Kings/Sharks: Game #5 Preview

Then and now:

Regular Season Shots For/Against: 28.8 / 27.9 (+.9)
Postseason Shots For/Against: 29.5 / 35.5 (-6)

Regular Season Goals For/Against: 2.55 / 2.39 (+.16)

Postseason Goals For/Against: 3.50 / 3.75 (-.25)

Every lapse is magnified in the playoffs, and now they've given up 6 goals in 2 straight.  Remarkably, both teams have scored 10 goals at even strength and given up 10 goals against.  Instead of being a low-scoring team that gets by on defense, the Kings have been sucked into playing SJ-style of hockey and are paying for it.

The one thing we know is that that sheer number of breakdowns hasn't been characteristic of this team.  The LA Times contends that their identity as a defensive team was "shattered" this week, and implies that the reputation they labored months to build cannot be regained.  I don't know if they will be able to regroup tonight and go back to their responsible ways, but the past has shown they're at least capable of it. 

The Sharks' forward group creates a terrific amount of pressure, but beyond that lies the mental battle.  Take the first goal in Game 4.  The puck hits a skate, deflects off a stick, and goes in.  There's no reason to be rattled by that kind of goal; but they were. 

Terry Murray's usual response is to shake up the lines in a way no one anticipated.  Scott Parse will play for the first time since Nov. 15th, coming off of injured reserve, and Ponikarovsky has been (undeservedly) benched.  Adjustments will need to be made quickly, and they're going to have to find calm from somewhere.  They need to go back to what got them here.  They're playing for survival.  For pride.  And for each other.

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