Warning signs are amidst.
Things have gone from comfortably controlled to ice cold.
Game 5, for the Kings, is about as close to “must win” as you can get without meaning it literally. If the Kings are to lose tonight at Staples Center, they head back to face the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 at HP Pavilion where the “must win” terminology will be as real and literal as it could possibly get.
The Sharks are undeniably phenomenal on home ice, they’ve lost only two games in regulation time in their home confines at HP Pavilion this season.
The Kings, likewise, own their ice sheet. Downtown Los Angeles has been a brutal location for opposing NHL clubs this season. Aside from owning the best home record in the NHL throughout the regular season, the Kings have won all five of their postseason games at Staples Center this season, including both of the opening contests against the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Let’s hope the trend continues, or else the Kings are in major trouble.
The word to describe it rhymes with ‘pucked’.
Looking for an Answer
Domination Station: Although the Kings were only beat 2-1 in each of the last two contests on the road at HP Pavilion, they were outworked, outplayed, and thoroughly controlled by the San Jose Sharks in every facet of the game.
If the Kings don’t have Jonathan Quick in the crease, this series could be a lot uglier than it is right now.
In fact, it could already be over.
Quick has regained the stellar play that earned him the NHL‘s Conn Smythe Trophy last season, and has undoubtedly been the reason the Kings have been able to maintain pace with the San Jose Sharks thus far.
A goaltender, no matter how solid, can only save the team as a whole for so long. To compliment fantastic play from a goalie, the players in front of him need to return the favor by not allowing constant puck control in their own zone, and creating it on the other end – away from their own crease.
Needs it, deserves it: And that respect needs to come in the form of on-ice production. You can praise his play all you want through analysis, but it’s going to do nothing for the Kings’ overall success unless he’s a label of perfection of tonight.
And even for Jonathan Quick, that’s asking a lot in the NHL postseason, and against one of the league’s most lethal offensive tandems in the San Jose Sharks.
It begins at, well, the start of the game, where the Kings have been brutally lackadaisical the previous two contests. The Kings don’t need just early pressure on the Sharks, but an early goal. Against San Jose, your chances only get worse the longer you fail to score, the longer you play Russian Roulette with San Jose’s offensive-prone lineup.
Darryl Sutter needs to work a bit of lineup magic tonight, possibly juggling lines until the Kings show signs of their regular selves.
M.I.A: The Kings were granted quite possibly the most crucial aspect to finding success in the NHL playoffs last season, and that folks, is health. It hasn’t been the same story this season, the Kings heavily weakened on the defensive end without Willie Mitchell, and with a less-than fully productive Matt Greene.
The offense is hurting as well, which shows in the Kings poor offensive results in the previous two games of this series, tallying one goal in each of the past two contests at HP Pavilion.
Offense comes with controlling the puck. And controlling the puck comes from winning faceoffs. Without Jarret Stoll, who has been out with concussion-like syndromes since Game 1, the Kings have been absolutely dominated on referee puck-drops.
Faceoffs set the tone for the upcoming play. And quite frankly, puck possession will bode quite well for you. The Kings, without a doubt, need to win some pucks tonight at Staples Center.
Since Jarret Stoll went down after Raffi Torres‘ high hit in Game 1, the Sharks have gone 113-79 against the Kings in the faceoff circle. The Kings are sorely missing Stoll, their top player in the circle.
And it’s not in faceoffs alone, Jarret Stoll is a staple on the Kings special teams rotation, and the San Jose Sharks have executed in those situations the past two games.
The Sharks won their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Vancouver Canucks by getting rich on the man-advantage, scoring an astounding seven powerplay goals in four games. The Sharks have scored two powerplay goals on the Kings in the past two games, winning Game 3 in OT and taking an early lead in Game 4 on the man-advantage.
The only two losses for the Sharks this postseason have come when the Kings have shut down their powerplay.
It’s about staying out of the penalty box. It’s oh so crucial against this team.
The Skate of Shame
And those shuffles to the box could quickly lead to a much worse situation than a 2:00 minute personal sit-down with an off-ice official.
It could be the stride to the Kings’ elimination, and their summer.
Hot-Hand Needed: There are some pretty notable lineup changes heading into tonight’s Game 5 contest at Staples Center. Darryl Sutter hasn’t been receiving quality production from a few big names on this roster, namely the first line likes of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, who have been almost invisible on the offensive end.
Brown, who’s mixed in time in the penalty box along with his rather uncharacteristically struggling play, will be demoted to Darryl Sutter‘s third line tonight, playing alongside Dwight King and Trevor Lewis. However, he will be back at his normal position of Right Wing.
Swapping spots with Dustin Brown, and joining Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams on the Kings’ first line tonight will be Kyle Clifford, who, when not out with injury, has consistently been one of the biggest assets of energy and effort on this roster.
Clifford has a good Résumé against the San Jose Sharks, both during this past regular season, and the Kings’ matchup against the Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Clifford buried two goals against the Sharks at Staples Center on March 16th, and also found time to feed Douglas Murray his own teeth.
Change is good.
Catch ‘em From A Different Angle
But Hit ‘em Square
Lookin’ at You
You’ve gotta earn it.
Tonight’s contest is huge. The Kings, who look to get off the backs of their heels tonight, are facing a challenge unlike any they saw last series, or throughout the entirety of last year’s playoffs.
Tonight’s a test.
Puck drops in Downtown Los Angeles at Staples Center for Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Jose Sharks at 7:30PM PST.
Episode 198 KingsCast TV: LAK-SJS Game 3&4 WCSF RECAP – HERE
Episode 197 KingsCast TV: LAK-SJS Game 2 WCSF RECAP – HERE
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