It's been a rather rocky and nervy start to the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for the L.A. Kings.
The road dominance and offensive force that highlighted a 2012 cup run has been in serious doubt thus far.
The Kings have had some pretty solid performances regardless of the struggles, and a hard-fought series with the St. Louis Blues now stands even at two games apiece. But they've also had some key players go cold at an inopportune time. Here are a couple of the Kings' hot and cold players in the series.
Williams has had a great series so far.
He's been a constant spark plug for the Kings' somewhat limited offense. Despite not lighting up the stat columns too much, Williams has played all-out on every shift and has been solid in his own end. As pictured above, Williams made a remarkable diving poke check to rob the Blues of a sure goal late in Game 3.
He also scored the game-winning goal for the team in Game 4.
It's that kind of effort that has made Justin Williams a fan favorite as well as a key contributor to the success of the team. Now if only his energy could get his linemates going.
The Kings' No. 1 center has been invisible for long stretches in the series so far.
Through four games, Kopitar has one goal and one assist and is barely averaging over a shot a game. He's been matched up against a pretty solid center on the other side in David Backes, but that didn't stop Kopitar from having a six-point 2011-12 playoff series against the Blues where he averaged over three shots a game.
The team is going to need way more out of its best center if it wants to end up taking the series, because so far his performance has been way too pedestrian. Hopefully his Game 4 goal can get him going for the rest of the series.
Let's get it out of the way now. Yes, he made a huge gaffe in Game 1 that cost the team the game, and in Game 2 he himself said he should have stopped the game-winning shot by Barret Jackman.
However, Quick has played out of his mind so far, making incredible saves and holding his team in the game as best as he can.
Despite questions of his performance during the regular season which only saw him grab a .902 save percentage, Quick has completely turned a corner for the postseason. After four games, Quick has a .941 save percentage and has already matched his shutout total (one) from the regular season.
Despite the key mistakes he has made, Quick has played more along the lines of his 2011-12 Conn Smythe-winning form. Unfortunately, his offense has not clicked yet and (aside from Game 4) is giving him very little support.
The scrappy Kings forward, who made a huge impact in the 2011-12 stretch run and playoffs last year, has struggled to find his feet and his game in the 2013 playoffs so far.
Nolan has been a bit of a defensive liability in the series, and despite mixing it up after the whistles and throwing the body around, his defensive lapses have really put the Kings on their heels and led to many extended shifts in his own zone.
Coach Darryl Sutter must have seen this as well. Nolan was a healthy scratch in favor of dressing seventh defenseman Alec Martinez in Saturday's Game 3 bout at the Staples Center. His press-box stay continued on into Game 4.
It's always the little things with Mike Richards.
No, he isn't alive in the goal-scoring column, but his defensive zone coverage and role on the penalty kill have been integral to keeping this a low-scoring series, except for Game 4 when Richards had two big assists to even the series.
Richards has been successful thus far in shutting down some of the Blues' most potent players. He is playing nearly 20 minutes a night of effective shutdown hockey.
He's also been the Kings' best faceoff man so far, winning 54 percent of his draws.
Jeff Carter finally got off the snide in Game 4, much to the delight of the Los Angeles Kings. He'd come close to netting one a few times, but some key stops, like Elliot's Game 1 pad save, had kept him goalless until Monday night.
At nearly 22 minutes a game, Carter is playing the most minutes of any Kings forward right now and has very little to show for it. A normally free-shooting Carter has averaged three shots a game, which is about his standard, but they just haven't been finding the net.
Carter is a hot-and-cold player, though, and it's always been said he scores in bunches. He's getting some pretty solid play from his linemates in Richards and King, so once Carter gets going, it could be a real series-breaker.
After netting his first of the series, hopefully Carter can shake the monkey off his back a little and close out the series better than he started it.