Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/23/13 at 09:46 AM ET
By Matthew Feuerman of TiqIQ,
It was close late in Game 3, but in the end, Antti Niemi got it done for the San Jose Sharks. The veteran goalkeeper stopped 22 of 23 stops en route to a clutch victory for the Sharks, their second in a row.
It was also the second straight game where Niemi was near unbeatable. In games three and four he allowed only two goals combined, and give his team a decisive advantage on the ice. Niemi has posted a stellar 1.93 Goals Against Average this postseason.
While he’s undoubtedly carried the team this series, Niemi hasn’t been the only dynamo on the Sharks. Captain Joe Thornton led the way Tuesday night, both on the ice and in the locker room. His efforts to set up Brent Burns for the game’s first goal were dogged and the signs of a true leader. On the back end, normally offensive-minded defenseman Brad Stuart has led the defensive charge, blocking 20 shots for the Sharks.
With the series tied at two games a piece, the always-crucial Game 5 matchup will go down at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Thursday night. According to TiqIQ, the average price of a Kings vs Sharks tickets for game 5 is $204, a stat that is down 22 percent this week. Of the three remaining games, Game 5 will be the least expensive, on average; some get-in rates are available for as low as $80. Prices will be back up at $272 for Game 6 in San Jose, and then $328 for a Game 7 in LA if it’s needed.
Los Angeles can’t be content with jumping out to an early 2-0 series lead, only to squander the advantage and their offensive momentum. The team is asking too much out of its star goali, Jonathan Quick, by only scoring two goals in two games. In the playoffs, one squibbed goal can make all the difference. It’s about firing rubber on net.
Jeff Carter has been the Los Angeles Kings leader at doing that this postseason. He leads them in both Shots on Goal (32) and Goals (4). Defenseman Slava Voynov has also shined this postseason, potting three goals and proving to the league that he is a fearsome puck-moving defenseman who teams have to monitor. Voynov plays a two-way game, as well. His +6 rating leads the Kings.
The team could use more output from high-scoring Anze Kopitar, who has been just the opposite of late; he’s mustered only one goal this postseason. During the Kings cup run last year, he had eight. Dustin Brown also scored eight goals last postseason. He has only two so far, and one assist.
The Kings have been physical, but a solid checking game can only take them so far if they continue to shoot themselves in the foot by not scoring goals. It’ll be up to Brown and Kopitar to sneak a puck past the stellar Antti Niemi, but that’s easier said than done.
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