Fox's tales: Parsing Parse's debut, Doughty's development, Simmonds' strength under pressure
Jim Fox is a former Kings forward and the award-winning color commentator for Kings telecasts on Fox Sports West He played for the Kings from 1980-1990 and ranks eighth on the Kings’ all-time scoring list. You can get more insight from Jim and about the LA Kings at www.lakings.com.
Seems like the “same old-same old” right now for the Kings. Most of the numbers like goals-against and penalty killing percentage continue to be a concern, but at the same time, they are finding ways to win games.
All teams are trying to improve in one area or another and the Kings are no different, but when you can get points along the way, it makes everything that much easier to take. When a coach wants you to improve on something or he wants you to clean up an area of your game, it is so much easier to take the criticism and move ahead when the team is winning.
Scott Parse played his first game in the NHL on Saturday night versus the Phoenix Coyotes and he more than held his own. He is not the most dynamic skater in the world, but when he makes up his mind to get from point A to point B, he gets there in time. Still a long way to go for Parse and he has not earned a spot on the team yet, but it certainly was a positive debut.
Like any player playing his first game it is imperative to get off to a good start or you may not get a second chance since you have not yet had time to build up the trust of the coaches. He made himself visible on his first shift, getting a hit and played solid from there. Along the boards he has been very conscientious and made sure that he got the puck out, especially when he saw quality ice time in the third period.
There is no better way to make friends with the defensemen on your team than to be there for them when they have to go up the wall and rely on you to get it out. Rarely does it turn into a scoring chance, but the next time he will trust you and that is important. Solid debut and the Kings hope he can bring the same trustworthy attitude each night.
I haven’t even mentioned his first NHL point and I should. Great fake shot to freeze the defenseman and goalie, and a nice hard pass to Jarret Stoll. His history tells you that he can make plays; his solid board play will get him more ice time in crunch time.
Something that is rarely talked about is pass receiving. We usually concentrate on the pass and not the reception. At the NHL level it has to be automatic. Stoll has mastered the one-time shot throughout his career and he scored a five-on-three goal versus Phoenix, a skill that he has become known for. So many times we focus on the shot, but with a one-timer, it has as much to do with how you receive the puck. On the pass from Parse, he was even more impressive, as he took a hard pass on the backhand. It’s tough to say who is the best at receiving passes, but during the Kings' 5-3 win over the Coyotes, Stoll made it work twice.
Drew Doughty looks like he is going to be more productive in his second year as he has piled up nine points in eleven games. Not bad for anyone. But he has struggled a bit this year as other teams are playing him differently.
Last year teams went right at him and he used his hockey sense and escape skills to get away from pressure. This year, the opposition teams are taking more of a “contain” approach and Drew is still trying to figure it out. He is turning the puck over at times trying to make too much happen. This is not unexpected and probably is just part of the normal learning curve for any player, especially a young defenseman. Also, any player who has the puck as much as Drew probably will end up turning it over more than guys that rarely handle the puck.
As with most things when you watch him, he still finds a way to impress. I have been impressed with his battle and compete as he tries to find a way to adjust to how teams are defending him. His attitude is exactly what you want from a potential all-star. When he makes a mistake he never sulks or lets his mistakes bring his team down. He just looks at the coaches and says, put me out there and the mistake won’t happen again.
A lot of eyes are on Wayne Simmonds as he gets a chance to play with the big boys on the first line. In the past I have tagged Simmonds as a “tweener”. He is known for solid defensive work, but he always finds a way to display some very impressive offensive skill. He falls between a checker and a scorer. With the Michal Handzus line he has proved that he understands how to shut down the other team and as a winger on a scoring line, he has proven he can find where the net is.
There is an intangible that Simmonds is carrying over from last year and it is an intangible that every player wants to be known for. It seems like the bigger the game or the more critical the situation; Simmonds plays his best and at times, as good as anyone on the Kings. He wants the puck and he continues to make the correct plays when under pressure. He is not known as a leader, yet. When you handle the pressure as well as he does, respect is just around the corner.
One of the easiest things to do is get on a team for blowing leads in the third period. So when the opposite happens, it is only fair to give a team credit. That was the case against Phoenix. The Kings entered the third tied, 2-2, but took a 4-2 lead. Then the Kings went on to play as solid a third period as I have seen in a while.
There was no backing up, there was no “prevent defense” as they continued to try to make plays and until the final shift, actually played most of the period deep in the Coyote zone. They played as a five-man unit and the forwards were aware of their responsibilities as they provided support for the defensemen. This is an area that will always need work, but versus the Coyotes, the execution and maybe more important, the attitude, was very effective.
-- Jim Fox