Just six days ago, what was one of the most anticipated series of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs was looking like it’d be over in the blink of an eye. Two bitter in-state rivals, the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, were expected to slug it out in an intense series that most assumed would be back-and-forth ‘til the very end. Instead, the Sharks blew the doors off of L.A. in the first two games, then stole an overtime victory in Game 3. For all intents and purposes, it looked like San Jose was going to make quick work of the Kings.
A 6-3 win for Los Angeles in Game 4 gave the team a little life heading back to San Jose, but nobody would’ve been shocked if the Sharks finished the job in Game 5. What was shocking, though, was what happened instead.
Los Angeles blanked San Jose to the tune of 3-0 Saturday night. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who had been obliterated in the early games of this series, stopped all 30 shots he faced. Game 6 takes place tonight at the Staples Center, and though San Jose is still up 3-2 in the series, have they shifted into cruise control a little too early?
It wouldn’t be terribly surprising, honestly. A look at the box scores from the first three games of the series certainly implies the Sharks had Los Angeles on the run. They had outscored the Kings 17-8 in Games 1-3, and made Quick look like a sieve. In the two games since, San Jose has only scored three goals to the Kings’ nine. All of the sudden, the Sharks’ attack has quieted down a bit. Meanwhile, Quick’s confidence is growing with two straight wins, and he received a huge boost in shutting out a team that had been shelling him earlier in the week.
Could you really blame the Sharks if they took their foot off the gas after Game 3? Every time the Kings took the lead, San Jose stormed right back, hardly looking rattled by the Los Angeles crowd. After two blowout wins and a dramatic overtime victory, the Sharks looked like they had sucked all the life out of the Kings. Now, they have to try and put away an L.A. team who is starting to believe in themselves and their ability to possibly pull off a miracle. For the most part, this is the same Kings team who won the Stanley Cup as an eighth seed two years ago, so nothing seems out of the question with them.
Make no mistake; San Jose is still in the driver’s seat of this series. One win is all they need to close the door on a Kings team that gets peskier by the game. At the same time, the ice is tilting Los Angeles’ way right now, and they’ll certainly have the crowd behind them tonight for Game 6. If they can pull off a win, things get dicey in a hurry for the Sharks, who many expected to be preparing for the second round by now.