The Los Angeles Kings blanked the San Jose Sharks in Game
2 of their Western Conference quarterfinals to even the series up and steal
home-ice advantage. On Tuesday, they’ll put that home-ice advantage to work as
the series shifts to STAPLES Center.
The San Jose Sharks are a good bounce-back team and coming off of
a lackadaisical effort, look for a much stronger performance in Game 3 of their NHL playoffs series.
The San Jose
Sharks Win Because…:
They were simply undisciplined in Game 2 and lost the
game on special teams. That can be corrected.
The Sharks averaged just 11.34 penalty minutes per game
in the regular season (19th least in the NHL) but gave three silly
penalties in the first period of Game 2 and the Kings made them pay. The Kings
power play ranked among the lower third of teams throughout the season. Los
Angeles is not a high-scoring, explosive team as is, so the Sharks will be sure
not to assist them in any way once again.
Meanwhile, San Jose’s power play was the second-best unit
in the regular season but they were scoreless in five man-advantage
opportunities in Game 2. That’s not likely to continue.
The Sharks won’t be intimidated to play on the road where
they notched 23 of their 48 wins this season. They are also a good rebound team
as they are 9-2 revenging a home loss to an opponent and also 11-5 this season
after a loss of two goals or more.
The Los Angeles
Kings Can Win Because…:
Their defense-first strategy worked in Game 2 and it will
work again in Game 3. To put it into perspective, the Los Angeles Kings were much weaker on
the road this season than at home yet they nearly stole Game 1 in San Jose and
easily conquered Game 2. There is a fair argument to be made that San Jose is
very lucky to even have a split in the series to this point.
The Kings know that their strength is their defense and
if these games turn into an offensive slugfest, they won’t be able to keep up.
That’s why they are focusing on the back end first, keeping things airtight and
then moving forward and taking whatever the Sharks are going to give them. It’s
a frustrating strategy to play against and with every blocked shot and cleared
offensive possession, the thoughts of choking away another playoff series way
heavier on the minds of the Sharks.
Los Angeles had 25 home wins at STAPLES Center this
season, which tied them for the third-most home wins in the NHL. They averaged
18,083 in attendance this season, which is a new franchise record, and a packed
house should be on hand for the “blackout” to cheer their team on once again.
The pace and style has been dictated by Los Angeles in
this series: the first to three goals – or maybe even two – will win. That’s
what the Kings want and at home, they should be able to get it.
Outlook & NHL
This contest presents us with a strategic matchup we see
in sports time and time again. On one hand, the Sharks will be aggressive, they
will push the envelope and they will try to win this game. Meanwhile, the Kings
will be defensive-minded, will play not to lose it at first and wait for the
Sharks to make a mistake before they attack aggressively.
The Sharks still have more firepower on offense and as
long as they don’t take silly penalties as they did in Game 2 and if they can
get their own power play back on track, they’ll be just fine. Bet the Sharks
for Game 3.
NHL Free Pick: Sharks