Saturday, March 24, 2012
Kings: Hoping to hang a Lucky 7 on Bruins
By Dan Arritt
Kings (37-25-12, 86 points) vs. Boston Bruins (42-28-3, 87 points) at Staples Center, 6 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Still No. 1 – For the second consecutive morning, the Kings woke up, rubbed their eyes and still saw their name still atop the Pacific Division standings. A big carrot considering division winners are guaranteed one of the top three seeds in the Western Conference playoffs. While that’s a moral victory to climb back atop that mountain after all the organization has experienced this season, it really hasn't earned them anything at this point. There's still eight games to go in the regular season, and the Kings are just one point inside the playoff bubble. They could just as easily fall out of the top eight by failing to earn any points against the Bruins, and on the same night Colorado beats Vancouver and either Dallas or Phoenix wins. That’s how tight this race has remained heading into the final two weeks.
2. Masked man – If not for the effort of goalie Jonathan Quick in their 1-0 shootout victory Thursday night against the visiting St. Louis Blues, the Kings wouldn’t be sitting in this position. He stopped 37 shots in regulation and overtime, and kept three more out of the net in the shootout for his eighth shutout of the season, matching the franchise record. The former UMass goalie has a strong history against the Bruins too, owning a 5-1-0 lifetime record with a shutout last season at Staples Center. It seems the closer the score, the better Quick plays. This figures to be one of those games.
3. Faceoff frenzy – The Kings are 3-0 are their current four-game homestand and have won a season-long six straight overall. One area they’ve really dominated the last three games is the faceoff circle, and third-line center Jarret Stoll has been the leader of that pack. The Kings are 99-74 on the draw in the last three games, and those extra possessions have certainly come in handy. Stoll has won 33 of 48 faceoffs for a whopping 68.7 percent. He’s at 54.7 percent for the season, eighth-best in the league among those who have taken 1,000 faceoffs or more.
4. Block party – The Kings don’t have a shot blocker ranked in the top 40 in the league, but sometimes timing means everything. They got in the way of nine shots against the Blues, none bigger than the three blocks during an overtime power play that covered the last 1:53. Anze Kopitar, the Kings hottest offensive player at the moment, stood in the way of two shots on the power play and Matt Greene knocked down another. Greene, by the way, finished with four blocked shots on the night. He averages 1.4 on the season.
5. Boston bomber – One player who makes defenders think twice about getting in the way of slap shots is Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara, who won the hardest shot competition at the All Star game five of the last seasons. When he skates out on the ice against the Kings, Chara will also be will be playing in the 1,000th game of his NHL career, one that includes a Norris Trophy in 2009 and a Stanley Cup title with the Bruins last season. For those not familiar with Chara, he's hard to miss at 6 feet 9.