for my weekly LAK.com story. I have no interest in protecting any players or members of the hockey staff. If they say it, and I have my recording device on, it will be used somewhere 95% of the time. This time, however, I’m not sure if I’ll use Sutter’s full quote, because it was followed up with 12 minutes of Bill Ranford gold yesterday, and I’m not sure the quote remains topical for the particular piece I’m writing. If you’re interested, the quote in its entirety is here:

    “I knew during the game – that game – I had seen [things]
    start slipping into Ben’s game, two or three games ago. Just little things that
    you can’t do at this level. You’re going to get scored upon, or the team’s
    going to get beat. We did a lot of work with Ben in training camp to get him
    into our program. There’s a reason that we don’t give up many shots. There’s a
    reason that teams don’t score many goals around the net, and there’s a reason
    we don’t spend much time in our zone. There’s a reason why have the puck a lot,
    and a big reason is how the goaltender plays for us and what we want him to do,
    and if the goalie is getting away from that, then he’s not going to play
    because there’s only a few of what did you call those goalies? [Reporter:
    Elite.] There’s only a few of those.”

    • Kingsfanone

      Jon,
      By not including the entire quote & editing it as you did, you yourself created the “goalie controversy” that you yourself had to answer in another thread. Correct? By not including an entire quote you changed or misdirected Sutter’s comments. If quotes won’t change the thoughts he was trying to convey in the comments, then I could understand keeping some quotes out for a later edition.
      Apparently the missing quotes severely changed his message, & when someone else reported it, that created the controversy.

      No one else would’ve known you had more quotes & were saving them. Therefore the confusion ensued.

      Is this making any sense?

      Thanks!

    • http://kingsfandaily.com/ Paul @KingsFanDaily

      Good to know. Thanks for the clarification. Seems like a pretty important quote to leave out under the circumstances however. Since you’re not pulling punches on Sutter, how about your take on the events leading up to Jones’ last start? Specifically, do you believe Darryl Sutter purposely deceived the media, and by extension, the fans? If so, what purpose did it serve? If not, can you explain the apparent contradictions?

      • http://lakingsinsider.com/ Jon Rosen

        While saving it for my LAK.com story, part of my reasoning to leave it out was because I thought (incorrectly) that a similar reference to things “slipping in” to Scrivens’ game had been previously been included in an earlier story. Several questions asked recently – the question to Ranford (not sure if you saw the video that Gann posted) about “slipping in” and the question posed to Darryl after Saturday’s game about things “slipping in” were questions I asked. The question over whether Daryl tries to deliberately deceive the media is a broad question that can’t be answered by using this most recent episode as the sole case study. If you’re at TSC next week, I’ll share with you several instances for and against that argument, and will let you come to your own conclusions.