On the brink of elimination and down three games to one to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves desperately in need of a victory in Saturday night’s Game 5 in Chicago.
One more loss to the Blackhawks and the Kings’ goal of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions will be shattered.
‘It’s a different situation when you just have one game to play,” said captain Dustin Brown. “You can draw on being in the trench hole together. I think its key for us, the fact that we’ve been through it together, we’ve been down in the holes together. I think the most important thing is leaning on each other at a time like now.”
The Kings are a well documented 1-7 on the road in this year’s playoff with the lone victory a 3-2 overtime win in game five at St. Louis. While many repeatedly bemoan the woes of the Kings’ record on the road as compared to at Staples Center, six of the seven losses have been by 2-1 scores.
“It hasn’t gone our way on the road obviously,” said Justin Williams. “But now we need to win two in the United Center. We’re not scared of it. We’re certainly not scared of it. We’re going to welcome a challenge to beat the best team in the league this year in their own house starting tomorrow.”
For the Kings to have any chance of getting back in this series, they are going to need production up front from more than the Jeff Carter and Justin Williams line.
Last season, the Kings were able to get contributions from their bottom six forwards, while this season that same group has provided just two goals.
Meanwhile the Blackhawks have four players with four goals or more, and twelve different players have been able to find the back of the net. What’s more impressive is that they have had all this success with limited scoring production from Jonathan Toews (1 goal, 6 assists) and Patrick Kane (3 goals, 8 assists).
“I think their skill level is obvious,” said Jarret Stoll. “They’ve got a lot of guys spread out throughout their lineup that can score goals and create chances. Their depth is one thing that comes to mind. Their neutral zone play. Like Brownie said, they move the puck really well.
“By us being simpler, getting in on the forecheck, that doesn’t mean throwing pucks across, you have to do things smartly, set your game up that way. They love the rush. They love making plays on the rush. They don’t really like to dump the puck in too much. Whereas St. Louis, they were more of a big-grinding, physical, down-low cycle team. These guys are a little bit more dangerous.”
With the Kings’ margin for error being so small, Jonathan Quick will once again be relied upon to be the team’s best player.
“Jon has been the backbone of our team ever since he came here,” added Brown. “It’s a big part of the reason why we’ve been successful as a team. It all starts with him back there. If there’s one thing that’s never going to waiver, it’s the confidence we have in that guy. Going back through the last few years, there’s been some times when we have struggled as a team, and he has allowed us to win games 1-0, 1-0 in shootouts in regular seasons. We never question that guy as a teammate. Like I said, he’s huge for us.”
Huge he will have to be or the curtain will come down on the 2013 season for the Kings and their fans.