5 Los Angeles Kings Who Stepped Up in Game 7 Victory over San Jose Sharks
Though the squad was strong overall, certain players rose to the occasion and delivered monster Game 7 performances to eliminate the San Jose Sharks by a margin of 5-1.
They contributed in a wealth of areas too. Stellar penalty-killing, unflinching puck possession, jaw-dropping saves, brilliant defense and offensive spark were all on display in the victory, as the Kings showed how complete—and terrifying—a package they can be when they’re rolling.
Based on the extent to which they elevated their game and their impact on the outcome, these are the Kings who stepped up the most in the historic win.
Justin Williams is Mr. Game 7. LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen indicates that he’s now posted five goals and 10 points in five such situations.
The 32-year-old wasn’t dominant by any stretch and still committed his share of turnovers on Wednesday, but the Kings will live with those, given how influential he is in the biggest contests.
He was seemingly shot out of a cannon in the first period, piling a ton of pressure on Sharks netminder Antti Niemi early. Jarret Stoll found him for a couple of chances in the slot, which allowed the Kings to establish a comfort level in the Shark Tank from the outset.
Later on, when the forward lines were jumbled due to special teams or head coach Darryl Sutter’s gut feeling, Williams took the ice with Kyle Clifford and Anze Kopitar. He spotted an open Kopitar on the rush and fed him through the middle for the game-winner.
Williams managed three shots and an assist in a little over 15 minutes of ice time on the night.
It wasn’t the prettiest outing and didn't stack up to his performances in Games 5 and 6, but he got the job done when it mattered once again.
Drew Doughty is special.
There may not be another player in the league with his skill level who sacrifices as much offensive production for the betterment of the team.
He could certainly pot 65 points a year and vie for the Norris Trophy. He netted 59 in his sophomore campaign, and his flashes of individual greatness suggest his scoresheet-stuffing potential is woefully untapped.
However, defense wins championships, so he'll settle for roughly 40 points and elite three-zone efficiency.
Rather than veering off into risky passes and ill-advised rushes, Doughty controls the game with the poise and precision of a trained assassin.
He did so again in Game 7 against the Sharks, first tying the contest on the power play with a top-shelf wrister and then shutting San Jose’s key forwards down for the duration. The Sharks’ forecheck simply could not make any inroads when the puck was dumped on Doughty’s side, as he cagily evaded pressure with his skating and outlet passes.
He instilled a measure of calm on the back end throughout the entire night.
With that said, Doughty’s most significant contributions may well have come on the penalty kill, as the dangerous Sharks power play was granted six opportunities.
In 5:58 of short-handed time, No. 8 was an absolute rock, blocking shots, breaking up passes and winning puck battles to clear the zone.
While Doughty didn't run rampant on offense, he set the tone defensively. He played nearly 26 minutes of sound, at times spectacular, hockey on Wednesday, extinguishing whatever fire San Jose had left in its belly after three straight losses.
If one player embodies the effectiveness of L.A.’s puck-possession system, it’s Anze Kopitar. Never too high or too low, the Slovenian center is a steady presence who can be depended upon in any situation.
The Kings have proven in the last two-and-a-half seasons that they win when they own the puck, and Kopitar consistently does, ranking third in the league in five-on-five Corsi percentage this season.
He won’t drop jaws by taking over games by himself, but he doesn’t need to. He’s so strong, skilled and sound that merely sticking to the process greatly benefits his club.
Kopitar may be the most unassuming superstar in the league.
In Game 7, he was his dependable self once more—maybe even more so than usual to stave off the Sharks' push in the third period—patrolling the middle of ice, remaining on the right side of the puck at all times and frustrating San Jose’s big guns with his size and strength in the trenches.
He quietly went about his business for 21 minutes, won 18 of 27 faceoffs and notched the game-winner on a nifty backhand move. He added an assist and a plus-two rating for yet another sterling performance.
Among the best 200-foot players in the world, Kopitar is certainly making up for a disappointing 2013 playoff campaign.
As a two-way center, he's currently tied for the league lead in points.
Stanley Cup, Olympic gold, Calder Cup, Memorial Cup, World Junior gold. As of Wednesday night, he’s also the only player in NHL history to play on two teams that have come back from 3-0 series deficits—Jeff Carter missed the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals due to injury.
LA Kings Insider's Jon Rosen indicates that he’s now undefeated in five career Game 7s too. When the chips are down, he comes out on top.
Mike Richards just wins.
He’s slower than he’s ever been, his hands have seemingly betrayed him and he’s been separated from longtime linemate Jeff Carter, but the grizzled pivot offered his team a two-way tour de force in Game 7.
He hounded San Jose from start to finish, kicking the night off with a solid hit on Jason Demers and ending it with a crucial shot block when the Sharks were trying to even the score in the third period.
In between, Richards led an all-out assault on San Jose to the tune of eight shots—including a few terrific scoring chances—and a Corsi percentage of 61.9. He didn't just pick on the Sharks' bottom six either. Jewels from the Crown reveals that he controlled play against virtually every opponent he went toe-to-toe with.
Faced with the team’s toughest zone starts, his defense was outstanding as well, foiling a number of San Jose’s offensive designs with his anticipation, stickwork and grit.
Following six decent contests overall, Richards' Game 7 effort was monumental.
This was an inspired and inspiring showing—the kind of performance that comes from a player who doesn’t merely like to win, but hates to lose.
Richards is a perfect example of how there’s so much more to this game than fantasy production. Even without registering a point, he was a man possessed on Wednesday, compensating for his waning speed and finish with indomitable guts and desire.
Jonathan Quick went from the biggest disappointment of the playoffs early in the series to the Kings MVP in Game 7.
After surrendering 16 goals over the first three contests against San Jose, he allowed five in his last four outings and effectively shut the door on the Sharks. A more confident Quick led to a more confident defense, as L.A. put the clamps on San Jose’s top forwards for four consecutive games.
On Wednesday night, he faced 40 shots and stopped all but one—an uncontested Matt Irwin point shot that found its way through a maze of bodies.
Moving with greater control and composure in net, Quick was a brick wall in Game 7, turning the Sharks away at every turn. If letting a team rattle off three straight wins wasn't unnerving enough, San Jose now had to deal with the added pressure of solving a seemingly impenetrable Conn Smythe Trophy winner.
The game’s defining moment took place midway through the second frame.
With the game tied at 1-1 and the Sharks on a power play, Joe Pavelski received a pass near the goal line and tried to jam the puck by Quick. In the ensuing mess, the puck squeaked out to an open Patrick Marleau on his off-wing—an ideal shooting situation.
Somehow, Quick tracked the puck, shuffled over to his left and snagged it out of the air with Marleau staring at an apparent gaping cage.
There was no coming back from that.
The Kings would score four unanswered markers to take the game and series. That doesn't happen without the magic conjured by their netminder.
Beyond just recovering from a poor start to the series, Quick saved one of the finest postseason showings of his career for a decisive Game 7.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Extra Skater.
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