Three stories beneath the ice at the United Center, there is a broom closet. Condensation from the ice above drips off the ceiling and when you flip the light switch on, a single light bulb reveals puddles of water on the floor that give the room a dank and moldy feel.
In the center of the room Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is seated at a 1950’s style school desk and holding an envelope so sensitive that he’s been instructed to burn it after reading. After a quick glance at the door to make sure the door is locked, Coach Q tears open the packet and pulls out a single piece of paper which contains information directly tied to his legacy.
It’s titled: “How to Kill the King(s)”
WARNING: Employing these tactics can cause significant damage to the psyche of thousands of sun-drenched, fair weather fans. Their scorn has been known to cause advanced graying of the mustache and hair loss. Use at your own risk.
Rule No. 1: Chop the head off.
The Los Angeles Kings live and die with the success of Anze Kopitar. He’s led the team in points the last two seasons and in the playoffs last year he essentially won them the Cup (goalie Jonathan Quick was awarded the MVP, but Kopitar did the grunt work) by being tied for first in the NHL in goals (eight), assists (12), points (20), plus-minus (+16) and SHG (two).
The best method for accomplishing this would be to send Brandon Bollig or Daniel Carcillo onto the ice with a snub-nosed .357, but since a game misconduct penalty would most likely ensue, the most prudent method would be to make sure that whenever he’s on the ice defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are all over him.
He’s a big guy (6-foot-3, 225-pounds) so you’re not gonna muscle him out of his game, but when the Hawks’ best tag-team focus on one guy, good things usually happen.
Rule No. 2: Take away their guns.
The Kings have scored 88 goals this season, and Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown are responsible for 29 of them. That’s close to 30 percent of the team’s total offensive output by two players.
For lack of a better cliche, the best defense against these two is good offense. If Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews can continue to terrorize goalies in the offensive zone and youngsters Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw maintain the frenetic pace that has characterized their shifts, the Hawks will find themselves unconcerned with the Kings most significant offensive weapons.
Rule No. 3: Cut to the Quick.
Goalie Jonathan Quick’s bi-polar disorder has forced the Kings to put a Lithium tank on the bench to keep him stable. Well, not really, but if the Hawks can clog the crease and sneak one past him early on, the odds of them sweeping the season series are high.
In the season opener, the Kings put themselves behind the 8-ball early in the first period with two costly penalties, and Kane made them pay by scoring a 5-on-3 goal just 3:41 into the game. The frustration was evident from Quick’s body language and by the end of the 1st period, the defending champs found themselves in a 3-0 hole.
In the rematch at the United Center a month later, Los Angeles came in looking for revenge and thanks to early goals from Seabrook and Toews, the Kings fell flat and couldn’t rally late. The moral of the story here is that Quick plays a bit loose when he doesn’t have the lead. Spread it on thick and watch him melt.
Follow these rules and find yourself in position to reclaim the throne from LA LA Land. Be advised that your actions may cause 22,000 Angelinos to stumble back to the beach and swear off hockey forever.
Upon reading the last sentence, Coach Q gave the tip of his ‘stache a measured twirl as a smile crept across his face. He quickly pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit the corner of the page on fire. After watching it burn, he shut off the light, locked the door behind him, and made his way up towards the rink. As he climbed the steps, a single phrase from the notorious John Bender in the film The Breakfast Club crept into his mind:
“Being bad feels pretty good, huh?”