LOS ANGELES—Were the Kings a little too hospitable in Game 4?
They entered the Western Conference quarterfinal with a three-games-to-none series lead on the Vancouver Canucks, needing just one more victory to become the first team to sweep the President’s Trophy winner in the first round.
They were on a roll, playing on their home ice and facing a desperate team whose leading goal scorer, Daniel Sedin, was attempting to return from a four-week absence due to a concussion. Instead of treating Sedin like a wounded seal in a sea of sharks, they gave him room to work, room to escape and enough slack to help the Canucks dodge an embarrassing elimination.
Sedin was on the ice for all three goals in the 3-1 victory by the Canucks, assisting on the third, scored by his twin brother, Henrik.
“If you give them time and space, they’re going to make plays,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said of the Sedins. “They made us pay.”
It’s not that the Kings ditched their physical game. They registered 50 hits, more than they had in any of their previous 15 playoff games, but only one was put on Daniel Sedin.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings let him off easy.
“We gave him too much room out there, especially with a guy who hasn't played for a while and just got back,” he said. “We needed to take the body on him a little more and play him a little harder and we didn’t do that tonight. That’s why he was successful.”
Following the game, Kings coach Darryl Sutter was asked if the Kings were too soft on the Sedins. Daniel finished with 19 minutes 33 seconds of ice time, nine seconds less than his brother.
“Well they’re tough guys to be aggressive against,” he said. “They’re pretty smart guys. If you can manage to do it in a time and space fashion then, without taking a penalty, we’ll probably have a chance.”
After going 0-for-14 on the power play in the first three games of the series, the Canucks went 2-for-3 in Game 4. No doubt, Daniel Sedin's presence helped get the unit untracked.
“So patient with the puck and he breaks it down as good as anybody in the league,” said Vancouver right wing Alex Burrows. “Especially with Hanky [Henrik Sedin] there, they’re able to move the puck to open areas and find lanes and find seams and that’s why they’re unbelievable together.”
Now that the questions are gone regarding Daniel Sedin’s readiness for the remainder of the series, the Kings have three days until Game 5 to figure out a game plan. They've won four straight playoff games on the road and a fifth will clinch their first playoff series since 2001.
“It’s a series again,” Doughty said. “We’re going into their barn and we’ll be fired up for that game. We’ve got to make sure we come out with our best.”