For the second time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves limping home facing an 0-2 series deficit after being beaten twice in the Midwest.
This time, it was the Chicago Blackhawks doing the honors, beating the Kings in convincing fashion and chasing goaltender Jonathan Quick from Game 2 winning their fourth and fifth consecutive games after being down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings.
Things aren’t necessarily gloom and doom for the Kings, however. They have won 14 games in a row at the Staples Center (more on some of the numbers behind this later on the website), but beyond the obvious benefits of home ice for the Kings, certain players showed in Game 2 that they could be on the verge of helping the Kings break out of their funk.
Jeff Carter, who was a non-entity in the first game of the series with only one shot and a minus-1 rating, came alive offensively in Game 2. With Mike Richards shelved with an injury sustained after a nasty hit from Chicago center Dave Bolland, Carter took the opportunity to assert himself more dynamically, taking more shots, finding open areas of the ice, and ultimately scoring a goal that stemmed the tide of momentum that had been carrying the Blackhawks throughout the first two periods of the game.
The goal itself was even a thing of beauty, with crisp tape to tape passing and a wicked shot from Carter that found the back of the net, all while the puck was bouncing around on ice chopped up by a nearly full period of play. It was a great sequence for the Kings, and one that head coach Darryl Sutter will undoubtedly show his team as they lick their wounds today.
Youngster Tyler Toffoli also gave the Kings a boost in the third period of Game 2, when he scored a power play goal late in the contest. The goal itself was meaningless from a scoreboard perspective, but the fact that Toffoli was able to come into the lineup in relief of Richards, and to produce so well on such short notice (he also had an assist in the game), is a testament not only to him, but also the depth that the Kings roster possesses.
Defenseman Slava Voynov had an excellent all-around game as well on Sunday night. Not only did he help the Kings’ offense to get back in gear with his eight attempted shots (four of which ended up on net), but he also was a plus-10 in Corsi (a statistic measuring how many shots a team takes and allows while a player is on the ice), which means that he was living up to his defensive responsibilities as well.
Finally, the whole team in general displayed a wonderful no-quit attitude in the game. Even when Quick skated to the bench halfway through the second period, the Kings kept pressing, and Jonathan Bernier did a great job in relief in what was his first NHL playoff appearance. The final score indicates that the Kings lost by two goals, but it could have been a lot worse had the team packed it in defensively, but it is a testament to their fortitude that they did not.
All in all, the Kings surely will not be hanging their heads when they hit Staples Center ice on Tuesday night. This is a team proud of the playoff successes that they’ve had the past two years, and those thinking that this will be a cake walk for the Blackhawks will be in for a rude surprise.
If these players like Carter and Voynov can continue to produce the way that they did in Game 2, the Kings have a very good chance of getting back in this series, and fans need to keep that faith even as times look particularly tough.