NHL: Western Conference Game 5 Preview
The Los Angeles Kings have truly ruled the road in this year’s playoffs. They have a chance to keep up their dominance, and more importantly advance to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1993 on Tuesday, when they visit the Phoenix Coyotes in game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
The Coyotes played their best game of the series on Sunday in Los Angeles, while the Kings didn’t play bad, they also didn’t play anywhere near the level that has got them this far in the post-season. Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was busy Sunday in game 4 in terms of quantity of shots. That being said, the Kings didn’t have many second chance opportunities and the quality of shots was nowhere near what it was the first couple games of this series. The Coyotes did a great job of boxing out the Kings forwards, as well as they receive an A+ in the shot blocking department for game 4.
When a team is on the verge of being swept, especially in the later rounds, their sense of urgency is at their highest level. The Coyotes for the most part showed that, but for this team to prolong the series any longer, Mike Smith will need to remain on his game and be the best player hands down for either team. The Kings will (or at least should) come out with far more energy in game 5 and the quality of shots (not just quantity) that Smith faces should be much greater then what he saw in game 4. The Coyotes will also need winger Radim Vrbata to find a way to get going. He has been basically non-existent in the series.
I fully expect the Kings to be re-focused for Tuesday’s game. While Jonathan Quick hasn’t faced a ton of pressure and didn’t necessarily allow any true softies in game 4, I fully expect him to show up for the challenge in game five when needed. The Kings top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams will also look to get back on track. For the Coyotes to have a shot at forcing a game 6, Mike Smith will need to be up to the task, perhaps stealing the game. This is very possible as Smith has shown throughout the playoffs that he can rise to the occasion when needed.