The Los Angeles Kings are a difficult team to eliminate from the Stanley Cup Playoffs; just ask the San Jose Sharks. Since first facing elimination in Game 4 of the first round, Los Angeles are now a perfect 5-0 in playoff games where the season is on the line. Last night’s 2-1 win over the Ducks marked the fifth time Los Angeles lived to fight another day, this time forcing a Game 7 in Anaheim. Los Angeles also improved to 5-0 when leading after two periods in this year’s playoffs.
While it is certain the Kings would have rather wrapped this series up earlier, you have to feel that they are quite comfortable going into Friday night’s game. The Kings thrive on high pressure situations and seem to play better when elimination is staring them in the face. If the Kings can muster up a win on Friday, the fatigue of playing two series to Game 7 could factor in further down the road, but we have seen the Kings play through fatigue before.
For the Anaheim Ducks, the concern going into Game 7 will be the pitiful performance of their power play in Game 6. The Ducks went 0-for-5 on the man advantage and generated little to no special teams offense. The poor performance could have been a minor bump in the road, as the Ducks power play went 4-for-8 in Games 3, 4, and 5.
Los Angeles also dominated the Ducks in the faceoff circle, winning 15 of 21 faceoffs in the opening period. The normally reliable Ryan Getzlaf struggled all night, losing 14 of the 20 faceoffs he took. For Anaheim to have any chance against the Kings they must get out to an early lead and possess the puck. That begins in the faceoff circle.
Another factor going into Friday night is Ducks rookie goaltender John Gibson. This will be Gibson’s first time facing a must-win situation in net since taking over as the Ducks starting goaltender in Game 4. Since his debut shutout performance, Gibson has shown some signs of his inexperience, allowing five goals on 65 shots in his last two games. Gibson gave the Ducks a chance to win on Wednesday, allowing two only goals, but he will need a performance like Game 4 if the Ducks hope to eliminate the Kings.
Both the Ducks and Kings possess the talent and will to win on Friday, but one can’t help but notice there are more questions surrounding Anaheim today than Los Angeles. For the Kings, this is just situation normal: win when it counts most.