Sports Out West

NHL playoffs 2014, Kings vs. Sharks: LA making the series interesting

Kigs vs Sharks

The L.A. Kings just won’t roll over and die. And the hockey fandom should thank them for it, especially in California. Thanks to their 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks, there’s still a Cali-on-Cali rivalry happening in the playoffs.

LA Kings offense

They found it. Finally, after being outscored 17 to 8, the Kings found their offense. And for once it wasn’t at the hands of center Anze Kopitar.

Team captain Dustin Brown scored a goal and an assist. And in his best captain’s voice he told a post-game press conference, “There’s a lot of pride in here. We’ve been through a lot as a group, and this is one more challenge. They’re still in command of the series, but we’re not going to stop trying.”

In addition to Brown’s goal, the Kings rode high on a Justin Williams power play goal, a Williams even-strength goal and a couple goals from right wing Marian Gaborik. Oh, and center Tyler Toffoli celebrated his 22nd birthday with a second period goal.

To be fair to Anze Kopitar, he did assist on one of Gaborik’s goals. Still, it must be a relief to him and to Kings fans that it doesn’t have to be all-Anze all the time when it comes to the Kings scoring.

 San Jose’s game plan

California hockey fans need not fear. The Sharks aren’t going to just stand by and take an L.A. Kings comeback. They have every intent of getting back to their winning ways in Game 5.

For the Sharks, of course, that means putting lots of pucks on net in the hopes of  squeaking some past Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who was sharp in Game 4 with 36 saves.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic told NHL.com that the Sharks’ play in front of the net “wasn’t great.” He added, “We only scored three, so it wasn’t good in the offensive zone, too. We’ve got to be good in both ends.”

Sharks center Logan Couture has it even more finely planned than that. “They are going to the net hard trying to push [goaltender Antii Niemi] in the crease, keep him in the crease. We have to box out, get sticks [on pucks] and then on the opposite end go to the net hard on [Kings goaltender Jonathan] Quick and make him uncomfortable. Tip-in goals, rebound goals, that’s how we’ve scored all series. We have to get back to that.”

Rough play

This is playoff hockey against two California rivals. During Game 4, there was a lot of rough play.

Teams do what they have to in order to keep their juices up for a game, or to make a statement for the upcoming game. When it gets out of hand, as it did when Minnesota Wild center Matt Cooke took Colorado Avalanche rover Tyson Barrie out with a knee-on-knee hit, well, then, it brings shame to the wonderful sport of hockey.

Luckily, the rough play between the Kings and Sharks has not stooped to that level. Instead, there’s just been a whole lot of roughing. Ok, there was some fighting, too, culminating in memorable fisticuffs between the Sharks’ Brent Burns and the Kings’ Robyn Regehr.

Say whatever else you want about this match-up, it’s not every series that you get to see a bona fide yeti drop the gloves.

So, California hockey fans rejoice — there’s at least one more game of hardcore Cali-hockey rivalry.

Photo by Gary A. Vasquez

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A professional writer, Nadia Archuleta is a hockey expert. In addition to maintaining her own hockey blog, Hockeygrrls, she has contributed sports writing for numerous websites. From the hockey smile to the butterfly style -- she covers it all.

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