After another dominating victory the Los Angeles Kings are now on the brink of another visit to the Stanley Cup Finals, their second in three seasons. Behind a three-goal first period barrage, the Kings jumped on top of the Chicago Blackhawks early and never looked back, winning 5-2. For nearly two seasons the Blackhawks, and goalie Corey Crawford, had the Kings number defensively. In three straight impressive victories, the Kings have turned it all around, scoring fifteen goals in the past three games for a commanding lead. With the series returning to Chicago for a game five, the Kings will now have three opportunities to eliminate Chicago.
Monday’s win was another impressive display of both offensive and defensive hockey. The Kings, known for their defense, have become the top scoring team in the playoffs, while still playing efficient and effective defense behind a veteran unit of blue-liners and goaltender Jonathan Quick. Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown all scored in a six-minute stretch of the first period, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead and eventual victory. Drew Doughty and Tanner Pearson would also add a score in the second and third periods as the Kings preserved their three goal lead. After largely getting the balance of their offense from the Kopitar and Gaborik line in the opening round against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have become a balanced offensive juggernaut versus Chicago, with offense coming from nearly every line and the defense. Los Angeles now has eight players with double figures in points this postseason. Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in the victory.
The Kings offensive barrage is particularly surprising since they were the lowest scoring team to make the postseason. After trailing 2-0 late in game two in Chicago, the Kings have scored 13 goals in just over 100 minutes of hockey, a dominating performance that has the Chicago Blackhawks looking for answers. In accomplishing this offensive outburst the Kings now may have the mental edge on Crawford, a player who’s consistently stymied them in recent seasons. Crawford stopped just sixteen shots in the loss.
The Blackhawks will now have to fight their way back from a 3-1 deficit, something they accomplished last season versus the Detroit Red Wings. Coming from behind two games will be a tall task versus a confident Kings team. Last year’s Blackhawks and Red Wings matchup was an opening round one versus eight affairs, not a Western Conference Finals. In order to beat the Kings, the Blackhawks will need to find some confidence on defense, something that has seemingly evaporated as they’ve been outscored 15-7 over the last three games. Chicago will also need offense from Patrick Kane, who’s managed just one point in the series. Kane’s struggles have been mirrored by Bryan Bickell, a hero in last year’s postseason who had a sub-standard regular season and has struggled this series, with only a goal on Monday night.
Game five is Wednesday night in Chicago at the United Center.
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BY: Chris M.