LOS ANGELES – The scene: Staples Center. The players: the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks. The plot: well, it’s getting thicker.
Lights, camera, action…
It’s Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, and the spotlight is on each team today. The Kings, who have a modest 3-3 postseason record at Staples Center, are looking to get more of an advantage on their home ice. The Blackhawks, who haven’t won a playoff series road opener since the 2010 Western Conference Final, want to come out and, in the words of Jonathan Toews, “play pissed off,” yet not play out of control.
Will there be a ticked-off level of play from the Blackhawks? Will someone turn the music down at Staples Center — yes, it’s actually higher than the United Center’s playoff decibel level. While we ponder this and more, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in today’s Blackhawks-Kings game.
1. Finish. Oh-ho, thought we were going to talk about the start, eh? Yes, those starts are important; in Game 2, however, that wasn’t the Blackhawks’ problem. Finishing was. The Kings reminded them of their comeback ability in stunning fashion on Wednesday, and the Blackhawks have to be mindful of that again. If they get a lead on the Kings, they better not rest on it.
2. Don’t be stupid. As coach Joel Quenneville said prior to this one, “we took a couple penalties that aren't necessarily our style of game or play last game” in Game 2. The Blackhawks have to be smart and stay out of the box. That also goes for a happy-to-be-back Andrew Shaw who, while he brings energy and a constant net-front presence that the Blackhawks need, has tended to take the silly penalty, too.
3. Get a little something out of everyone. Be it all four lines rolling, be it scoring wealth spread around more, the Blackhawks need a total team effort tonight. It looked like some were noticeably AWOL in Game 2. That needs to change.
4. Don’t forget about the other lines. We’ve talked plenty about the Blackhawks stopping the Anze Kopitar line. They’ve done that for two consecutive games, but the Kings’ scoring punch doesn’t end with him, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik. As they found out in Game 2, the Kings have a few other guys who can do some damage — please see Jeff Carter and Justin Williams, who can score in other contests past Game 7s.
5. Our pick to click is… Patrick Kane. The last time No. 88 played here, he did it with a heavy heart, having lost his grandfather earlier in the day. He scored twice. This is also where, last spring, Kane called himself out for lack of offense up to that point in the postseason. Our Spidey senses tell us he’ll have a big night here.