“We’re going back home. Game 3 is going to be huge. We have to bounce back, and like I said, have a good start and just play with a lead back home.” -Tyler Toffoli, MayorsManor.com
Hit it on the head there.
The Kings have been here before, returning to Los Angeles down 0-2 in a series. They came home down 2 games in their opening round match up against the St. Louis Blues. Then went on to win 4 straight games and advanced to the next round. The Kings will try to do much of the same now in the Western Conference Finals, starting with game 3 later tonight.
The Kings will return to the Staples Center in hope of preserving their perfect record (7-0) at home and avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination.
While the Kings are on a run of their own when at home, the Blackhawks have their own streak going. Since falling into a 1-3 hole against the Detroit Red Wings last round the Blackhawks have won 5 games in a row, eliminating the Wings and taking the first two games against the Kings.
If the Kings hope to turn the series around they will need a better all around team effort. The Kings have struggled to generate offense this post season, scoring just 29 goals in 15 games, and it has been much of the same this round. The Blackhawks opened the series by out shooting the Kings 17-2 in the first period of game 1 which seems to have set the pace for the rest of the series.
To make things tougher, the Kings will have to find their offense without their leading scorer through these playoffs. Mike Richards, who did not miss a game all season, missed game 2 and the Kings have not announced his status for game 3 yet.
The players surrounding Richards have not been contributing either. Players like Anze Kopitar (2 goals, 7 points), Dustin Brown (3 goals, 4 points) and Dustin Penner (2 goals, 4 points) have been virtually shut down and ineffective through long portions of these playoffs.
Perhaps the biggest story line going into game 3 will be Jonathan Quick and how he will rebound from his poor performance in game 2. Quick was pulled about half way through the second period after allowing 4 goals on 17 shots. Can Quick rebound and find his playoff MVP form, or have the Blackhawks shook him?
One of the lone bright spots for the Kings, and perhaps a good building block for the rest of the series, was the assembly of Penner, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli on a line together during game 2. When the Kings seemed to sustain pressure during that game, it was when that line was out. Carter and Toffloli were the only two Kings to find the back of the net during game 2, although both goals came when it was all but certain the Kings would return to LA down 0-2.
The road to the Stanley Cup Finals is an uphill battle, getting out of an 0-2 hole the round before the finals is an even harder battle. That hill can either get much steeper, with a game 3 loss, or become an easier task, with a game 3 win. Let’s see which route the Kings will take.