It was April 1989, when the Los Angeles Kings eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers, 6-3 in Game 7 of the opening round of the playoffs. Tuesday night, May 28 will be the first time since that memorable victory, that the Kings will be hosting a playoff Game 7.
Not quite like waiting for Halley’s comet, but 24 years is quite a gap.
Of course when they faceoff against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night, there will not be anything close to the underlying story of the 1989 contest. Remember, Aug 1988, the Kings had just “stolen” Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton. The stars then aligned perfectly, and allowed the superstar to face his old team, in the limelight of the playoffs.
This time around, there will be no such underlying drama. This will simply be two of the best teams in the Western conference, in a winner-takes-all contest in downtown Los Angeles.
This current series has seen each team win all it’s home games.
Most recently, Game 6 was a frustrating loss for the defending champs. The Kings hit the goalpost three times in the first period, en route to a 2-1 loss in San Jose.
All three of San Jose’s victories in this series, have been by that identical score.
The Kings have won every game in which they have scored more than one goal.
For San Jose, it seems that as Joe Thornton goes, so goes the team. The beefy line of Thonton/T.J. Galiardi/Brent Burns has been highly effective at times during the first six games, especially those played in San Jose.
Game 6 saw Brent Burns draw a hooking penalty on Mike Richards, at 4:44 of the first period. This was follwed by Anze Kopitar’s 2 mins penalty for “smothering the puck” just 14 secs later, as he threw the puck over the glass while killing the original penalty.
This sequence of events led to Joe Thornton’s power play goal at 6:09.
At 4:10 of the second period, Galiardi put San Jose up, 2-0 when he scored what proved to be the game-winning goal.
Richards is a terrific defensive player, and has done an admirable job in going against Thornton’s line, on a regular basis. Richards has also managed to put up 2 goals and 3 assists in the process. He has a plus/minus rating of + 3 in the series.
Richards alone, has as many goals and assists, as Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Justin Williams combined.
The 6’4″ Thornton outweighs the 5’11” Richards, by 40 lbs. As the saying goes, “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
There is definitely no lack of fight in Richards.
To this point, Richards has probably been the Kings’ most consistently effective forward.
The play of Richards’ line will again be key in Game 7. Richards skated with Jeff Carter on right wing, and Dwight King on left wing in Games 1-4. The two most recent games have seen King replaced by Dustin Penner.
Neutralizing Thornton will again be one of the big priorities in Game 7, along with limiting the San Jose’s team speed through the neutral zone.
The Kings must also stay out of the penalty box. The Kings have outscored San Jose 12-9 in the series. Four of San Jose’s nine goals, have come on the power play. Two of those power play goals have been game-winners; both scored by Logan Couture.
No major changes in strategy are needed by either team.
Whichever team has better execution, will win the game.
It is time for the big time players to make big time plays.
This should also be a nice goaltending duel between 2013 Vezina trophy finalist Antii Niemi, and the reigning Conn Smythe trophy winner, Jonathan Quick.
Game 7 has all the makings of a classic.
Gametime is 6:00 pm PT, at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Kings’ Game 6 forward line combinations:
*Kings playoff interviews on Youtube