Perfection deprived, extended to five
You can take some good out of Sunday’s loss.
It may not have to relate directly to hockey, because in anyone’s eyes, a shutout loss at home in the playoffs is nothing to write home about, nor praise.
I had to catch myself as time ran out in the Kings’ 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday afternoon. A momentary strike of anger and frustration hit – and then I realized how stupid that was. As phenomenal as the Kings’ 11-1 start to the postseason has been, you cannot allow yourself to get intertwined in the success to the point where it builds into heavy-set expectations.
Now it’s 11-2 for the Kings, and still just one victory away from the Stanley Cup Finals. If that’s not a situation you can be grateful to be in, I’m lost at what is. You want it to be good, but not too good – and the Game 4 loss to Phoenix may very well be a blessing in disguise.
They say closing a series at home is one of the more difficult things to do in hockey. When it becomes not only clinching a series, but sweeping one – for a ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals, the pressure is insurmountable.
We all want a party, we want it on home ice, and you just want it too bad.
Then you think about the feat of beating Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith four consecutive times, while simultaneously grinding Shane Doan to be an absolute ‘non-presence’ – and that’s something very few, if any, NHL clubs are capable of doing.
And heck, if there’s one thing Kings fans know; It’s that sometimes, things just don’t go your way.
Not Today: Quite frankly, there’s a certain point in a game when you can start to realize results may not click in your direction. For the Kings, they once again outshot the Phoenix Coyotes, hammering Mike Smith with 36 shots, but they were shooting at goalie who had the day locked in his hands. The Kings maintained solid pressure throughout, but were simply not getting the help from any graceful bounces.
Not to mention, they’re facing one of the league’s elite goaltenders.
And the elite stepped up for Phoenix, Shane Doan took the game into his own hands, potting both Coyotes goals. If you expected Phoenix to die quietly, you weren’t taking them seriously enough. And if you expected Shane Doan to go without an impressive fight – well, you’re just expecting too much.
Those were my keys to Game 4, getting under Smith’s skin early, and keeping Doan off of the scoresheet. That didn’t happen. When those two get a bite of success, that makes the day’s job much, much more difficult. They’ve managed to do it once, but that’s nothing compared to what the Kings have accomplished this series.
Phoenix on a string
- Game 5 Looks -
– The Kings are back on the road Tuesday night, back to Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, AZ. This will be a positive environment for the Kings, as they’ve shown to be a ‘road team’ not just in recent history, but throughout this playoff run. The Kings are undefeated in road confines this postseason, taking their 8-0 mark with them into Game 5.
– The only previous loss for the Kings in the playoffs came in another Game 4. This, in their Western Conference Quarterfinals bout with the Vancouver Canucks. The Kings would clinch the series on the road, winning Game 5. You’re looking for a repeat instance Tuesday night in Phoenix.
– The Kings were shutout for the first time in the postseason in Game 4, a grim reminder of the offensive struggles imposed on this club throughout the year. It’s crucial that doesn’t sink into the mental aspect of this team again, especially now. Shots haven’t been a problem for the Kings this series, and firing at Mike Smith with a large quantity is once again vital.
– Shots are important, but quality shots are vital. The Kings, although putting up another sexy shot-total in Game 4, were limited to shots from the outside for much of the contest. This, along with failing to find open lanes, the Phoenix Coyotes blocking an astounding 12 shots. Regaining presence within Phoenix’s defense in the middle of the ice will be important in the opportunities granted on Mike Smith.
– The Kings were unsuccessful on the powerplay in Game 4, and they looked a bit stagnant during their man-advantage opportunities. To couple with that, they finally faltered to Phoenix’s powerplay, allowing Shane Doan to score the game-winning goal. Special teams is a deal-breaker in this matchup, something the Kings need to regain success on for Game 5.
– Response has been the key to the Kings’ success, and that’s exactly what they need in Game 5. A 3-1 series lead feels comfortable, but it shouldn’t be. Darryl Sutter has engrained a solid mindset in this club, one that has shown little to no weakness when faced with adversity. If you start to give Phoenix time and room, that’s when things will start to get a bit scary. You stop that from happening, you do so with a Game 5 win.
– Alas, things are far from over for this Kings club. It’s sitting there, it’s waiting for us. All you can do is execute, which is what this roster has been doing for the past month.
If you haven’t done so already, give yourself a second to realize where this team has come from, what they’ve done to get here. If you do it genuinely, perfection certainly doesn’t fit the bill. That’s what’s been so great about it, and may that story continue Tuesday night.
Another crack at adversity