The People's Choice — Continued
(from the LA Kings Game Night Magazine)
"What Lappy brings is his work ethic," said Robinson. "He's always talking, he's always chirping, and he's a little bulldog out there on the ice. He brings a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of heart to our club."
"He helps the team in two ways," concurred captain Rob Blake. "On the ice you need a mix of character players and guys who will stir things up and play offense and be very physical at times. That's what he does on the ice. In the dressing room, he's very vocal, very loud."
Though soft-spoken off the ice, Laperriere, once he laces up the skates, has a way of getting opponents' attention...usually by smashing them into the boards.
"I'm more of an emotional guy, you know. I go out there and just try to hit everybody," Laperriere said.
He also feels free to voice his opinions to anyone who will listen and many who won't.
"I practice my English," said Laperriere with a smile and a devilish glint in his eye. "If somebody tells me, 'Don't talk to somebody,' I'm just going to go and talk to him. It's certainly part of my game."
The results speak for themselves.
Last season, the Kings set a team record by killing penalties at an 87.2 percent clip — third best in the league — thanks in large part to the efforts of Laperriere and left wing Dan Bylsma.
"He's one of our best faceoff guys and penalty killers with Danny Bylsma," said Robinson. "I think he's a little underrated as far as his offensive abilities, I think he has more offense than he gives himself credit for, but his physical play is his strength."
"He's an energetic player, he likes to get involved in the game," said Bylsma of his linemate. "Part of what makes a penalty kill work is how hard the four guys can work out on the ice, and as hard as he's working, it makes it easy to create loose pucks, create turnovers and keep their power play off balance."
His hard work and hard-hitting approach to the game has earned him accolades from Kings' fans, who voted him (and Bylsma) Most Popular Player, from the media, who voted him Best Defensive Player, and from his teammates, who voted him Most Inspirational Performer.
"The fans appreciate what I do out there, and that's terrific," said Laperriere. "I don't have a lot of skill like other guys do, but I just work hard and people appreciate that."
His being a fan favorite comes as no surprise to Robinson.
"It's his style of play. He's not the biggest guy on the ice, but he plays with the biggest heart out there."
And that heart is truly in Los Angeles.
"Everybody's so into it," Laperriere said of the fans. "The fans who come to the game are real fans."
He also considers it a privilege to play for Robinson, a big deal for a kid who grew up in Montreal.
"I saw him play a lot, and I'm starting to learn how good he is as a coach," said Laperriere. "He has made it a part of my game to start thinking out there. But Larry just wants you to have fun and that's great.
"He's a Hall of Famer, but back home he's a god, and I play for him," he continued with a big grin. "I go back home and everybody asks me, 'How's Larry doing?' "
Laperriere doesn't mind answering that question, compared with the one he heard after last season.
"I'm tired of going back home at the end of the season and telling my friends why we didn't make the playoffs," said Laperriere. "I just want to be in the big show at the end of the year. I'm sure we'll be there."
The night after the practice at Continental Airlines Arena, the Kings took a major step in that direction, shutting out the powerhouse New Jersey Devils, 3-0. Laperriere had quite a lot to say, as the penalty-killing unit stymied the Devils' potent power play all six times they were called upon. The win gave the Kings a 3-1-1 record on that rugged five game road trip.
Two night later, back in the friendly confines of the Great Western Forum, Laperriere scored the Kings' first short-handed goal of the season in a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning that lifted the Kings over the .500 mark.
"I like it in L.A.," said Laperriere.
Like so many who come to L.A., he'd like to stick around and have a few hits. He's off to a good start.