SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 20: Drew Doughty #8 of the Los Angeles Kings in action against the San Jose Sharks in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 20, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings have proven several times in this postseason that no series lead is safe, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be trying like crazy to win Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday night.
The task won’t be an easy one. The Chicago Blackhawks are a perfect 7-0 in games at the United Center during the postseason, and dating back to the beginning of the 2013 playoffs, the Hawks have racked up an impressive 18-2 record in their home rink in postseason play. The Kings have won five road games so far in the playoffs this year, but the Hawks’ remarkable run isn’t something to be taken lightly.
With those numbers in mind, here are our Three Keys for the Kings as they look to even the series before it heads back to Staples Center on Saturday night.
Better Start a Must
In Game 1, the Blackhawks came out of the gate firing, and the Kings seemed like they couldn’t do a thing to reverse the momentum. They did end up narrowing the shot on goal total by the end of the period, but the damage was done as the Blackhawks had seized the early lead.
The Kings also responded well with a 17-shot second period in the game, but if they’re going to grab momentum in this game, they’re going to have to start out with a determination to be the better offensive team. That means having guys like Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin pinching in from the blue line, and using guys like Marian Gaborik to try to force Chicago defenders out of their lanes.
Engage in the Transition Game
Speaking of offensive strategies to use, the Kings’ transition game was a big part of the reason they were successful in getting 26 shots on goal in Sunday’s Game 1, and they’re going to need to utilize that gameplan again in this one.
Once again, Doughty plays a key role in this strategy, but the forwards of the Kings will also need to be aware of what’s going on. Guys like Tyler Toffoli and Anze Kopitar both have a good feel for when the play is about to turn the other way, and they’re going to have to ratchet up their aggressiveness a bit in order to create opportunities for the Kings’ blue liners to get the puck out of the zone quickly and back up the ice. Doing that will prevent the Chicago defense from getting set, and it’s a great way to create odd man opportunities, especially if Blackhawks defensemen like Duncan Keith or Johnny Oduya pinch in on offensive zone opportunities.
Discipline, As Always, a Key
The Kings have fallen victim to indiscipline in some games in these playoffs, and Sunday’s game was no exception. Alec Martinez got goaded into taking a penalty when he knocked Brandon Bollig to the ice, and the Blackhawks took that opportunity to grab a 1-0 lead on Brandon Saad’s power play goal.
The Blackhawks’ power play has been getting better lately, and as one of the top-10 units in the league during the regular season, there’s no reason to suspect that ability will go away any time soon. The Kings have to be cognizant of this and not commit silly penalties in this one, as they can not only sap momentum but can also give the Blackhawks quality opportunities to score.