Sunday, April 22, 2012
Kings: Time to put this one in the bag
By Dan Arritt
Western Conference Quarterfinals
Kings vs. the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena, 5 p.m.
Game 5 (Kings lead the series, 3-1)
Five storylines to track:
1. Deep breaths -- It’s certainly not panic time. No, the hyperventilating will occur tonight if the Kings don’t wrap up this series with a win. The Kings earned the first two victories of the series in Vancouver, got outplayed but stole a win in Game 3, and in Game 4, they delivered the better performance, but the bounces finally went Vancouver’s way. Even when the Kings were up 3-0 in the series, getting that elusive fourth victory has been viewed as an enormous barrier. Right now, that brick wall looks to be about 10 feet tall.
2. Physical edge -- The Kings delivered 50 hits in Game 4, the most in their past 15 playoff games dating to the 2009-10 season. Only one was placed on Daniel Sedin, who was making his first appearance after missing the previous 12 games with a concussion. In the locker room afterward, the Kings talked about making life harder on Sedin in Game 5, and they maintained that attitude in the days that followed. Don’t expect the Kings to make a Raffi Torres-like run at Sedin; that’s not their style, but they'll likely give him a bump every chance they get.
3. Three-day delay -- In an unusual scheduling quirk brought about by limited arena availability, the Kings and Canucks had to wait three days between Games 4 and 5. That probably benefited Vancouver more than it did the Kings. Most importantly, it gave Sedin an extra couple of days to get back in shape after sitting for four weeks. Hopefully, the Kings used the extra time to study their power play, which has come up empty on its last 13 man-advantage situations, nearly matching Vancouver’s 0-for-14 start to the series. If the Kings can’t at least stay even with Vancouver in the special teams battles, they have little chance of closing the series tonight.
4. MVP time -- Kings coach Darryl Sutter continues to lay down the challenges for goalie Jonathan Quick, the team's most valuable player during the regular season. He said Friday that for the Kings to be successful, they needed Quick to be as good as Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider, who has started the last two games in place of Roberto Luongo and held the Kings to two goals. Quick has been fabulous in the series, highlighted by his 1-0 shutout in Game 3, but the Canucks scored on two long-range shots in Game 4. If Quick is truly a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie, he might need to step up and win this series by himself.
5. Line changes -- The Canucks made some adjustments to their scoring lines the last couple of days, putting Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler and Maxim Lapierre on the second line, and dropping Jannik Hansen to the third line and Mason Raymond to the fourth. The move should spread out their offense and make them tougher to defend. Raymond is not a typical fourth liner, producing 10 goals and 10 assists in 52 regular-season games.