The Los Angeles Kings host their Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks in an elimination game Thursday, April 24. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News is not alone in bemusing Wednesday how this Stanley Cup playoff series is proving him wrong since almost no one would have expected it could end in a sweep.
Fans tend to think of anything less than optimism as pessimism, but journalists are paid for their analysis of a team's faults as well as its strengths. Still, it helps to get forgiveness when a person can turn eating crow into entertainment.
In reality, coaches must have the same eye. Complacency is a bad thing, and it stems from overconfidence. Had the Sharks thought two dominant wins meant they could not lose this series, they might not have pulled out the rare road win over the Kings. Even now, coach Todd McLellan weighed in on this to Purdy:
Don't give us a passing grade yet—we're still taking the test.
If San Jose lets Los Angeles up off the ice because of overconfidence and Jonathan Quick steals the next game, the pressure and momentum switch places. Not only does that mean a long series and longer Stanley Cup run, it could open the door for being knocked out now—especially considering potential variables like injuries.
On paper, these two teams were closely matched in the 2013-14 NHL season. The Kings were 3-1-1 head-to-head, added Marian Gaborik to bolster their lack of scoring and were once again the best defensive team in the league. So far in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, things have been very different.
The Sharks are looking to end this now. This is partly for the chance at rest, partly because they know what the 2012 Stanley Cup champions are capable of and partly the need to take a lead in the playoff history between the Pacific Division rivals. Other than showing up with that level of urgency, there are three keys to accomplishing their goal Thursday...