Los Angeles Kings' 5 Biggest Questions in Playoff Series vs. Anaheim Ducks
The Los Angeles Kings dropped three consecutive games to the San Jose Sharks to start the playoffs, but they have since won six straight. They're now up 2-0 on the Anaheim Ducks, courtesy of an overtime win in Game 1 and a dominant defensive performance in Game 2.
The Kings are quickly becoming a Stanley Cup favorite by finding the form that helped them win it all in 2012. Can they steamroll through the Ducks in four or five games?
That seemed very unlikely heading into the playoffs, but with the series shifting back to L.A. for Games 3 and 4, this is one of the many questions facing the Kings.
Read on to find out the other big questions surrounding the club in the first freeway series.
Will Marian Gaborik's Hot Streak Continue?
Like most of his teammates, Marian Gaborik got off to a slow—if not miserable—start to the postseason, registering just one point in his first three games.
However, he's been unstoppable in his last six contests, recording five goals and three assists for eight points. With six goals total, he leads the playoffs and is tied for seventh in points.
Can he build on his current streak?
It will be tough for Gaborik to maintain his tremendous pace given the Kings' style of play. But, a point per game isn't unreasonable. Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar did exactly that in the 2012 playoffs. And, with the chemistry developed between Gaborik and Kopitar, they could become Conn Smythe contenders by the end of this series.
Can the Kings Shut Down the Ducks' Top Guns?
In the first two games of the series, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry combined for a minus-four rating and no goals. Getzlaf has managed three assists, but that's all of the offensive production two of the world's best forwards have mustered.
Perry has driven the net hard in both games, making direct contact with Jonathan Quick on a number of plays. He's done it after the whistle, but in a manner so that he's yet to take a single penalty. He even managed to draw a penalty on Quick.
As a pest, he's been successful, but offensively, Perry has been rendered ineffective by the Kings defense. Getzlaf has had Drew Doughty in his face, and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau tried to keep the top line away from the Kings' top line in Game 2. According to Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider, Boudreau explained his reasoning after the game.
Well, I did it because Kopitar’s line was dominating them. When they’re dominating them, I could be stubborn and leave ‘em out there all day, but we had to move something around to get away from it, and maybe his line could get something accomplished.
The Kings must continue to play strong, physical defense, hope for some lucky bounces and get flawless goaltending from Jonathan Quick.
Can Drew Doughty Continue to Perform Under Pressure?
With Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr out because of injuries, Drew Doughty had more responsibility defensively in Game 2. The Ducks didn't make it easy for him. Doughty took a number of shots and hard hits throughout the game, and it showed afterwards.
However, aside from a giveaway on the power play—which Jonathan Quick saved—Doughty held his own. The Ducks kept pushing the pace and racked up 37 shots, but getting by the 24-year-old defenseman was nearly impossible.
Can Doughty continue to thrive under pressure?
There has been no news on the status of Mitchell and Regehr, meaning Jeff Schultz and Matt Greene will likely draw in again. This means Doughty will again be asked to do a lot in five-on-five and on special teams.
The longer the veteran blueliners are out, the tougher it will be for Doughty, as the Ducks will continue to rough him up every chance they get.
What Will Mike Richards Bring to the Table?
There are very few athletes in professional sports who have been on a team that's come back to win a series after going down 3-0.
Mike Richards has accomplished that twice, but his impact was very different in each series.
As the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Richards racked up nine points to help his team overcome a 3-0 deficit in a series versus the Boston Bruins and a 3-0 deficit in Game 7. With the Kings, he managed just a single assist in the comeback versus the Sharks.
He now has no goals, two assists, a minus-two rating and 23 shots in the playoffs. Richards is capable of doing more, but will he?
No longer in the top six, Richards is playing more of a shutdown role—similar to that of Jarret Stoll—while the top two lines account for most of the offense.
This is a prime example of just how deep the Kings are up front. They don't need Richards to produce offensively to win, they need him to play solid two-way hockey, be physical on the forecheck and be a leader.
Will the Kings Sweep the Freeway Series?
It's a series many picked to go at least six games, but now the Kings head home up 2-0 with an opportunity to sweep their California rivals.
This is a team that came back from down 3-0; winning a couple of games at home should be an easy task in comparison.
The Kings have allowed just three goals in the first two games, with Jonathan Quick stopping 69 shots. They have the edge in the crease, Drew Doughty is the difference on defense, and Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have been better than Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry at both ends of the rink.
The Kings also have the edge in terms of depth up front, with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli chipping in.
Perhaps most importantly, the Kings power play is operating at 22.6 percent, a considerable upgrade from 15.1 percent in the regular season.
Eight consecutive wins in the playoffs sounds ridiculous, but the Kings may be almost as likely as the Blackhawks to pull it off.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.