I pain even thinking about this game.
I walk into Staples tonight with my head balancing delicately between uplifted pride and sagging despair. Today I am not a man who chooses his own destiny, but rather, one who squirms in his seat, waiting for events to unfold that will determine his fate.
The Chicago Blackhawks have either arrived at Staples Center for the first time in 2011 at the absolute best time, or the worst. It depends which King’s team shows up to meet them.
Will it be the team who had been scoring 4 goals per game? Or will it be the team on the verge of its 4th consecutive loss?
Should the Kings maintain the solid defense they found again on Saturday against the Sharks, half the battle will be won. The other balttle is one they forgot to wage two days ago; the war of the blue paint. The Kings directed plenty of shots towards the opposition goalie last game, though not a one touched twine as snipes were not in their sticks and traffic was not in front of the net. Tonight, the name of the game must be embodied by this single term, havoc.
Create havoc in front of Corey Crawford, the starting Hawk tender.
Imbue havoc in the lower backs and shoulder blades of defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Sustain havoc in the neutral zone so that Brian Campbell, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews (returning to action tonight after a brief injury) dare not skate through the middle of the ice with their heads down or their strides confident.
Diffuse havoc in front of Jonathan Quick.
Big games are needed from Anze Kopitar, Quick and most of all Jack Johnson, who has been about as sure with the puck as an illiterate is in book club. Also Kyle Clifford, if he is to maintain his spot on the third line, must pick up his game. The fan favorite has not been a positive factor during the losing streak, getting beaten to pucks and rendered mostly ineffective in all three zones.
On the loser bench, The Blackhawks are in an immediately similar position to the Kings. 3 consecutive losses have dropped the defending champs down to the 11th spot in the West, while also having played 1-3 more games than all other top 8 Western teams sans the Anaheim Ducks in the constricting conference. The table is set for a war.
Whether the Kings are willing to take that war from the boards to the middle of the ice will decide their fate and ours.