EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – After a rare day off for rest and contemplation, the Los Angeles Kings came back focused on what’s missing from their run at a second straight Stanley Cup title.
If the Kings can’t score more, they probably can’t scare mighty Chicago.
“We have to find a way to get the offensive part of the game accomplished without sacrificing the D,” captain Dustin Brown said Thursday between the Kings’ brief practice and their flight to Chicago. “We haven’t been able to do that yet, especially on the road. There’s no one reason, but it all comes back to hard work, just putting in the work to get more goals.”
The defending Stanley Cup champions are averaging exactly two goals per game in the post-season, lowest among the eight NHL teams who survived the first round. The Blackhawks are scoring 2.75 goals per game, while Pittsburgh and Boston are both above three goals per game.
The Kings realize they’ve got to help out Jonathan Quick, whose dominant goaltending propelled them—or maybe carried them—into their second straight Western Conference finals appearance starting Saturday at United Center.
Quick has allowed just 20 goals in 13 post-season games, but the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and his sturdy defence haven’t faced an offence with the Blackhawks’ speed and depth. While Quick leads the playoffs in goals-against average (1.50), save percentage (.948) and shutouts (three), even Quick realizes the Kings must do more to reach their second straight Stanley Cup final.
“We’ve all got to get a lot better,” Quick said. “We know we’ve got some work to do to beat those guys, because they had the best record in the regular season. They’re as tough as anybody out there.”
The Kings had few troubles scoring regularly in the regular season, finishing 10th in the NHL with 2.73 goals per game led by Jeff Carter, the Western Conference’s leading goal-scorer. Only Chicago and Anaheim scored more frequently in the West, but the Kings’ scoring touch has been sketchy in the playoffs despite their consistent success.
The Kings particularly struggle on the road, where they’ve scored just eight goals in six playoff games. They’ve lost five times by an identical 2-1 score away from Staples Center, needing overtime for their only road victory.
“It is weird statistically, but we approach every game the same way,” said Colin Fraser, who won a Stanley Cup ring as a depth forward with Chicago in 2010. “We’ve just got to find a way to execute it better on the road. You can’t change everything you do if you’re not getting the results you usually get. You’ve just got to work harder and do things better.”
Los Angeles got a day off after finishing its seven-game series with San Jose on Tuesday night, but the Kings are right back on the grind with back-to-back games in Chicago this weekend. The Kings’ health is holding up fairly well under the intense scheduling of this lockout-shortened season, with pretty much every regular available for practice.
The Kings are still hoping to get a boost from the return of centre Jarret Stoll, who practiced with his teammates Thursday without wearing a no-contact jersey. Stoll, who got an apparent concussion from an illegal hit to the head in the second-round series opener, has been skating for several days.
Coach Darryl Sutter said he had “no further update” on Stoll’s condition—”and there won’t be any update on him unless you give us an update on somebody from Chicago,” he said with a smirk.
The Blackhawks’ potent offence has had the Kings’ attention since they routed the champs 5-2 to spoil their banner-raising ceremony at the season opener in January.
While Chicago has a roster full of high-scoring names, the Kings have their own wealth of veteran offensive talent with Carter, Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and others—even if it hasn’t produced any eye-catching numbers in the post-season to date.
“I think we have four lines that can play, too,” Brown said. “We’ve both got good goalies, top defencemen in the league. It’s about matching up. As an individual, you’ve got to look across and outplay the guy that’s similar to you. That’s what it comes down to at this time of year.”