EL SEGUNDO – Are the Kings finished, or merely setting up a blockbuster Hollywood sequel?
Losing consecutive playoff games by an aggregate score of 13-5 doesn’t lend itself to many positives, but there is one for the Kings: They were in this exact same hole 12 months ago, then leapt out of it.
Last year, the Kings returned from St. Louis down 2-0 in their first-round series, then won four consecutive games and advanced. Now, after two shockingly poor efforts, the Kings trail San Jose 2-0 in this first-round series, and face a veritable do-or-die Game 3 on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
“We’ll play better (in Game 3),” Coach Darryl Sutter said Monday afternoon, after fewer than half the Kings skated. “It’s not like there was a death in the family or something.”
History certainly doesn’t favor the Kings. NHL teams that trailed 2-0 in a best-of-7 series have gone on to win the series just 13 percent of the time. The comeback has happened 41 times (in 315 series) since 1942.
“We know the situation,” Kings center Jarret Stoll said. “The percentages are going down and down and down if we don’t fix the way we’re playing.”
At least the Kings have done it before. Twice, actually. In 2001, they lost the first two games of a first-round series in Detroit, then won four consecutive games. Then there’s last year, when the Kings quickly turned things around against the Blues. But the similarities go only so far.
Last year, the Kings lost Games 1 and 2 to St. Louis by identical 2-1 scores, including one in overtime. The Kings played with structure in those games, but have looked unrecognizable in two losses to the Sharks.
“That was a different team, a different series (against St. Louis),” Stoll said. “Our team is different. We can fall back on that experience a little bit, but at the end of the day we just have to play well.”
Sutter might shake things up again. The Kings used seven defensemen in Game 2, then indicated that a couple defensemen might be ill or injured. Depending on who is available, Sutter might look to make more lineup and/or line combination changes, if for nothing else than trying to find a spark.
Goalie Jonathan Quick summed it up nicely when, asked to discuss the Kings’ problems after 6-3 and 7-2 losses, he dryly said, “I’ve got things to do this afternoon. I don’t want to get into all of them.”
There isn’t one thing particularly wrong with the Kings right now, and that’s the bad news. The defense has been porous and unable to keep up with San Jose’s speed, the goalie hasn’t been good enough (by his own analysis) and top forwards such as Marian Gaborik, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar have been quiet.
Is it possible for the Kings to heal all their wounds, with fewer than 48 hours between games?
A change in venue can’t hurt. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, the Kings have a 10-0-1 record against San Jose at Staples Center. In last year’s second round, the Kings outscored the Sharks 11-4 at home.
“Certainly it’s not going to be easy,” Kopitar said. “(The Sharks) are trying to come down here and win a game, just like we wanted to do up there. We’ve got to make sure we come out strong tomorrow and pick up our pace.”HEAD GAMES?