The Los Angeles Kings are in a dark place right now.
Sure, they were down 2-0 in these playoffs before. This time, however, it’s not the St. Louis Blues. This isn’t the first round anymore. They are playing for the chance to battle for Lord Stanley. And they’re playing the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that appears to be the best team in hockey, and a team currently on a five-game win streak. Something’s gotta give for the Kings to even have a shot at their second straight Cup Final.
Fact is, the Blackhawks are just too good. You can’t enter the offensive zone with any sort of momentum against them, as they clog up the neutral zone so effectively. If you’re lucky to get a rare venture across the blue line with any sort of speed, the Blackhawks force you wide and Corey Crawford handles anything you throw at him. They dominate below the goal-line in both ends, and their traffic in front is too much for the Kings’ defense to handle. The Blackhawks are finally playing like the best team in hockey, and this means trouble.
If you look at the L.A. Kings’ a year ago, the jerseys might be the only thing the same. During last year’s playoffs, the Kings lost one game on the road. This year: 7. Jonathan Quick was a Conn Smythe trophy winner last season. This year: pulled after allowing four unanswered goals. This isn’t the same team that lifted the Cup last season, and they will have to hit that level again if they want to see past Game Four.
For the Blackhawks, the job doesn’t get any easier. A 2-0 lead is not a safe lead. There is no safe lead in the NHL Playoffs. They are going into the Staples Center, a building where the home team is 7-0 in these playoffs. Just as they did on the first day of the season, the Blackhawks need to walk on the ice and quickly shut up the rowdy fans by way of a goal. Every chance L.A. gets needs to be stifled, and the amazing penalty kill will have to continue. If all this happens, it should put the Kings in a huge jam, and make it just one step closer to the Stanley Cup Final.
6 games. One Goal.
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