Open on Sunday — for closing
Find a way to wrap your head around it.
Find a way to embrace it.
The Kings are just one victory from representing the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.
It’s been no fluke, it’s been everything that good hockey represents, and it’s coming straight out of Los Angeles. The Kings have already burned through two of the top three teams in the NHL, and are well en rout to knocking off another. If the Kings do finish off the Phoenix Coyotes, they will be the first ever club to beat a #1,#2, and #3 seed in one playoff year.
Do I guarantee a win on Sunday? Absolutely not.
Do I expect a win on Sunday? Absolutely yes.
Expectations labeled this team at the beginning of the season, and they faltered in the eyes of many. Those expectations have been regained, but only because of raw performance – not offseason acquisitions. It’s different now, it’s about beholding this team in their truest form – their best form.
That’s difficult to do with a team that has let you down with so many glimmers of hope throughout the year, only to fall back to disappointment. That’s clearly over, they’ve kicked down the wall that was stumping their progress, and have restructured NHL history while doing so.
For the Cup, it’s hands up
Nails in the Coffin: The Phoenix Coyotes are dragging to Staples Center Sunday, running on few hopes and an empty tank. The Kings have just about run Mike Smith to the ground, albeit his team hasn’t helped him very much. The Kings have averaged just over 38 shots on Smith each game this series, and they’re shutting down any room for error by shunning Phoenix from any offensive success. Beat Smith while he’s down, shots early.
Doan and out: When you’re a team in a situation like Phoenix, you may lean toward leadership right now. That’s something they’ve been missing from their Captain Shane Doan. His on-ice performance has been abysmal in itself, totaling four shots, one point, and a minus-three rating. As for his performance as a whole, Doan’s 19 penalty minutes, which come with a touch of unclassy, make it not too shy of embarrassing. That’s purely on the Kings, and give him no breathing room tomorrow. Down and out, continue to put him out.
Responding: The Phoenix Coyotes led the Kings in goals for a moment Thursday night, the only time they’ve upped the Kings on the scoreboard the entire series. That lasted 2:07, as Anze Kopitar would knot things up with a breakaway beauty. That’s what’s making the Kings so dominant, constant and consistent response. They’re shutting down any chance for the Coyotes to build momentum, any type of chemistry, any groove. This has been the big factor for the Kings throughout the postseason. They’ve allowed opposition to score two consecutive goals once in 12 games, you don’t beat that. And, it’s important for it to continue.
Big day: It’s another 12:00PM start at Staples Center, another thing that should no longer effect the game’s outlook. The Kings threw their ugly history for playing home afternoon contests to the side against the St. Louis Blues, pulling out the brooms in their 3-1 series clincher just 13 days ago. You factor the Kings current state in all aspects, and a start-time is about as worrisome as Raffi Torres‘ presence – none.
Road life: Not to mention, Darryl Sutter is pulling the same trick again – a genius one at that. The Kings will be sleeping next to Staples Center tomorrow at a hotel, going old-school with the ‘road at home’ feel. You think about how they’ve maintained such level, focused heads, and this tactic has to be quite a reason for how well Darryl Sutter has coached this club. Plus, I think 172 other events are being held or based near L.A. Live, so no travel issues.
– Martin Hanzal will return after serving his one-game suspension. This gives Phoenix their 1st-line centerman back.
– The Kings failed to score on the powerplay in Game 3, but held Phoenix blank yet again on the man-advantage. The Kings have been so good in 5-on-5 play, holding the Phoenix powerplay is more important than scoring on it.
– Watch Anze Kopitar‘s Game 2 goal again, and watch Dustin Brown‘s assist. Beyond spectacular.
– The Coyotes will undoubtedly come with their best effort in Game 4, but they’re extremely fragile right now. Another fast start is crucial, and quite frankly – it’s the queue to the end of Phoenix’s season.
– Keep in line with the strategy and mindset used throughout the postseason. I’m not smart enough to fully analyze it, no one is. It’s damn near perfect.