In our Game 6 preview on Monday, we created a checklist for the ‘blueprint’ teams must follow in attempting a comeback from a 3-0 playoff series deficit:
1) Take one game at a time (Kings: check);
2) Don’t focus on the fact that you’re facing a 3-0 deficit (Kings: check);
3) Channel your pride and frustration in having ended up in such a situation (Kings: check):
4) Don’t lose the series on home ice/put pressure on the opposing team to win on theirs (Kings: check,
5) Don’t panic and make numerous line-up changes (Kings: check);
6) Get back to even and let the chips fall where they may (Kings:
After winning Game 6 at home, the Kings have now checked off every item on the list. With Game 7 being a ‘winner take all’ affair, the Kings have a completely clean slate–and apparently, all of the momentum.
The biggest key to the Kings’ turnaround has been the return to their defensive roots–after allowing a total of 17 goals in Games 1-3, the Kings allowed only 4 goals in Games 4-6. Although the Sharks started the series with a 13-5 goal differential after Games 1 and 2, both teams have now scored a total of 21 goals in the series. Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, in particular, have been stellar. Doughty has six points during the series, a +3 plus/minus rating, and has averaged more than 26 minutes on ice per game–by far, the most of any Kings player. He’s also been matched up against the Sharks’ top players–who decimated the Kings in Games 1 and 2.
In Game 6, Sharks’ Head Coach Todd McLellan gambled and benched veteran goalie Antti Niemi for youngster Alex Stalock. The move appeared to be paying off, until the Kings exploded for three goals in the 3rd period. McLellan apparently decided that Game 7 would present too much pressure for the youngster and has decided to go back to Niemi for Wednesday night’s game. Meanwhile, the Sharks’ top defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, remains sidelined with an upper-body injury, and Kings veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell is out after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 6. Mitchell appeared to get his right skate caught in the ice and twisted his right leg awkwardly in falling, but of course, the Kings have not confirmed the exact nature or extent of the injury. Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter did hint, however, that Mitchell might be able to return later in the playoffs if the Kings advance.
After falling behind 3-0 in this series, most people left the Kings for dead. The Kings followed our checklist, item by item, never panicking, and never getting away from their strengths. Now that they have given themselves a clean slate, all they have to do is win ONE MORE GAME, and they will have completed an epic comeback, made history, and perhaps forever conquered their rivals to the north.