When Canucks coach Willie Desjardins met with the media on Wednesday, he dismissed the standings report that placed the Kings on the outside of the playoff picture, looking up at eight other teams.
“They’re not in ninth,” he said. “The last 10 games or 12 games, I bet you they’re in the top five or six in the league.”
Let’s call it a cool, even 15 games, a span in which Los Angeles is 11-3-1.
So, while the Kings have a difficult schedule remaining and will wear their white road jerseys in 10 of their 16 remaining games, they’ve raised their game to the point where away games aren’t as big of a nuisance as they had been previously. Los Angeles is 6-2-0 in their last eight road games after posting a 5-12-6 record through the loss in Florida on February 5.
In their one previous trip to Vancouver, the Kings controlled the run of play and scored a pair of late goals to negate an early deficit in a 3-2 win. Earlier in the year, they dressed only five defensemen at Staples Center and ran away with a 5-1 victory. Between the two games, Los Angeles possession game was dominant; in five-on-five play, the Kings recorded 114 shot attempts to the Canucks’ 54.
Has there been any commonality between the two games?
“I think the emotion’s high,” Trevor Lewis said. “I mean, we’ve had a pretty good rivalry with these guys for a few years now, and I think everyone makes sure they come to play and the emotion level’s there, too.”
The team that turned “intangibles” into a fully capitalized word in the spring of 2014 seems has the ability to summon a second gear when facing its British Columbian counterpart. As Lewis noted, emotions run high in the series.
“I don’t think anyone likes each other out there. It’s always a hard game. There’s a lot of chirping going on and a lot of physical stuff, so it’s always fun to be a part of those games,” he said.
They’ll have ample opportunity to sharpen their verbal barbs over their three remaining head-to-head match-ups. After tonight’s game, the teams will meet in Los Angeles on March 21 and back in Vancouver on April 6. So while the Kings have plenty of work left as they attempt to supplement their postseason credentials, they’ll still have the opportunity to obscure what was a middling mid-point of the season and challenge the Canucks – and the Flames, whom they’ll face in Calgary on April 9, and the Sharks, whom they’ll face at Staples Center on April 11 – for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“They have the ability that when it’s time to play hard, they can play hard and just elevate their game, and I think they seem to do that,” Desjardins said. “They go through, and then all of a sudden when it’s time to win, they pick up their game and play hard. That’s where they’re at now. Like, you heard in the Stadium Series, they made the comments like ‘we have to get back to our game,’ or right after that, and I don’t know what they won, like six or seven in a row. They’re playing well again now and they’re making a push to the playoffs just like they do every year.”
Trevor Lewis, on any different looks received from Vancouver this season:
I don’t know if it was different. I think their goaltending has been really good this year. They’ve got some really skilled forwards up front and solid D. I don’t know if it’s any different. It’s just maybe just having a better year, but yeah, they’re playing well, and we’ve got to make sure this is a huge two points for us.
Lewis, on whether he engages in “chirping” in the rivalry:
I mean, a little bit. I try to let my play do the talking a little bit, but every now and again.
Drew Doughty, on the Kings’ familiar playoff battle:
Obviously when you come into the season, you expect to get off to a hot start and continue that throughout the season and hopefully be first in the entire conference. Obviously we haven’t been able to do that, but we’ve been through these times before and we know how to deal with them, and I know that the guys are going to step up and play well.