In the first four games of the Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Kings held Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane to a lone assist as the Kings built a 3-1 series lead over the reigning champions. In Game 5 that all changed as Kane exploded for four assists to lead the Hawks to an overtime win that prolonged the series and the team’s season. With the series shifting back to Southern California, it is imperative the Kings do everything to neutralize Kane to avoid the risk of a do-or-die Game 7 in Chi-Town.
Few players in the NHL have the amazing craftiness and creativity with the puck that Kane does. Those amazing abilities make Kane the proverbial “straw that stirs the drink” for the Blackhawks, and when he is on top of his game the Hawks are unbeatable. Kane’s skill set can frustrate even the best players and teams in the NHL which surely leads to him getting in the heads of opposition.
The best way to snuff out Kane is for the Kings to continue do what they’ve been doing; keep Selke finalist Anze Kopitar and No. 1 defenseman Drew Doughty against Kane’s line. Kopitar and Doughty offer a shift from the way most NHL teams defend Kane; they rely on finesse and their high hockey IQs rather than brute physical force to play defense. A player of Kane’s caliber can skate around defenders who try to run him, but it’s rare for him to go against players who match him in skating ability and have the hockey IQ to counter even his most creative moves.
If the Kings wish to close out the series, they would be best served by limiting Kane’s time and space and keeping No. 88 off the score-sheet. Like many things doing that will be easier said than done, but the Kings have done it for the majority of the series. One huge game from Kane doesn’t mean the Kings should deviate from their game plan. If they contain Kane like they did in Games 1-4, the Kings will be skating in their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.