There have been times during the 2013 NHL playoffs when the Los Angeles Kings looked very capable of defending their Stanley Cup championship. Yet at other times they’ve seemed closer to booking tee times than a trip to the next round.
However, they’ve since lost two in a row to the Sharks at HP Pavilion. Both losses were by a score of 2-1, with one of them coming in overtime. These results are identical to the Kings’ opening two playoff games in St. Louis.
The lack of offensive production may give Kings fans a reason to worry, but it’s certainly not time to hit the panic button.
Jonathan Quick continues to give the Kings a chance to win every game, regardless of the number of shots he faces. Through 10 playoff games the Conn Smythe Trophy winner has a .944 save percentage, 1.64 GAA and two shutouts.
Aside from Slava Voynov's misplay of the puck that led to the Sharks' first goal in Game 4, the L.A. defense has also been solid for much of the series and playoffs. Game 4 also saw this year's first playoff action for Matt Greene, who recorded four hits and a couple blocked shots in just over 14 minutes of ice time in his return from injury.
As for the struggling offense, changes could be coming in the form of some line adjustments for Game 5. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted the details from Kings practice on Wednesday.
New lines at Kings practice. Brown now with Lewis and King. Clifford with Kopitar/Williams. Penner with Richards/Carter.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) May 22, 2013
Perhaps this shakeup will wake up some of the Kings’ stars who have yet to make a big impact in the playoffs.
The most notable is captain Dustin Brown, who’s managed just two goals and three points in 10 games. That said, Brown does lead the team in hits with 46. Together Brown, Trevor Lewis and Dwight King form a line that should be strong on the forecheck and wear the Sharks down with their physical play.
Who will win Game 5?
Kyle Clifford is set to play in his seventh game of the postseason and will look to bring some energy to a top unit that’s been awfully quiet against the Sharks.
As for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, they seem to play well at both ends of the rink regardless of who’s on their line. Dustin Penner only adds more size and grit to a line that’s been the Kings’ most consistent thus far.
You can expect Richards and Carter to generate chances on offense. The question is whether or not the Kings’ other lines can maintain pressure in the Sharks’ zone.
The good news is the Kings have won 12 consecutive games at home, and they haven't lost three straight since the first three games of the season.
Look for the Kings to come out strong and set the tone early with their physical play in what should go on to be one of their best performances of the playoffs.
Puck drop for Game 5 is set for Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.