The Los Angeles Kings find themselves in an 0-2 hole after losing the first two games of their first round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues. On Saturday, they will get a chance to begin redeeming themselves when they welcome the Blues to Staples Center.
In order for them to win Game 3, and to begin to turn the tide of this series back in their favor, there are three things that need to happen.
Defend Home Ice
The Kings were one of the league’s best home teams during the regular season, averaging three goals per game on home ice, good for eighth in the NHL, and racking up a 19-4-1 in 24 games in LA. These numbers are both indicative of a team that enjoys its home cooking, but before Kings fans get too comfortable with the idea of getting the series knotted back up and heading back to St. Louis, consider how the Blues played on the road this season.
The Blues scored 67 goals in 24 road games during the regular season, 10 more than they did on home ice, and they had a very respectable 14 road victories over that stretch, second behind only the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference.
In order to reverse the Blues’ success on foreign ice, the Kings need to make sure that they continue to play disciplined hockey (they committed five penalties in the first two games of the series), and need to push the tempo as much as they can. The Blues are not a particularly fast team, and if guys like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown can get out and skating, then it’s very possible that the Blues could fall behind quickly in the game.
Jeff Carter Needs to Get His Game In Order
Carter was one of the top scorers in the NHL this season, racking up 26 goals and re-establishing himself as one of the premier scoring centers in the game today.
In the playoffs, however, it has been a different story. Carter does have eight shots in the first two games of this series, but he has been unable to light the lamp so far, and his offensive power outage follows a similar pattern to the rest of his teammates.
In order for the Kings to start putting the puck in the net more, they need to get more traffic in front of St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott, just like they did in the first period of Game 2 on Thursday. If they can do that, and get more pucks on net in general (they have averaged 29 per game in this series), then you could see Elliott revert back to the lackluster form that he displayed in the early stages of the 2013 season, and that could be just the thing that Carter needs to get off the skids.
Fewer Shots Need to Get to Jonathan Quick
The biggest obstacle facing the Kings in this series has been the difficulty they have had on the defensive side of things. Especially in Game 1, the Kings looked like they were merely pylons for the lightning quick St. Louis forwards to skate around, and Quick ended up having to be on the defensive for the entire night, rather than the more relaxed workload that he is used to.
In 48 regular season games, the Kings only allowed 25 shots per game, good for third in the league behind only the Blackhawks and the Blues. During the postseason, however, they have allowed 33.5 per game, and while eight and a half shots doesn’t sound like a lot, consider that a difference that big in their overall statistic from the regular season would have moved them from third in that category to tied for dead last with the Buffalo Sabres.
Needless to say, the Kings need to lighten the load on their goaltender, and the best way to do that, of course, will be to play at a higher offensive tempo and shift the pressure from their shoulders and onto those of their opponents.