Kings in need of a Quick turnaround
Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick was pulled from Game 2 against the Sharks. (REUTERS)
Just who is that man behind that black-and-silver mask?
Sure, the name on the back of his Los Angeles Kings jersey reads “QUICK” — as in Jonathan Quick, the 2012 playoff MVP and the 2013-14 Jennings Trophy recipient as the league’s stingiest goalie.
But through two games against the San Jose Sharks, Quick certainly has not played like that same guy.
And, at the same time, his teammates have not resembled the Left Coast Machine that hoisted the Stanley Cup less than two years ago.
Mix those ingredients together and you have an ugly recipe for a Kings team that finds itself down 2-0 entering Game 3 of this best-of-seven first-round series against the Sharks on Tuesday at the Staples Center.
Through the first 120 minutes of this all-California clash, the Kings, coming off a regular season in which they allowed the least amount of goals in the National Hockey League, have been outscored 13-7, a Sharks barrage that caused Quick to be given the hook by coach Darryl Sutter after two periods in Game 1.
Consider these numbers: Quick only gave up 13 goals in his final six games of the regular season. His team has allowed that many through two one-sided defeats to a Sharks team that appears to be smelling blood.
A year ago, during a fiercely fought seven-game series between these two foes that eventually was won by Los Angeles, the Sharks scored just 10 goals against Quick. In this year’s series, it took San Jose just 84:07 to beat Quick the same number of times.
Listed No. 1 in last week’s Sun rankings of playoff goaltenders, Quick and his lukewarm start has left the entire hockey world in a state of shock — everyone, that is, except the Sharks.
Knowing that the 2012 Conn Smythe winner is a reflex goalie who at times overreacts to the play, the Sharks are releasing shots quickly, getting bodies in front of Quick and stressing fast puck movement to get him out of position.
The Sharks also understand that Quick is an emotional competitor and are nudging, bumping and poking him at every opportunity in order to get him off his game.
This just in: It seems to be working.
To put the majority of blame on Quick would be wrong, however. His teammates have been just as moribund, if not worse.
The defence has been porous, at best, allowing far too many scoring opportunities. Drew Doughty aside, the flying Sharks have exploited the lack of foot speed by Kings blueliners, blowing by them on countless occasions.
As for the team’s top forwards, where exactly have Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown been, other than their frequent trips to the penalty box? It’s time that these guys step up or they’ll be stepping into the local tee box by the end of this week.
Those that see the Kings black-and-silver glass as being half-full claim they have been in this same situation before, pointing to a year ago when Los Angeles dropped the first two games to the Blues before winning the next four. The difference this time around: unlike last spring, the Kings are being dominated.
Not that Sutter was going to panic when he met with the media in Los Angeles on Monday. That’s not him. Indeed, the word “emotion” is not in Darryl Sutter’s vocabulary.
“We’ll play better (Tuesday),” Sutter told reporters. “It’s not like there was a death in the family or something.”
True. But having been on the wrong end of 6-3 and 7-2 humiliations in San Jose, is there no concern here, especially when the hockey Gods seem to be poised to deliver the last rites to Sutter’s team if things don’t change in a big hurry?
“I mean, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the score is, does it?,” Sutter said. “You’re down two-nothing in the series. Been there, done that. Won being down two, and I’ve lost being down two.
As I said, if our role players ... (if our whole team) can show the tenacity that their role players are showing, then we have a chance.
“Otherwise, we don’t.”
Which leads to the question: “Will the real Jonathan Quick — the REAL Los Angeles Kings, for that matter — please stand up?”
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FOURTH THINGS FIRST
The Sharks’ fourth line has been awfully good.
The Kings’ fourth line, meanwhile, has been awful.
Much like the rest of the team.
And Kings coach Darryl Sutter knows it.
“That’s the problem for us last year, too — our fourth line,” Sutter told reporters in Los Angeles on Monday.
“We didn’t have a fourth line last year and it’s been a moving target this year. And it’s been a moving target in the first two games (too).”
Sutter, whose team is down 2-0 heading into Game 3 on Tuesday at the Staples Center, must find a way to stop the Sharks’ fourth line of Mike Brown, Raffi Torres and Andrew Desjardins, whose pair of goals wiped out a two-goal Los Angeles lead in Game 2 en route to a 7-2 San Jose victory. Both Brown and Torres scored goals to even the score, while Desjardins assisted on both.
Who will win this first-round series?