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Even With 2-0 Series Lead, Los Angeles Kings Know They Need To Be Much Better

Los Angeles Kings right wing and team captain Dustin Brown says his team needs to improve heading into Game 3 of their first
round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
Photo: David Sheehan

EL SEGUNDO, CA — After returning to the Los Angeles area with a surprising 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven, quarter final round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks, winners of the President’s Trophy for earning the best record in the National Hockey League this season, one might expect to see huge smiles, lots of laughter, and joking around by the players, showing excitement, and even joy, about their good fortune so far in the playoffs.

But instead of floating on Cloud Nine, the Kings appear to have their feet planted firmly on the ground, knowing that despite having a considerable lead in the series, they did not play all that well in Game 2 on April 13, in Vancouver.

“If you look at Game 2, we had too many turnovers,” said right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “They had some good chances [off those turnovers], and [goaltender Jonathan] Quick had to make some big saves. We turned the puck over just inside our blue line, [instead of] getting pucks out.”

“I thought we turned too many pucks over last night, and gave them a lot of opportunities, which allowed them to play in our zone a whole lot,” said center Mike Richards. “In the first game, we got pucks in deep. We didn’t try to make those [risky] plays in the neutral zone.”

“It’s about not turning pucks over, like we did [Friday] night, giving them opportunities off the rush, with the quick team they have,” added Richards. “We turned so many pucks over, I felt we were chasing the game a bit. They controlled most of the game.”

Head coach Darryl Sutter saw things much the same way.

“The way the game is now, it’s how much you have the puck, and we didn’t have it as much as we’d like [in Game 2],” he said. “You’re not going to dominate that part of the game, but you try, at five-on-five, to have the puck as much as possible. With that, it’s protecting it, fighting for it, and battling for it, and that’s something we can be a lot better at.”

“I think we haven’t had our foot on the gas the whole way,” he added. “We’ve got a number of guys who have experience with a lot of games played [in the post-season], who can play a hell of a lot better.”

With their backs against the wall, the Canucks are expected to come out hard and determined in Game 3 (tonight, 7:30 PM PDT Staples Center), doing whatever they can to avoid a 3-0 series deficit.

“They’re a good counter team,” Richards noted. “[On Friday], they came with a lot of speed. There’s going to be more desperation from them [on Sunday]. If we don’t turn pucks over, we’re going to create more offensively, play more in their zone, and play with the puck a lot more.”

“We know that we have to play better, because we know they’re going to raise their level of desperation, so we have to be just as desperate,” Richards added. “We have to expect that they’re going to come out flying, playing their best game. We can only control what we bring to the table, so we have to raise our level of desperation.”

“They’re a great team, and they’ve been there before,” said center Jarret Stoll. “The last two seasons, they’ve won a lot of hockey games. They’ve got a lot of character over there, and they’ve got guys who know how to win. We’ve got to figure that out, and make sure we’re on top of our game.”

Kings’ special teams have dominated Games 1 and 2, scoring three power play goals on twelve attempts (25.0 percent, ranked fifth in playoffs), scoring two shorthanded goals, and they are perfect on the penalty-kill, denying the Canucks on all ten of their chances with the man advantage.

Even though their penalty-kill has been perfect so far, the Kings have been playing with fire.

“We’ve been shorthanded close to 19 minutes in two games,” said center Anze Kopitar. “That’s too much, and the penalties that we’re taking are, sometimes, not the best penalties.”

“[Some are taken] a long way from the net, holding and tripping,” added Kopitar. “That’s what you have to, and want to, avoid, so we don’t give them the chance to get on the power play.”

But with the Kings returning to the friendly confines of Staples Center, a glaring issue comes to mind…

…that Staples Center has not exactly been friendly to them.

“We haven’t played well on home ice in the playoffs, and that’s got to change,” Stoll lamented. “That’s got to change, starting today, focusing on [Sunday], realizing that we’ve got to take advantage of the situation that we’ve put ourselves in. We can still get better, and we have to be better. We just have to have the right attitude, the right mindset.”

Richards said that players often try to put on too much of a show in front of the home crowd.

“When you’re at home, you try to do too much,” he explained. “You get away from your game plan [that made] you successful. You have to realize that it’s not about putting on a show, it’s not about doing things [that are] outside your comfort zone. It’s about playing the style of play that you’re used to. If we can play like we did in the first two games, and ramp that up [to match] their desperation, I like our chances.”

Although their poor record at home is a concern, Brown indicated that there is no reason to dwell on the issue.

“A lot of the guys—the same group of guys have gone through it the last two years, where we haven’t performed well at home, and, to some extent this year, in the regular season, we didn’t play very well at home,” said Brown. “But it’s a different time of year now. It’s a matter of drawing attention to it now. I don’t think guys will be thinking about it too much. Everyone knows the situation we’re in, and the position we put ourselves in now.”

“It’s just hitting the reset button, as a team, and as individuals,” added Brown. “It’s definitely where we want to be. Going up there, and coming back [leading the series], 2-0, is what we wanted to do. But, historically, for this team in recent playoff [rounds], we haven’t played well. It’s important to draw attention to that, and understand that.”

Making things more difficult for the Canucks’ best players would be a good place to start.

“[In Game 2], I think [Canucks star forward Henrik] Sedin had a bit more of an impact than he did in Game 1,” Brown noted. “He had one or two shifts where he dominated the play. We didn’t get burned by it, but if you give that guy enough time with the puck, he’s going to make plays, and [the puck] is going to be in our net.”

“It’s key for us to key on their top players, and be harder on them,” Brown added.

It all goes back to who wants it more, and which team plays with more desperation.

“We’ve just got to treat [Game 3] as if the series was just starting, and we’ve got home ice advantage,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “It’s Game 1, we’re not up, 2-0 [in the series]. If anything, we’ve got to act like we’re down a couple.”

“We can’t go in there relaxing, taking it too easy, because they’re going to come out even harder,” added Doughty. “This is going to be the hardest game for us. We still haven’t played our best hockey. Going into Sunday, we have to play our best. With one win, they can turn the series around, just like that.”

“We feel comfortable,” said Richards. “We’re going in with confidence, but we know we have to play better. It’s an opportunity for us. But, at the same time, we know we’re going to get their best game, so we have to bring our best game.”

Speaking of their best players, the Kings will need them to step up even more in Game 3 against the desperate Canucks.

“It’s important for our leaders to lead, and for our best players to be our best players, and that’s been the case, the first two games of the series,” Brown stressed. “That needs to continue.”

“As big as those two games in Vancouver were, at this time of year, the next game is the bigger game,” Brown added. “We just have to hit the reset button, and act like we’re on a [level] playing field. We’ve done what we need to do in Vancouver to set us up. Now we need to take advantage of this opportunity. We can’t sit back.”

Richardson On The Mend

After undergoing an emergency appendectomy on April 9, forward Brad Richardson skated on April 14, for the first time since his surgery.

“I’m feeling a lot better than that what I was, so I was on the ice for a little bit today,” said Richardson. “I felt OK, but it’s still pretty sore.”

As it turned out, Richardson’s parents were in town, and his mother, Jan, a former nurse, diagnosed the problem.

“My Mom was here, and she was the one who diagnosed it,” Richardson explained. “She was a nurse for twenty years, and I was lucky that [my parents] were [in town] at the right time.”

“We had a day off on Sunday [April 8], and when I woke up, I had some pain on my right side,” Richardson elaborated. “We called the doctors, and my Mom was feeling around, and she said, ‘I think it’s your appendix.’ Even the doctors weren’t sure if it was or not, but then I had some tests, and it was, so I had the surgery Monday night.”

Richardson will not be available for Game 3 tonight. He will see team doctors on Monday.

“There’s no real timeline [for returning to the lineup],” said Richardson. “I’m just going to see how it goes each day. I’m going to see the doctor on Monday, but this kind of thing can get better pretty quickly. I’ll try to skate again tomorrow.”

Raw Audio Interviews from Los Angeles Kings Practice, April 14, 2012

(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)

Dustin Brown (10:58)

Drew Doughty (9:00)

Anze Kopitar (0:54)

Mike Richards (5:48)

Jarret Stoll (8:28)

Brad Richardson (4:04)

Darryl Sutter (4:04)

Related Videos

2012 Western Conference Quarterfinal, Los Angeles Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 2 Highlights, April 13, 2012

Used with permission. All videos provided by KingsVision at LAKings.com, or NHL.com require Adobe Flash Player. As such, they are not viewable on iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch).

 


Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home playoff games against the Vancouver Canucks (April 15, 2012, 7:30 PM – Canucks vs. Kings: Game 3; April 18, 2012, 7:00 PM – Canucks vs. Kings: Game 4; April 24, 2012, TBA – Canucks vs. Kings: Game 6 {if necessary}), are (or will be) available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.


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