Regehr’s royal reunion with Sutter adds some bruise vs. Blues
Rugged, veteran blueliner nicely complement the dash of Drew Doughty
LOS ANGELES — Robyn Regehr’s mug looks like a stretch of bad road … and it’s all good.
Already in this series, he’s had the heel of St. Louis captain David Backes’s skate break his nose in Game 1, a puck strike him in the right ear, and T.J. Oshie’s stick push his hastily-repaired beak off-kilter again in Game 5 so that it leans to port and probably is going to stay there until the summer, at least.
He has a lot of miles on his odometer, and the legs are every bit 33 years old.
But at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, with a reach like an octopus, he is exactly what Darryl Sutter had in mind when the Los Angeles Kings acquired him from Buffalo for a pair of second-round draft picks on April 2.
“He still covers a lot of real estate,” Sutter said of the big defenceman he had, as coach or GM, for eight years in Calgary — and in this series, and at this point in the arc of hockey history, size matters. A lot.
The reunion of Sutter, who left Calgary branded as a man the game had left behind, and Regehr, who was wasted on a bad team in Buffalo, has come at a time in the game’s evolution when the hard-nosed style Sutter has always favoured is very much back in vogue.
“Guys get older and experience helps them,” Sutter said Friday, at the morning skate prior to Game 6 of the series they lead 3-2. “We said at the time, we needed more experience on our back end. It's showing in this series. If we wouldn't have him, we would be doing clean-out locker day.
“When you have kids as dynamic as Drew (Doughty) and Slava (Voynow) are, they have to complement each other. It’s still about the whole package, and if the package isn’t all in one, then it’s got to be in two.”
Which is why Regehr has slid in nicely in a pairing with Doughty, while Voynov is paired with another old (and big) pro, Rob Scuderi.
Being back on a Sutter team, Regehr said, isn’t exactly like slipping on an old pair of shoes.
“Out here, it’s flip-flops,” he said, grinning.
“No, but as a coach, he's always had that ability to push players. He's a demanding, challenging, coach to play for, but, for the most part, you know exactly where you stand with him. He's got a record of getting guys to over-achieve, and from a coach, that's what you want.
“Fundamentally, he's the same guy (he was in Calgary). But from talking to former players from the stops that he's made along the way, I think he's mellowed a little.
“But he still demands the same thing. His focus is the same. His preparation is still the same, which is huge with Darryl.”
Also huge with Darryl is ... well, being huge. The Kings have had to use all their physical tools against Ken Hitchcock’s equally big, equally determined Blues.
Backes, the prototypical captain who has size and skill and a mean streak, loves the pitiless way this series has been played.
“I think it’s been extra physical, but you see these two teams and how they’re built ... (with size) where they can grind on teams and wear them down over the course of a 60-minute game and then a seven-game series. You’ve got two teams here that are trying to put that same game plan on each other, and it’s a battle of wills.
“That level of competition is why you play the game. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s not Sunday night beer league just for fun. This is for the most prestigious trophy in the world in the best league in the world and if it were easy it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
“But it’s tough and it’s a grind, and everyone wants to hoist the thing the way our opponents did last year — and they deserved it last year, but were trying to change the course of the story that year.
“I think it’s great for the game, it’s what that 4-5 matchup probably should be like, you know, beat the crap out of someone or get the crap beat out of you. And we’d like to do the first.”
Regehr has never shied away from the rough stuff.
Asked how many times his nose had been broken during his career, he said:
“How many fingers and toes do you have? I don't know. Just like stitches, I stopped counting a long time ago. I'm just putting my nose in all the wrong places.”
The Blues, dismissed by the Kings in the second round a year ago, are inching closer this time.
Last year, said Hitchcock, “the scores were closer than the games were. There wasn’t a feeling on the bench, at least for me, that we were going to push through. We’ve come a long ways. We’re pushing them to the limit; they’re pushing us to the limit.”
Until they’ve been dethroned, Hitchcock knows, the Kings are still the champs. The 48-game season, the Cup hangover, the compressed schedule, the six playoff games in 10 nights to start this post-season ... none of it has defeated them yet.
“Like I’ve told our players: you have to outplay the champions, you can’t play the same as them,” he said. “If you play at their level, you’ll lose. I’ve been in this situation a number of times.
“When you’re the defending Cup champion, you have some experience in critical times … that you can really rely on. It’s familiar ground, and we’re not on that ground yet.”
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