Two games into the Western Conference Final series, and right now the best the Los Angeles Kings can hope for is to do what the San Jose Sharks did to them, and then improvise Games 5-7.
The Chicago Blackhawks have beaten the Kings, and beaten them up, in the first two games of this series. Mike Richards will miss his second-consecutive game, meaning Tyler Toffoli -- a rookie who played well on a line cobbled together in Richards' absence in Game 2 -- will likely draw in again. That said, a Kings team that has managed three goals in two games, and going back further, six in their last four, needs a guy like Richards in the lineup. This is a team that has scored more than two goals just four times in 15 postseason games.
The Blackhawks got to Jonathan Quick -- who was notably just 8-7-3 on the second night of back-to-backs in his career heading into Sunday's game -- early and often, and had him skate to the bench by the middle of the second period. They were beaten by Los Angeles in a couple of the notable stats that old-school analysts often signify as important -- hits (46 to 36), shots on goal (31 to 26), faceoff wins (31 to 30) -- but they were good enough to win handily. Game 2 was never in doubt.
Game 3 on Tuesday night shifts the scene to Southern California, which is important if recent history is any factor. The Kings have won 14 straight games at the Staples Center. The last time they lost at home, it was March. These are two must-win games for the Kings, as the Blackhawks need to just take one from the Staples Center to guarantee them a shot at clinching at home. L.A. has played maybe two complete periods in this whole series. It has been very un-King-like, if that makes any sense. They will need to return to the throne on Tuesday.
Jonathan Quick was bad on back-to-back nights. What about three games in four nights?
Jonathan Quick had the worst postseason game in two years on Sunday night. He had not given up four goals in a Stanley Cup Playoff game since Apr. 25, 2011, in a first-round series against the San Jose Sharks. I already pointed out that the Kings have only gotten him more than two goals of support four times this entire playoffs. He needs to be back in classic form on Tuesday night, or it's off to the golf courses by Thursday.
How do the Kings replace Mike Richards?
Tyler Toffoli drew in for Richards, who left the series after suffering a heavy hit from Dave Bolland in Game 1, and played pretty well on a line with Jeff Carter. That said, the Kings -- as we keep saying -- need goals, and Tyler Toffoli isn't likely to provide as many as Mike Richards might. Can he (or someone else not typically counted on for Los Angeles) get hot, or will the Kings' other top players (Kopitar, Brown, Carter) finally pick it up?
Can the Hawks continue to stifle the Kings defensively?
I grew up in the Meadowlands during the great Devils defensive teams in the 1990s and 2000s, and boy, did the Blackhawks' Game 2 performance once they grabbed the lead smell like stale old Meadowlands popcorn. The Kings have had very few high-quality scoring chances. A defensive corps perhaps more known for its offensive abilities has been excellent in their own zone. It'll be a new challenge to keep it up on L.A. ice, but you suspect they're up to the challenge.
Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN