Chicago Blackhawks vs. Los Angeles Kings: Biggest Takeaways from Game 4
Jake Muzzin and Drew Doughty each had a goal and an assist, while Jonathan Quick made 22 saves as the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. The win gave the Kings a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Kings broke out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second period, but goals by Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell got Chicago back into the game. The Blackhawks put pressure on throughout the third period but couldn't solve Quick and the tough Los Angeles defense.
An empty-net goal by Tanner Pearson clinched the win for the Kings who won both games at home at the Staples Center.
Game 5 will be played Wednesday night in Chicago.
Here is a look at the biggest takeaways from Game 4. Feel free to comment on any of the issues discussed here or add one of your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
The Kings Continue to Get Traffic in Front of Corey Crawford
The Kings jumped out to a 4-0 lead in this game. None of those four goals could be considered "soft" goals allowed by Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
Nearly all of the goals scored by Los Angeles had one thing in common: Kings forwards were in a great position to screen and distract Crawford or to create quality scoring chances in and around the blue paint.
The Kings had multiple players in front of the goal on Jake Muzzin's goal. Marian Gaborik was in the slot when he deflected home Anze Kopitar's pass, and Dustin Brown was right around the crease and uncovered when he scored his goal.
Los Angeles forwards consistently got into superior position, and they took advantage of the opportunities that were created as a result.
Unless the Blackhawks find a way to correct this problem, they will have a hard time winning Game 5 and getting back into this series.
Sharp and Toews Have Been Kept in Check
Jonathan Toews played 20 minutes, five seconds in Game 4 and did not register a shot on goal.
He officially gave the puck away twice and won seven faceoffs, while losing 14, for a paltry 33 percent success rate.
Patrick Sharp was again held scoreless in this game and finished with a minus-one plus/minus rating. He was officially credited with one shot on goal in 13:34 of ice time.
When two talented offensive players like Toews and Sharp are held to a combined one shot on goal, it's tough for the Blackhawks to generate enough offense to win hockey games.
The Kings neutralized both of those players in Game 4 and largely made them non-factors offensively.
The Blackhawks will once again have the last chance in Game 5 when the scene shifts to Chicago, and coach Joel Quenneville must find a way to get Toews and Sharp more involved offensively and create a matchup that will give them more time and space with the puck.
Special Teams Continue to Be a Difference Maker
Special teams once again made a difference in Game 4.
The Kings scored twice in three power-play chances, while the Blackhawks failed to convert on any of their three chances with the man-advantage.
The extra time and space afforded players on the power play left forwards open in front of the Chicago net and created matchup problems the Blackhawks could not solve.
The Kings two power-play goals made the score 3-0 late in the first period. By then, the game was practically out of reach.
Los Angeles had four shots on their three power-play chances, but two of them went in. Chicago managed three shots on goal when they were on the power play, but they were unable to beat Jonathan Quick.
The power play has been a big weapon for the Kings in this series. They were 2-of-3 in Game 4. In Game 3, they scored once in three chances but also got a goal two seconds after a power play officially expired.
How important have special teams been in this series? In the game Chicago won, the Blackhawks went 1-of-2 with the extra attacker, while the Kings failed to score on their two chances.
In the three games the Kings have won, Los Angeles has scored on 5-of-10 chances, while Chicago has converted only once in 11 tries.
The Blackhawks need to reverse this trend to get back into the series.
The Duo of Seabrook and Keith Has Been Neutralized
In addition to slowing down the duo of Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews, the Kings were able to minimize the contributions of Chicago's best defensemen, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.
Neither Keith nor Seabrook registered a shot on goal in Game 4, despite the fact that they both played 2:24 of power-play time.
Keith was on the ice for 22:20, while Seabrook was out for 19:33.
By neutralizing the offensive contributions of the Blackhawks best defensemen as well as many of their top forwards, the Kings make it more difficult for Chicago to produce points.
Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival each had one assist in Game 4, but it was not enough to sustain the Chicago offense to complete the comeback.
The Kings Are a Strong Third Period Team with the Lead
The Los Angeles Kings are very comfortable playing with a lead. No team has come back to defeat the Kings when they lead after two periods in this year's playoffs. Los Angeles is now 8-0 when leading after 40 minutes.
They have one of the game's best goalies in Jonathan Quick, and they are comfortable playing a defense-first style that minimizes their opponent's chances.
While Chicago did manage to score twice in the third period to cut the Los Angeles lead to 4-2, they managed only eight shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of the game and never truly threatened to tie the game.
In Game 3, the Kings held the Blackhawks to just seven shots on goal in the third period, while protecting a one-goal lead.
The Kings have the size and the discipline to play Darryl Sutter's system. In addition to minimizing opponent's shots, the Kings did not take a penalty in the third period of either Game 3 or Game 4.
Simply put, opponents have to play a near perfect period to complete a comeback against Los Angeles. The Kings are not going to beat themselves.