As if the Los Angeles Kings don't have enough firepower up front, their
sudden dominance over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago
Blackhawks is initiating from the back end.
As if the Los Angeles Kings don't have enough firepower up front, their sudden dominance over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks is initiating from the back end.
After dropping Game 1 of the Western Conference final 3-1, the Kings have stormed back to win three in a row and are now on the verge of returning to the Stanley Cup final for the second time in three seasons. The Kings won the Cup in 2012.
While centre Anze Kopitar leads the playoffs in scoring with 22 points in 18 games and linemate Marian Gaborik is the first player to reach double digits in goals with his 10th Monday night, it's the Kings defenders that have largely been responsible for the team's strong play.
During the three-game winning streak, Drew Doughty has led the charge from the blue-line with two goals and three assists. Jake Muzzin has chipped in two goals and two assists. Both Doughty and Muzzin each have a game-winning goal.
Slava Voynov has a goal and an assist while Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Alec Martinez each have an assist.
All told, the Kings' defence corps has accounted for five goals and 14 points in the past three games.
"Every single guy in the room who is in the lineup you know is giving their all," Kopitar said. "That's what you need."
Same old, same old
The Kings came out flying in Game 4, scoring three first-period goals and, for all intents and purposes, knocking the Blackhawks right out of the game.
Kopitar, who had an assist in the opening frame and added a second helper in the second period, said coach Darryl Sutter's message before the game was the same as it has been all along.
"You know, it's the same old game plan," Kopitar insisted. "On top of that game plan I guess is a good start. We were able to get a couple of quick ones tonight... certainly the start that we wanted. I think we got the crowd into it. The building was loud. It was good."
Blackhawks down but not out
Now it's Chicago's turn. Twice in this year's playoffs the Kings have dropped three games in a row, including the first three in Round 1 against the San Jose Sharks.
Trailing the Kings 3-1 in the Western final, the Blackhawks now face the unenviable task of winning three in a row to keep their dream of repeating as Cup champs alive.
Coach Joel Quenneville said the key to coming back in the series is gaining a little momentum.
"Don't think about anything more than that," Quenneville said. "Let's be excited about being home; try to get the momentum back."
The Blackhawks entered Game 4 amid a 1-for-21 slump in road power-play chances and proceeded to go 0-for-3. Quenneville is mystified at his team's lack of production with the man advantage away from home.
"We've got to shore up that area," he said. "Our power play, our production has been off a little bit. I think we've got to make sure, whether we're scoring or not, we sustain and gather momentum when the power play is out there."
Big guns silent
Not surprisingly, one of the big reasons why the Blackhawks find themselves down and almost out is the fact their big shooters -- the likes of Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell -- have been stymied by the Kings.
While captain Jonathan Toews has done his part with three goals and four points in the four-game series, Sharp and Bickell each have just one goal and Kane has managed only one assist.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.