Biggest Lessons Learned from Start of Los Angeles Kings' Playoff Campaign
Billed as a heavyweight slugfest of physically demanding and punishing hockey going in, the series hasn't disappointed yet. Both teams have been attempting to grind each other into oblivion and get under each other's skin, but at this point it's rock meeting hard place.
With so little to give either way in this series, it currently stands at two games to one in favor of St. Louis as the home team has held serve so far. Despite losing the first two games the Kings played St. Louis very tough and both games were a bit of a coin flip. However, the Kings can walk away from those with a few key points and lessons to think about as the series moves on.
Capitalize on Chances
Goals have been at a premium this series. However, in all honesty, chances have been quite common.
Each team in every game thus far has had a tremendous amount of grade-A quality chances. Yet this remains a low scoring series by virtue of phenomenal goaltending, savvy defensive play and just plain bad puck luck.
What both teams can probably agree on though is that of the chances they've had, they haven't finished them quite like they had hoped. Jeff Carter in particular has had several great scoring opportunities that have gone just wide or haven't been elevated high enough over a pad or glove. Several clear-cut, odd-man rushes have been negated by poor decisions with the puck or sloppy passes.
Scoring is so limited in this series that the Kings have to stop missing their chances and start burying them. Yes these were two of the best defensive teams in the league during the regular season, but analysts and fans alike have been saying, "Wow this game could easily be 3-0 if not for..." after every game.
True, some of these games could have been 3-0 or 4-0. Someone just needs to start capitalizing on the scoring opportunities presented to them.
One Goal Isn't Going to Cut It
Saturday night was an anomaly. A 1-0 scoreline held through to give the Kings a decisive game Game 3 victory. However, in the first two games it was the team that eclipsed the one-goal mark that eventually won.
In a general sense you could just say the offense needs to step up or the Kings need more goals. Those are a bit generalized though. Both of these teams pride themselves on defense, so a 1-0 loss or a 2-1 loss is still well within the realm of a good defensive effort but an unfortunate result.
The Kings have to get in the head of St. Louis and make their strength become a question mark. That is exactly what they did last year in this series, and it happened in game two when the team absolutely dismantled them 5-2 in St. Louis.
A 1-0 loss or a 2-1 loss can be chocked up to bad luck, good goaltending, or one dumb play. I'm sure any King fan can agree to this after the results of Game 1 and Game 2 and how those losses transpired. However, a game where a defensively sound team gets ripped on for three or four goals, that will have a longer lasting effect.
A one-goal game is a coin flip. A three-goal game is a statement. The Kings need a statement game.
The Power Play Needs to Get Going
Again, you could chalk this up to St. Louis being one of the best penalty-killing teams during the regular season. However, the Kings power play has been a complete non-factor thus far, and it's hurting them dearly.
It's been a rough series for the power-play units on both side, as the Kings are currently 1-for-10, and the Blues 1-for-13. Both teams are playing incredibly physical and taking a number of liberties with after-the-whistle scrums and big hits. There have also been a number of mistakes like pucks over the glass and too many men on the ice calls.
You have to make teams pay for their mistakes and their over-zealousness. In a series as physical and nasty as this you're going to get plenty of opportunities and an ice-cold power play is not going to get it done.