Five Reasons Why LA's 5-4 Victory Over Anaheim Tuesday Was Momentous
The Los Angeles Kings beat the division rival Anaheim Ducks 5-4 Tuesday night, and not even including the fact that the Ducks needed two points to keep their playoff hopes alive, there could not have been many other circumstances to make this game any more dramatic.
The next five slides will describe just what this is referring to...
The Ducks beat the Kings in a stinker of a game at Staples on Saturday
On Saturday, the Kings were coming off of two of their biggest wins of the season: a shutout over Nashville, who the Kings hadn't previously beaten since the 2007-2008 season, and an 8-3 rout of potential first round playoff opponent Vancouver.
This were looking as up as they had all season leading up to the first of the home-and-home games versus neighbor rival Anaheim, and Saturday's game was a complete disappointment.
Sure, the Kings played most of the game with a 1-0 lead, but they didn't appear to be nearly as hungry as they had in the previous two contests, and sure enough, the Ducks took advantage at the end of the third period and sent the game to a shootout, in which all three Kings players failed to score.
What's worse is that the Ducks were without arguably their most important players in top center Ryan Getzlaf and starting goaltender Jonas Hiller.
Kings fans were simultaneously deflated by this loss.
The Importance of Playing Well Into the Postseason
Saturday's game was followed with a stipulation—if Calgary lost on Sunday then the Kings would clinch a playoff spot; and they did.
It was terrific news, though not unexpected.
But this situation is like winning a bet on a technicality—you'll take it every time, but it's not as fun as if it were more legitimate.
Likewise, it would be more fun if the Kings clinched a playoff birth with a win over someone, but no one is unhappy about it. As a fan, you'd like achieve something when you are there to appreciate/celebrate it.
What this meant is that the second game of the home and home versus Anaheim did not have any concrete playoff implications for the Kings other than where they might be seeded.
That shouldn't matter. The team needs to realize that they have to get it together and play as well as they can together prior to the start of the playoffs.
You'd rather start Game 1 of a series on the road by saying, "We need to just keep doing what we are doing and keep up the intensity," rather than, "We have to figure out a way to turn things around."
But, it seems as it did have an impact at first, as the team did not come out with the same fervor that they might if something more dire was on the line.
Kings Come Back From Three-Goal Deficit to Win
The Kings did come out pretty flat, and just could not get in sync with each other in the first two periods.
Jonathan Quick was hung out to dry like soggy underwear, and then made a bad play with the puck behind his net to make the game 0-3.
He was replaced with Erik Ersberg who turned in one of his best performances of the campaign.
When the third period started, the Kings finally looked like a team that's actually poised for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's as though they were audience to some fantastic motivational speech (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZkqAErSitJM)
While it is exciting to see that the team has the drive and talent to perform a three-goal come back, the Kings aren't going to win any playoff games with one stellar period and two lackluster periods.
It just won't get it done.
Kopitar's Shootout Goal —No One Else Can Pull This Off as Nicely
This is a still from this video:
..and you really should just watch it for yourself.
He pulled this off earlier this year against Boston, and seems to only bring it out when the game is on the line.
Usually, Kopitar is the Kings'first shootout shooter, as he barely edges out Jack Johnson as the team's best shootout man, but the two are head and shoulders above the rest of the squad.
For some reason, last night, Kopitar shot third, and was able to win the game with a goal against Ducks goalie Curtis McElhinney.
He pulled out the one-handed backhand move where his body goes one way and he takes the puck around the goalie the other way, and puts it past with one hand on the stick.
It is a thing of beauty to watch in any scenario, but when the game is on the line it is even sweeter.
Sliding Up to a Higher Position in Playoff Seeding
The most important aspect of this game is the two points.
Yes, the Kings have clinched a playoff spot but the opponent they will face is not even close to set.
The two points from Tuesday's win put the Kings in sixth place, matching up against the Vancouver Canucks, who are no doubt a tough team, but have been struggling somewhat lately.
And struggling or not, they would much rather face the Canucks that the Blackhawks, a team that is as deep and talented as any in the league.
Moving up further would put them in fifth and facing off against division rival Phoenix, who I think is definitely one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs this year, in either conference.
It would be an easier travel schedule, but that's about it.
I really like Jarret Stoll's quote today, in which he discusses their potential first round opponent, "They all are good teams, they all have their strengths, but I definitely feel we can beat any of those teams. So I don't have a preference." (http://nhl.fanhouse.com/2010/04/06/jarret-stoll-kings-can-beat-any-of-those-teams/)
That is exactly what the veteran players in that locker room should be conveying to the youngsters, but there is no doubt that they would rather face Vancouver or Phoenix than San Jose or Chicago, so let's just hope they get at least a few points in their last three games.
Either way, it's going to be great to see some postseason action at Staples Center this season.