LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19: Brad Richardson #15 of the Los Angeles Kings shoots a goal in the second period of game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center on April 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Kings Roster Notes: (IN) Jonathan Quick, Kevin Westgarth, Justin Williams, the demon incarnate known as Penner (OUT) Oscar "They like me now?" Moller, Peter Harrold, Davis Drewiske; Scott Parse (hip), Anze Kopitar (ankle)
Sharks Roster Notes: (IN) Antti Niemi, Ian White (OUT) John McCarthy, Andrew Desjardins; Kent Huskins (upper body). NB: There have been vague hints that the fourth line might see some shake-ups, but nothing concrete has been reported.
Everyone's picked the last game apart by now. Many theories have emerged as to what it will ultimately mean, and how both clubs will respond.
You could point to nebulous things like "momentum" and base your predictions off that, except momentum can shift at any time. Just look at this series: neither team has had a lock on it.
You could assume that the loss will be too emotionally devastating for the Kings to recover from, except there was a relaxed and positive mood at practice.
You could assume that the Sharks have all the confidence in the world, except that they were confident going into Game 2.
You could assume that the Kings have learned their lessons, except they can only prove that on the ice.
I'm not going to make any assumptions, but the biggest storyline for me has been the way the Kings have hung in there and put up a fight. Yes, even after that period. We've been sitting around talking about all the ways the Kings should have won the last one. Think about that. This was the series that people said would be a cakewalk. When Kopitar went down, teams in the West became excited by the thought of getting to face them. Wanted an easy opponent. They were anointed 'Most likely to be swept.' And now we're wondering why LA doesn't have a lead in this series.
The Kings have been in every single game.
That's why when Ryan Smyth or Matt Greene says "Tonight is a whole new start," I believe them. There have been mistakes, what-ifs, and lost opportunities. But it's not done yet. And I want them to keep that attitude and keep on fighting. If they don't throw in the towel, I won't either. Just like the fans who kept cheering their hearts out at Staples.
Is it harder to win three games than it is to win two? For sure. But they still have a chance to achieve a monumental upset and send this series back to SJ dead even.
No one knows until the puck drops. And I can't wait.
Who's with me?