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LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 26: Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings and teammates Willie Mitchell #33, Slava Voynov #26, Dustin Brown #23 and Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrate Gaborik's first period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Four of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on May 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings currently find themselves in a situation that they aren’t too familiar with in this postseason as they have an opportunity to eliminate an opponent without fear of being eliminated themselves.
That’s because the Kings currently hold a 3-1 lead in their series against the Chicago Blackhawks, and a win on Wednesday night in Chicago would send them to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Kings found themselves down 3-0 and 3-2 against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks respectively before coming back and winning both series.
Naturally, the Blackhawks aren’t going to roll over and die for anyone, so before the game gets underway tonight, here are our Three Keys to Victory for the Kings as they look to advance.
Go for Early Knockout Blow
In the first three games in this series, the Kings fell behind early to the Blackhawks, losing Game 1 but then winning Games 2 and 3 in comeback fashion. In Game 4, that narrative was flipped on its ear as the Kings scored three first period goals en route to a convincing 5-2 victory to set the stage to potentially eliminate Chicago.
If the Kings are going to win this game, they should do everything in their power to try to set the tempo early on in the contest. The Blackhawks played a largely deflated game after going down by a 3-0 score in that contest, and even though they did get a few chances late in the game to narrow the gap, they were largely rendered a moot point by the Kings’ early success.
Getting the first goal is going to be a key for the Kings in this one, as they not only look to take the Hawks’ crowd out of the game but also try to prevent the defending champions from gathering steam early.
Quick Must be Prepared for Barrage
The Kings may be trying to get off to a great start early in the game, but one thing they can count on is that the Blackhawks will come at them guns blazing throughout the contest.
The Hawks are a team that thrives on moving the puck quickly and creating mismatches with their transition game, and that means that they are never truly out of a game. They will attempt shots from all over the ice and get their defensemen involved in plays on pinches from the blue line, and that can put a lot of pressure on a goaltender.
That’s where Jonathan Quick comes in. He hasn’t been tested a lot in this series, but if he’s going to face a stern test, it’s going to be in this game. The Blackhawks are a team that thrives when they are peppering a goaltender with shots, and Quick has got to be ready for the challenge and respond with the kind of game that he’s historically been able to muster in these situations.
The Second Line Becomes Key Again
With the Chicago Blackhawks’ decision to reunite their top line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Bryan Bickell, it’s apparent that the team is going to try to put focus once again on stopping Anze Kopitar’s line from scoring goals.
If that indeed is going to be their strategy, then the Kings’ second line, known as “That ‘70s Line” by just about everyone in the Twitterverse, is going to have to step their game up once again. They torched the Blackhawks during Games 2 and 3, but were relatively quiet in Game 4. Tanner Pearson did score a goal in the contest, but after two straight games of complete dominance, the Hawks finally started to have success against that group.
In this game, they will be tested once again. They pose a matchup nightmare for the Hawks, and if they are moving the puck effectively and getting scoring chances, then they will be in great position to take down this game and advance to the Cup Final.