The Los Angeles Kings look very poised to capture their second Stanley Cup in the last three seasons, and they need just one more win against the New York Rangers in order to make it happen. Trailing 3-0, the Rangers are galaxies away from capturing the cup, as they must now win four straight to stay alive.
The Kings are no strangers to large deficits, except that they’re usually the team that has to dig out of a hole. That being said, Los Angeles knows it can’t let off the gas too soon and must beat New York as soon as possible. The Kings can’t give the Rangers any reason to believe they can get back in this series.
All it takes is one win by the Rangers in Game 4 and suddenly some pressure shifts onto the Kings. If that happens, a 3-1 lead is still commanding for Los Angeles, but the Rangers will gain confidence after a win, especially knowing they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins after trailing 3-1 in that series.
The Kings have also been known to give up series leads, something they did in two separate rounds of these playoffs. The Kings held a 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks in the second round before losing three straight and eventually winning Game 7. They held a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks and lost twice in a row before winning the series on the road in Game 7.
The Kings must not let the same thing happen against the Rangers; they need to close the series out within the next two games. If they fail to sweep the Rangers in Game 4, they get the tantalizing chance to win the cup at home at Staples Center in front of their fans.
In order to finish the series promptly, the Kings don’t need to change a thing about their approach. So many players have stepped up and played well at different times in the playoffs that it’s hard to defend against all four lines.
Justin Williams and Jeff Carter have arguably been the two best players in the series for either team. Timely scoring from those guys and timely saves by goalie Jonathan Quick should be enough to ruin New York’s cup hopes. The Kings just have to maintain their focus and not give the Rangers anything easy.
The Kings came back to beat the San Jose Sharks in the first round after trailing 3-0, so they know that they can’t underestimate New York’s ability to make a comeback. It seems highly unlikely, considering the way Los Angeles is playing right now, but that final 16th win of the playoffs is the most difficult to get.