The Los Angeles Kings will look to take a 3-0 series lead when they skate into HP Pavilion Saturday night to take on the San Jose Sharks. The Kings have won their last six games, and look increasingly like the team that was able to take home the Stanley Cup last season.
Kings fans need to make sure to temper their enthusiasm, however.
Not only are the Sharks an incredibly difficult team to beat on home ice, losing only twice in regulation in 26 games in San Jose this season, but they are also amped to be able to get the bitter taste of their catastrophic Game 2 loss out of their mouths.
So how can the Kings prevent the Sharks from chomping their way back into the series? There are three keys for Los Angeles’ continued success on Saturday:
1. Keep the Penalty Killing Bored, Effective
In their first round series, the San Jose Sharks scored seven power play goals and had a mind-boggling 24 man-advantage opportunities against the Vancouver Canucks.
In the first two games of this second round series, the Kings have surrendered seven power plays to the Sharks, but San Jose has been unable to take advantage of any of them.
While credit for this kind of success has to go to guys like Drew Doughty and others, the reality is that the Kings have to be especially leery of giving the Sharks more power play opportunities in the Shark Tank. The Sharks torched the Canucks for six power play tallies in two games, and used their team speed to full advantage in drawing a slew of undisciplined penalties by Vancouver.
Yes, the Kings have looked really good in both special teams areas in this series, but there’s no need for them to continue to press their luck against the Sharks.
2. Kings Must Assert Their Will on Game's Pace
The Sharks are a fast team, and the Kings are going to lose if they try to get into a track meet with them. In that vein, the Kings cannot allow the kind of shot disparities that they did over 40 minute intervals in Games 1 and 2 of this series.
In the first game, the Kings were outshot 27-12 by the Sharks in the last 40 minutes of the game, and in the first 40 minutes of Game 2, the Sharks outshot the Kings 24-13.
In fairness, the Kings did come back and outshoot San Jose 18-7 in the third period of Game 2, but those wild swings in shots indicate that the Kings are losing control of the tempo of games.
Whereas the Kings like to play a bit more deliberately, the Sharks are a “press the gas” kind of team, and if Los Angeles continues to let them have their way with the puck over long stretches like they have in the first two games of this series, then they could be in for a rude shock in Game 3.
3. Continue Shutting Down Pavelski and Couture
Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture of the Sharks combined for 17 points in the team’s first round sweep of the Canucks, but have been held in check by the Kings this series. Couture’s assist in Game 2 is the only point that the duo have managed to score, and while that is in large part due to the success of the penalty killing unit of the Kings, the duo has been lackluster at even strength too.
With the Sharks getting the benefit of the last change in these two home games, the Kings are going to have to dig deep in order to continue shutting down the Sharks’ prolific scorers. They may not always be able to get guys like Doughty onto the ice to slow things down, so a more aggressive backchecking job by forwards like Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards is going to have to be part of the game plan as well.