There's Still Life in the Kings
I believe the words I used after Game 4 were, “Done and over. Like an overcooked steak.” Geez the Kings really know how to make me look like a jackass. Getting three goals in their first four shots, goaltender Jonathan Quick allowed that score to hold on saving 51 shots on 52 Saturday night in the Kings’ 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks in Game 5.
But as par for the course, Quick wasn’t going to get too high on his franchise record accomplishment.
“It’s one game,” Quick said after Sunday afternoon practice. “We need to win again tomorrow night.”
Brad Richardson didn’t think such modesty was warranted.
“Quickie was our best player last night,” Richardson said. “He made some great saves.”
And they get a chance to finally get a victory for the home crowd.
“All we’re focused on is playing at home in front of our home crowd and giving them something to cheer about,” Quick said. “They’ve been great the past couple of games - all season for that matter. We want to give them something to go home happy about.”
The line that has been creating a lot of joy amongst fans at STAPLES Center has been the one centered by Richardson with Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds on the wings.
“I love Richie,” Simmonds proclaimed. “He has to give us the puck at some point. He can’t do it himself.”
The line has 13 points in the five games with six goals scored.
“We feed off each other real well,” Simmonds said. “I always know where they’re going to be. We talk a lot so it’s like having an extra guy out there with us.”
And boy do they talk. When asked what the nickname of their line should be, Clifford chimed in, “[Richardson’s] the cell guard. [Simmonds’] the deputy, and I’m the sheriff.” The prison line perhaps?
Even head coach Terry Murray seemed a bit speechless about the line.
“They’ve played very well,” Murray said. “They like to play for each other.”
Speaking specifically of Clifford, “The fact you are looking at a young player, rookie, putting pucks into the back of the net doesn’t surprise me. It has happened in the history of the game, and you have a player who’s doing it who’s playing a hard game.”
And what does the prison line believe they need to do to push the series to a Game 7?
“We’ve just got to keep it simple,” Simmonds said. “We can’t let anything distract us. We’ve got to focus in on our game plan.
“On the road we play simple: we try to keep the puck to the outside of the rink. That’s our game - getting down low and guiding it out. We’ve got to bring that home. We don’t like the run-and-gun so we’ve got to stick to that.”
Captain Dustin Brown in particular would like to see improvement in their own zone at home.
“The only way we’re going to win is finding ways to take care of our own end,” Brown said. “That’s a matter of guys focusing.”
For Murray it all comes down to basics.
“Now it does come down to execution. Now it comes down to attitude. You really have to go into your own head as a player when you get into this time of the year.”
And a place where the Kings can use some improvement.
“We’re just looking to be a little better in that two-on-two board battles. They’re rolling off the boards, taking pucks to the net. And now we’re chasing from behind.
“The important part for us is staying on the right side of people. We’re getting caught cheating. We’re getting caught flat-footed. Or maybe it’s just a physical matchup with a big man like Thornton who’s able to physically overpower somebody and take it to the net. That’s where we have to make sure we’re adjusting and reading and playing the right side of it.”
So here they are trying to get ready for their second elimination game, and one thing no one can accuse the team of is being tight. As reporters filed into the locker room after practice some joker put on Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Just the Two of Us” on the speakers. And say what they will about the concern about the upcoming game, some have other concerns.
“I won’t have a hand modeling career,” team enforcer Kevin Westgarth mused upon inspecting his hands marred from the 15 fighting major penalties and countless other scuffles during the regular season. “I used to have such pretty hands.”
The Kings will battle the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the STAPLES Center Monday night at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on FS Prime Ticket and on the radio on AM 570 KLAC. San Jose currently leads the series three games to two.