How Blackhawks expect to overcome Kings’ home dominance
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com June 3, 2013 10:10PM
- Bickell’s big playoffs will raise price, may force Chicago exit
- Handzus provides points, smarts for Blackhawks
- Bruins roll, head home with 2-0 lead
- VIDEO: Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp and Brent Seabrook on Game 3 vs. Kings
- VIDEO: Joel Quenneville on what the Blackhawks need to do to win Game 3 on road
- VIDEO: Michal Handzus on Mike Richards being out
- Michal Handzus realizes this might be his last shot at the Stanley Cup
Updated: June 4, 2013 4:30PM
LOS ANGELES — Patrick Sharp knows what he’s up against — the Los Angeles Kings have won their last 14 games at Staples Center, including seven straight in the playoffs — and he still enjoys playing on the road in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
‘‘Personally, I like it,’’ Sharp said Monday after the team arrived at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals. ‘‘At the United Center, it’s predictable. When you score a goal, make a big save, a big hit, the crowd cheers for you.
“It’s a little different when you’re on the road. People bang on the glass, cheer for the other team. It’s a fun atmosphere to be a part of. It’s all part of playoff hockey.’’
That Sharp and his teammates are enjoying the ride with all its ups and downs tells you all you need to know about their state of mind heading into Game 3 on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. at the Staples Center. Since they were down 3-1 against the Red Wings, the Hawks have won five straight to take a 2-0 lead over the Kings — and seemingly getting stronger with each game. Sunday night’s 4-2 victory over the Kings in Game 2 was a rare Stanley Cup playoff blowout.
And the Hawks counter the Kings’ excellence at home with their own excellence on the road. Their 13-10 record on the road since 2010 is the best in the NHL. They’ve won a road game in all eight playoff series since 2010.
But all it takes is one pratfall in Game 3 to expose just how misleading the Game 2 rout might have been. After a lackluster effort in Game 1, the Kings not only were on the road — where they are now 1-6 in the postseason— but had the disadvantage of playing the following night, allowing no time for them to regenerate their energy level. The Kings also were missing star center Mike Richards, who suffered an apparent head injury when he was checked by Dave Bolland late in Game 1.
This time the Kings will have a day between games. They’ll be at home. Richards could return. And they still have Jonathan Quick, perhaps the one player who can turn this series around by himself.
The Hawks, who are picking up steam but haven’t been a team that can stand prosperity, are not going to let themselves get comfortable.
‘‘We’re up 2-0 in the series,’’ defenseman Brent Seabrook said. ‘‘You look back at the St. Louis series [against the Kings]. They were up 2-0 coming to L.A. [and lost the next four games].
‘‘We’ve got to continue to focus on the game [Tuesday] night. They’re a great team, L.A. Quick is a great goaltender. We understand he’s going to come back with a better game than he did last night. We have to continue to get pucks to him and make it tough on him.’’
The Kings were 19-4-1 at home during the regular season — tying the Blackhawks (18-3-3) and Sharks (17-2-5) for the most points at home this season. The Blackhawks handed them one of the four losses, winning 5-2 in the season opener on Jan. 19.
‘‘There’s some buildings in this league that can get real loud, get the crowd into it, the team feeds off of that,’‘ Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘I think there’s more success this year on the home team’s side in the playoffs.
‘‘Hopefully we can get off to a great start and quiet [the crowd] as best you can. It’s tough on visiting teams trying to do that this year.’’
The Kings have no idea why there is such a hugh disparity between their record at home (7-0) and the road (1-6) this season. Last year they were 10-1 on the road.
‘‘I don’t know,’’ forward Justin Williams said. ‘‘Tell you the truth, I’m not sure why we went 10-1 last year on the road.’’
Kings coach Darryl Sutter couldn’t explain it either.
‘‘Every game we lost [on the road] we lost 2-1 til [Sunday] night,’’ Sutter said. ‘‘I don’t think that’s a huge gap in performance or play at all. We’ve had trouble scoring [all season]. It’s not a home-road disparity at all.’’
‘‘We’ve proven to be good on home ice,’’ Kings center Colin Fraser said. ‘‘The next step is taking advantage of it [in Game 3]. We can’t expect to win just because we’re on home ice.’’
But they need it now more than ever.
‘‘It’s not do-or-die [Tuesday night], but it is,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Home ice has been something we’ve been able to rely on and have in our back pocket if we struggled on the road, and we have. We’re going to need to use it [Tuesday night].’’
Another factor to consider for Game 3 is that the Hawks, as well as they have played on the road in the playoffs, have lost the first road game of their last five playoff series. It seems to take them a game to adjust to the surroundings.
‘‘It’s a lot different playing away from the United Center,’’ Sharp said. ‘‘We’ve been solid on the road the last couple of years in the playoffs. The [other] team gets home for that first game, the crowd’s into it, kind of gives that extra push.
‘‘We expect L.A. to be good at home. Their record speaks for itself. It’s going to be a tough game for us. But it’s something we’re looking forward to.’’