Kings look to de-throne Canucks
The Los Angeles Kings went from potential contenders to near pretenders, skating on thin ice into the playoffs as the eight-seed in the Western Conference.
Same story, different year. With two games remaining against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings were atop the Pacific Division and the three-seed. Three days later, they were the eight-seed, knocking themselves our of division title contention by blowing leads in consecutive games against the Sharks.
Problem is, Kings fans are used to not being able to fulfill lofty expectations. This is a Kings team that blew a four-goal lead in Game three of last year’s Western Conference quarterfinals. Truth is, the Kings haven’t won a playoff series since 2001, and appear to headed down the same bumpy road against the defending Western Conference champions, Stanley Cup runner-ups, and two-time defending President’s trophy winners: the Vancouver Canucks.
Maybe it was too much change. Firing Terry Murray before Christmas, adding forward Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline, or simply the unchanging notion the Kings have trouble getting pucks in the net.
One problem that can’t be undid: the lack of scoring. If the Kings are to have any chance against the Canucks, they need to hold 1-0 and 2-1 leads late in games. If the Canucks score three or more goals, expect another early exit.
The Kings have been shutout ten times this season, and two dozen times entered the third period trailing 1-0, tied 1-1, or down 2-1.
“We do have pressure on us,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty told the LA Times. “But we have a little less pressure on us than a team like Vancouver. We’ve done well against them this season and we definitely think we can beat them. We don’t see ourselves as the underdog.”
Despite the politically correct response from Doughty, the Kings did split the season series with the Canucks, and injuries to each team’s front-line players will make the series interesting. The Canucks have been without Daniel Sedin for the past nine games, and the Kings’ Jeff Carter sustained a bone bruise March 28 and has sat out the last five games.
Fittingly enough, the last time the Kings played the Canucks, they lost 1-0 in Vancouver despite 38 shots on goal. Jonathan Quick versus Roberto Luongo.
Let the game of thrones begin. Kings fans have been waiting since 1968 to be “Kings.”