Los Angeles Kings Must Win Game 5, Or Risk Handing Control Of Series To Vancouver Canucks

LA Kings forward Jeff Carter skates during a recent practice session.
(click to view a larger image).
Photo: David Sheehan/FrozenRoyalty.net

EL SEGUNDO, CA — With Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks coming up tonight at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, the Los Angeles Kings have a stranglehold on the series with a 3-1 lead.

But the Canucks won Game 4 easily, with star forward Daniel Sedin making his triumphant return after missing twelve games due to a concussion. He looked like he had not missed any time at all, working that same magic with his brother, Henrik.

Indeed, the two, along with their teammates, skated circles around the Kings in the second and third periods, even making them look absolutely silly on a third period power play.

“They’ve been playing together long enough where a couple of weeks, or a month, or even a few months, isn’t going to mess up the chemistry they have,” said Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.

“They’re tough to defend,” said Kings forward Jeff Carter. “They read off each other really well, they’re always within about three or four feet, making those little passes around you, so it’s tough. One guy is not going to shut [either of] them down. You need everybody on the same page with them, or they’re going to pick you apart.”

The Kings were not even in the same county during a large portion of Game 4. That’s how much room the Sedins had to maneuver in the second and third periods.

“They try and wait you out, and bring you in,” said Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell. “As soon as they bring you in, the puck goes to where you were. In fact, you can watch three or four highlights from our last game. That’s exactly what happened.”

“They make those blind passes, and they always know—their whole game is about creating two-on-one [situations],” added Mitchell. “That’s bringing a guy into [themselves], and whereever that guy was, putting the puck where he was.”

Since the end of Game 4, the Kings have been talking about the need to take away the Sedins’ time and space.

“We’re going to have to be physical on them, knocking them down, and slowing them down,” said Kings defenseman Matt Greene.

But as talented as the Sedins are, if you get too aggressive, they’ll blow right past you.

“It’s just playing them hard when you can, and at the same time, know what they can do,” Greene stressed. “Respect their skill, but don’t give them too much respect, in terms of letting them play their game. Just like anybody in this game, you’ve got to be physical against them, but you’ve got to make sure you’re not taking liberties, or running around, because they will smoke you.”

Mitchell has seen all that before from the Sedins.

“I know them really well,” he noted. “I played four years with them [with the Canucks], in the division with them, and for a number of years, matched up against them with Minnesota. Everyone has their own way, their own belief, on how to play them. Personally, I think you deny them the puck, so you want to meet them before the puck gets there. But if they get the puck, it’s not about eliminating time and space, because if you’re too aggressive against them, there will be open ice in the middle of the ice, and that’s where the puck will always go.”

“It’s a fine line,” Mitchell added. “Be aggressive when they don’t have it, and if they get possession, sometimes, you’ve got to sit, because they’re not Steven Stamkos. They don’t have that world class shot. [They’re] world class playmakers, and they’re world class at creating that two-on-one.”

Mitchell said that with the Sedins, patience is key.

“It’s a matter of patience, waiting them out, and putting them in uncomfortable areas,” Mitchell explained. “Their uncomfortable area is on the outside, and having to shoot the puck. They don’t want to do that. If you [sit and wait], they’ll actually put it right into you, because they want to make that pass to the back door, or to the front of the net, so badly.”

“You want to deny them the puck but once they get it, I really believe you want to work from the inside out, and we’ll look to do that,” Mitchell elaborated. “It’s a fine line. That’s why they’re good players. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

But it is not just the Sedins that the Kings need to be concerned about, as their usually stingy penalty-kill gave up two power play goals in Game 4.

“Our penalty-kill was the difference in Game 4,” said Greene. “We gave up two power play goals. That’s got to end, and we’ve got to be tighter in the defensive zone.”

Mitchell said that the Kings will go back to what was working for them prior to Game 4.

“In the last game, we made some adjustments to our penalty-kill that we’re going to do away with, going back to some similar stuff that we were doing,” he said.

The Kings were credited with 44 shots on goal in Game 4, a rather high number. But that was very misleading, as theys rarely had traffic in front of Vancouver netminder Corey Schneider, who was forced to make few difficult saves.

“In the last game, I think we thought we played better than what we did,” said Mitchell. “If you look at the shot total, you [might think], ‘pretty good game by the Kings.’ Vancouver’s goalie played well on special teams, and got them the win. But if you really look at the game, I don’t think we played that well. We didn’t generate as much as the shot clock indicates.”

“We’re just looking to play a much better game, as far as putting some pressure on their defensemen, and some pressure around the net to get the second chance goals—that’s where all the goals are scored this time of year,” added Mitchell. “We just need to get pucks in behind them, and get to the net.”

When you wrap it all up, the Kings struggled in all three zones, on the power play, and on the penalty-kill. In other words, they struggled with their entire game in Game 4.

Dramatic improvement must come in Game 5 if the Kings expect to win this series. After all, even with a 3-1 series lead, they no longer have any margin for error with Daniel Sedin back in the Canucks’ lineup. The Sedins’ dominance whenever they were on the ice after the first period of Game 4 illustrates that.

“I liked our five-on-five play, but we’re not going to beat the Vancouver Canucks unless everyone plays [up] to their [capabilities],” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “Because of the skill set that they have, if we have three or four guys who don’t play to their skill set, then we’re not going to beat them.”

“It doesn’t matter if we’re up, 3-1, or down, 3-1,” added Sutter. “We still have guys who can play a lot better.”

Sutter is exactly right. Forget about that 3-1 series lead, folks. The Canucks’ backs may be up against the wall, as they face elimination. But after their decisive win in Game 4, and with Daniel Sedin on top of his game, despite missing twelve games, the Canucks are a very, very confident team.

“A series is kind of like a game,” said Scuderi. “Momentum plays into it, and any time you give a team confidence, it usually helps them build up. It spreads throughout the team, and they end up playing better.”

“The games always escalate as the year goes on, and this [Game 5] will be no different,” added Scuderi.

The Kings must find a way to win in Game 5. A loss will give the Canucks all the momentum, and they will be overflowing with confidence, taking all the wind out of the Kings’ sails. That will give the Canucks control of the series, even though they will remain on the brink of elimination, looking up at a 3-2 series deficit.

Win tonight, Los Angeles Kings, for your own sake.

Raw Audio Interviews

(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed)

Jeff Carter (2:49)

Rob Scuderi (0:49)

Matt Greene (0:57)

Willie Mitchell (7:44)

Darryl Sutter (7:44)

Related Videos

2012 Western Conference Quarterfinal, Vancouver Canucks vs. Los Angeles Kings, Game 4 Highlights, April 18, 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 24, 2012, TBA – Canucks vs. Kings: Game 6 {if necessary}), are 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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