On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Los Angeles Kings suffered a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. The victory gave the Vegas team a commanding two-games-to-none lead in their opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series. It also puts the Kings in the unenviable position of having to win four of the next five games in order to triumph in this best-of-seven series. This is a tough situation, but not impossible.
On Sunday, April 15, the series shifts to STAPLES Center in downtown Los Angeles for the next two games. In order to get back in this series, the Kings will need to make some adjustments. First, they need to find a way to slow the relentless Vegas forecheck which has taken away a lot of time and space from the Kings defenseman. As a result, the Kings have had trouble making clean breakouts and it has been tough for them to transition from defense to offense. Often times, Vegas has been able to regain control of the puck in the neutral zone and prevent any real threat.
Entering this playoff series, the Kings' defensive corps was already rather thin, given that both Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort were unavailable due to injury and it is still unknown when either will return to action. When Drew Doughty was suspended for Game 2, it rendered the defensive corps even more vulnerable. Consider too, that defensemen Oscar Fantenberg, Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue are all experiencing playoff hockey for the first time in their young NHL careers. Doughty will be back for Game 3 and will need to be at his Norris trophy best, in order to provide leadership and stability for this group and to trigger the Kings offense.
Up front, the Kings star forwards really need to get going. In particular, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, need to make their presence felt. After two games, defenseman Paul LaDue's power-play goal in Game 2, is the only time the Kings have found the back of the net. This also means that after two full games and almost two full periods of overtime, the Kings have yet to score a goal at even strength. This is a series in which the two teams have combined for just four goals. Had the Kings scored even one five-on-five goal, this series could have an entirely different feel.
In net, as usual, goaltender Jonathan Quick has been excellent. Unfortunately, there is little the star netminder can do when his team is simply not producing. In order for the Kings to get back into this series, they will need to make sure to maximize any and all scoring opportunities and possibly begin to take a few more chances. With Quick playing so well, the team should be comfortable relying on him to come up with a few more big saves if need be. So far, Quick stopped 27 of 28 shots in Game 1 and 54 of 56 shots in Game 2, while the Kings were outshot by a combined total of 84-60. This gives him an overall save percentage of .964 for the series - It is safe to say he is locked in.
Defeating this Vegas team may appear to be a Herculean task, especially given that the Kings will not only have to win at home but must take at least one game at T-Mobile arena, where the Knights have been almost unbeatable. Vegas is one of the fastest teams in the league and are looking good, but the Knights have to be wary of the championship pedigree of the Kings. After all, the core players on this current Kings team were also part of the 2014 Stanley Cup championship team which started things off by overcoming a 0-3 series deficit to the San Jose Sharks in the opening round.