Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings Game 4: Keys for Each Team
The Anaheim Ducks are back in the series after earning a 3-2 victory on the road Thursday night. The Los Angeles Kings won the first two games of the series in Anaheim. Thus far, neither team has scored more than three goals in a game in what has been a well-played, tight-checking series.
In Game 3, the Ducks finally got some pressure on Jonathan Quick. They scored twice on the power play and held on for a 3-2 win despite losing starting goalie Frederik Andersen to an injury midway through the third period. Andersen's status for Game 4 and the rest of the series remains up in the air.
The Kings became the team that held a large advantage in shots on goal but couldn't convert. Los Angeles had 31 shots on goal in Game 3 compared with only 22 for Anaheim, but the Kings only scored one goal in the first 59 minutes of the game.
The Ducks now trail 2-1 and look to even the series by winning Game 4, which starts Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. ET at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Here are the three biggest keys for each team to win Game 4. Feel free to comment on any of these or add one of your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
Ducks Key No. 1: Get Good Goaltending
Ducks' goalie Frederik Andersen suffered a right leg injury midway through the third period of Game 3 on Thursday night, as per TSN. Jonas Hiller came on and finished the rest of the game.
On Friday, the Ducks recalled John Gibson from their AHL affiliate in case Andersen is not available for Game 4.
Regardless of who plays in goal, the Ducks need to continue to get solid goaltending if they hope to win Game 4. When facing a team that plays defense as well as the Kings do, the Ducks need their goaltending to keep the games close.
Hiller delivered good goaltending in the first two games in Anaheim, while Andersen came through in Game 3. This has to continue if the Ducks hope to even up or eventually win the series.
Kings Key No. 1: Improve the Penalty Kill
The Anaheim Ducks had eight power-play chances in the first two games of this series. The Los Angeles Kings managed to kill of seven of them, and they won both of those games.
In Game 3, Anaheim scored twice in two opportunities with the extra attacker. They won the game, 3-2.
The Kings were the NHL's stingiest defense during the regular season. That makes the Ducks' power play critical to their chances to score enough goals to win hockey games and makes the Kings' penalty kill just as crucial.
Forwards like Mike Richards, Tyler Toffoli, Dwight King and Jarret Stoll are key penalty-killers for the Kings. If they can keep the Ducks' power play in check, Los Angeles' chances of winning Game 4 increase dramatically.
Ducks Key No. 2: Continue to Bother Jonathan Quick
The Ducks recorded 37 shots on goal in Game 2 of this series and only 22 in Game 3. But their offense was much more effective in Game 3. One big reason was that the Ducks were able to put pressure on Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick on Thursday.
Anaheim's forwards were able to set screens, battle for rebounds and disturb the Kings' goalie. The key for the Ducks wasn't quantity but the quality of the shots they took.
Quick is playing at the top of his game. If he sees the puck, he is very likely to stop it. The challenge for the Ducks is to make sure Quick doesn't have clear looks at the shots they take.
In Games 1 and 2, the Kings' defense kept the Ducks' forwards on the perimeter in the Los Angeles zone. In Game 3, Anaheim's forwards managed to get better position.
The Ducks need to win this battle again in Game 4 if they hope to win the game and even up the series.
Kings Key No. 2: Take Advantage of Home Ice Advantage
The home team has yet to win a game in this series. The Kings won the first two games in Anaheim before the Ducks bounced back and won Game 3 at the Staples Center.
The crowd in Los Angeles is a boisterous one, and the Kings finished with a 23-14-4 record at home this season.
In addition to a friendly group of fans, playing at home gives Kings' head coach Darryl Sutter the last change when trying to match lines.
If the Kings fail to take advantage of having the crowd behind them and having the last change, they will give back home-ice advantage in the series, which they earned by winning the first two games on the road. They will also lose the momentum they got from taking an early 2-0 lead in the series.
Ducks Key No. 3: Slow Down Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar is the most dangerous offensive player on the Kings' roster. He's also red-hot right now. The Kings have played 10 playoff games, and Kopitar has at least one point in all 10 of them.
The Slovenian star has four goals and 15 points in 10 games. When he has scored at least one goal, the Kings are 3-0. Los Angeles is also 3-0 in games where Kopitar has more than one point in the playoffs.
The Ducks face the difficult challenge of slowing down Kopitar. At 6'3", 224 pounds, Kopitar has excellent size to go along with his quick hands and hockey sense.
Teammate Mike Richards knows how much Kopitar means to the Kings.
"Obviously, he's doing really well with putting up the points, but it's not just the points," Richards told Lisa Dillman of The Los Angeles Times. "He blocks shots, he kills penalties, he takes every big faceoff, he plays at the end of games. He's been doing this stuff for probably the past five years, but this is probably the best I've ever seen him play."
Even with Kopitar's exceptional play, the Kings have struggled to score goals this season. If the Ducks can find a way to slow down the Kings' top center and keep him off the scoreboard, they have a much better chance of winning Game 4.
Kings Key No. 3: Slow Down Corey Perry
Corey Perry is the Ducks' key offensive player. Anaheim is 5-0 in this year's playoffs when Perry records at least one point.
In Game 3, it was Perry who broke the ice by scoring on the power play just 4:06 into the game. The goal lifted the confidence of the Ducks who struggled throughout the series to get pucks behind Jonathan Quick.
Perry is 6'3" and finished second in the NHL with 43 goals in the regular season. The Ducks won the one game in this series when Perry scored, they lost the two games the Kings kept him off the scoreboard.
The Kings' tough defense needs to contain Perry. If they do, they have a much better chance of winning Game 4.