- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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To a man in a dejected dressing following Game 7 last May, the Sharks felt Quick was the difference in the heartbreaking series loss.
Not sure whether the Sharks had voodoo dolls of Quick ordered before this year's series, but in just five periods against the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, they've put 12 pucks behind him.
Not exactly what the Sharks would have predicted in their wildest dreams before this series began.
"Could I have envisioned it? No, I would be lying," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said following Sunday night's 7-2 whipping of the Los Angeles Kings.
"Yesterday, I talked about the fact I didn't think we'd be in this situation again, but we ended up there," added the Sharks coach. "Again, I don't think this series is going to play out in blowouts like this night after night. They're a very good hockey club, they're going to find their game and we have to be prepared for that."
Sadly for the Kings, Quick is far from their biggest concern.
The mesmerizing two-game onslaught by the Sharks, outscoring the 2012 Cup champs 13-5, is nothing short of stunning.
Nobody doubted the Sharks had the potential to beat the Kings. These are evenly matched contenders, after all.
But like this? In this fashion?
Wave after wave after wave, from the top line to the fourth line, the Sharks' speed and forecheck is causing mayhem for the Kings, who look slow-footed and a step behind as the Sharks dominate puck possession and produce odd-man rush after odd-man rush.
"I know that we need to play that way," McLellan said of his team's heart-stopping pace. "We've got to get the puck going.
"It's been a focus of our organization over the last few years to up the speed element. We want to play a fast game. We feel that's what we need to do to have success."
Logan Couture in alone and beating Quick for the sixth goal of the night Sunday was the exclamation point on a two-game barrage that will have Los Angeles doing a lot of thinking heading into Game 3 Tuesday night at Staples Center.
"It obviously stinks, sitting here talking after another lopsided loss, but they did what they set out to do," Kings veteran winger Justin Williams said. "Now it is response time. Now we're coming back to our rink. We won the first two in our arena last year and they came back and won the next two in theirs. We're looking to repeat that but we have to start with one."
But then the Sharks pushed back, fueled once again by Andrew Desjardins' fourth-line unit, which tied the game on goals by Mike Brown and Raffi Torres. And the ice stayed tilted the rest of the night.
"I think their [James] Sheppard line and Desjardins line dominated the second period," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "We didn't have an answer for that."
In fact, Sheppard moved to the wing as Joe Pavelski came down to center the third unit with Tommy Wingels, and they were on the ice for Justin Braun's go-ahead 3-2 goal at 14:45 of the middle frame. Pavelski also roofed one 4:07 into the third period to make it 5-2 and by then it was indeed over.
McLellan's decision five minutes into the second period to move Pavelski to the No. 3 center spot was timely, sparking the third line on the heels of the fourth line getting things going.
The Kings simply had no response to the Sharks' four-line attack.
This is the team Sharks GM Doug Wilson envisioned last summer but really hasn't seen on the ice in full force until now, with Torres and Tomas Hertl missing so much time this season with knee injuries/surgeries.
A year ago, the Sharks lost a seven-game series to the Kings without Torres (suspended after Game 1), while Hertl and Matt Nieto would wait until this season to make their NHL debuts.
Those three additions alone have given the Sharks so much more balance and depth this season. But mostly, more speed.
And right now, the Kings can't match it.
A year ago in the first round, the Kings went down 2-0 after losing both games in St. Louis and came back to win four straight. But they didn't get waxed like they did here.
"It is a different year," said Kings veteran blueliner Robyn Regehr. "I know you look at the series and see the 2-0. This is a different year. There are different things we need to do this year. There's many more things that we need to improve on in our game. In my opinion, it is an entirely different situation."
Yes, it is.
The Kings right now are a step behind. They look slow. They look out of gas.
Their top players haven't shown up yet in this series.
Williams put it best: "Plain and simple, their players beat ours every way tonight."
12dScott Burnside and Craig Custance