Kings Get Ready for Game 1
If you thought the Kings first two playoff rounds were something, you ain't seen nothing yet. On Saturday at 2 p.m. the puck will drop in the Western Conference Final at the United Center in Chicago with the reigning Stanley Cup champions facing off against the best regular season team in the Blackhawks.
The one stat that portends to an epic playoff encounter: the Kings and the Blackhawks give up the least amount of scoring. With 1.54 and 1.83 goals-against per game respectively, both offenses will need to show some creativity and tenacity just to give the puck a chance to get past each goaltender.
For captain Dustin Brown, he is looking to emphasize scoring on the road. "We've done a really good job of taking care of home ice, and that needs to continue," Brown said. "But we need to find a way to get Johnny [Quick] some goal support on the road."
It's no secret that Quick has been just as magical (if not more) as we was in last season's Stanley Cup run. The downside to some of those saves is the fact that some of them have been coming off of shoddy puck handling by the Kings in their own zone. While it's great to have Quick in the crease, the less he has to be magical would really help their chances in moving on.
Particularly with Chicago throwing 33.9 shots on goal per game compared to the Kings paltry 24.8, the Kings will need to be especially careful.
"100 percent," Colin Fraser concurred. "We talk all of time of being quick back to the pucks and breaking it out as cleanly as possible. It sounds cliche, but you always want to play in the offensive zone as best as you can. Everybody likes to play offense better than they like playing defense.
"We've got to counteract that by getting pucks to their net, getting traffic and crashing the net."
As the Hawks forward Marian Hossa said during their series against the Red Wings, the top two lines basically cancel each other out. The best teams to emerge in the end tend to get big contributions from their third and fourth lines. Last year the Kings saw that. So far this postseason? Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli are the only forwards not in the top two lines to score a goal this postseason.
"You look at their third line against Detroit, and they came through," Fraser said. "It's not [Jonathan] Toews and [Patrick] Kane who are doing all of the scoring.
"Obviously you've got to shut them down, but you've got to prepared for the other guys as well."
The key to winning? "Whoever you're matched up against, you've got to be better," Fraser said.
Of course the question is are the Kings the better team? This is a tossup series. Whatever deficiencies the Kings have, Quick erases. And while the Blackhawks were an offensive juggernaut in the regular season, they have to content with the hard-hitting Kings who lead all teams in the postseason with 536 hits, 62 more than second place Boston Bruins.
By gut reaction is to say Chicago in 7 only because they have home ice. But if they falter like they did early against Detroit, the Kings will win this series quickly.
Regardless this should be a fun series to watch.