Darryl Sutter is often asked during the regular season whether a tightly contested game had a “playoff feel.” He’s pretty quick to laugh at such suggestions, and for a good reason. There’s very little from the regular season that’s able to match the fear, intensity and explosion of nervous energy inherent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Monday night’s game tested every dimension of the emotional capacity of those in attendance. The Kings’ ransom? They’ll get to do it all over again on Wednesday. The season is reduced to one game, and with no carryover of momentum from game-to-game, per Darryl Sutter, what Los Angeles was able to accomplish over the past week has little bearing on a Game 7. The toughest challenge is yet to come.
Controversy! Game 6 was not without it. I can’t read the minds of the officials, but my interpretation of Justin Williams’ game-winning goal is that Rule 69.6 was not applied. Part of that rule states “In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puck by an attacking player after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed.” The goalkeeper was not pushed together with the puck into the net. Only the puck found the net, which leads me to believe that the rule could not be applied. Because referee Chris Lee announced to the crowd that “It’s not a reviewable play,” I’m led to believe that the contact was deemed more to be a judgment call over whether there was interference with the goaltender. That’s not reviewable, so the call on the ice must stand. There was no question as to whether there was an intent to blow, because there wasn’t – Lee appeared to see the puck the entire time.
The Kings etched out another strong start but led only 1-0 after 20 minutes. It was a first period similar to the one that produced a 2-0 lead in Game 5, but credit Alex Stalock for minimizing the damage and keeping the Sharks within striking distance. There were a pair of first period two-on-ones that the Kings were unable to capitalize on that ultimately didn’t matter because of the third period surge, though they certainly led to the rising blood pressure of those in attendance. Until San Jose’s late unraveling, Stalock was excellent.
Matt Irwin stepped into the series for the first time and played quite well. Known for his heavy shot, the well-built, two-way defenseman logged 18:43 of ice time and finished tied with a team-high four hits. There was one particular moment in the second period where he managed a gap well in the neutral zone and stepped up to eliminate the time a Kings puck carrier had while attempting to gain the offensive zone. He doesn’t have the foot speed or the dynamic all-around versatility that Marc Edouard-Vlasic has, but he’ll be more than serviceable if called on again and as a reliable “seventh” defenseman more than capable of providing quality minutes in a variety of situations.
Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar were the Kings’ best players in Game 6, and their extended 5-on-3 penalty kill with Willie Mitchell was outstanding. Key blocks by Mitchell and Doughty sustained the kill, and even though the Sharks scored shortly after a follow-up penalty kill on a dubious high sticking call against Doughty, the game’s trajectory would have changed greatly if not for the collective effort to kill off the two-man advantage. I’ll have an update on Mitchell from Toyota Sports Center today.