If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the events of the past week may be remembered as critical for each team.
The third episode of "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" chronicles the Sharks' search for answers while they slumped and the Kings' rise after struggles of their own. Along the way, there is lots of storytelling away from the ice.
It begins with an inside look at a San Jose power-play meeting, a scene that is one of the most revealing of this genre for the NHL. Sharks coach Todd McLellan has video and facts prepared as he implores them to place more value on their extra-man opportunities.
McLellan asks defenseman Brent Burns if there are any teams in the NHL that can place five better players on the ice than San Jose's top power-play unit. Burns' response, "No," and McLellan's retort, "No, not even [expletive] close," illuminates the frustrations for everyone involved as they watch video and the coach meticulously points out mistakes.
EPIX 'ROAD TO THE NHL STADIUM SERIES'
That wasn't the only scene to focus on McLellan's attempts to help the Sharks reclaim an identity that has made them one of the most consistent and successful teams of the past decade. McLellan turns to alternate captain Joe Pavelski and veteran defenseman Scott Hannan in similar fashion, asking them for their interpretations of being a hard team to play against.
San Jose's inconsistency continued, and after an overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, the Sharks had lost five of six games. Worse, they trailed after one period to the Arizona Coyotes, setting the stage for the most dramatic segment of the series to date.
The Sharks do not have a captain, but Pavelski embraced a leadership role with a passionate plea during that first intermission. He backed up his words, scoring a hat trick in the final 40 minutes and helping San Jose to a victory.
Los Angeles has had a similar struggle this season. The Kings are outside the top eight teams in the Western Conference, but their push for a playoff spot was helped by victories against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames.
Forward Tyler Toffoli, who had a hat trick against the Flames, was one of the players featured away from the ice. He recently missed time because of mononucleosis, but he's a critical depth scorer for the Kings, and his return has ignited a new version of "That '70s Line," with Dwight King in place of injured Tanner Pearson. Toffoli also has a new friend, a small dog named Bruno, and a walk with his pet showcases some of the Manhattan Beach neighborhood where many of the Kings live during the season.
Another player who has a love of dogs was featured: San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic was out of the lineup with an injury and missed the trip to Arizona, but he and his wife visited the San Jose Animal Care Center to donate food, treats and blankets to the shelter and enjoy some time with the dogs there.
One of the best parts of a show like "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" is not the behind-the-scenes footage in the dressing room or at a player's house, but seeing the people who make everything work in action. A mini-feature on Kings assistant equipment manager Dana Bryson not only provides a glimpse of a day in Bryson's life but seeks out someone who can provide interesting insight on the players.
Bryson points out how particular forward Jarrett Stoll can be about his equipment, and how defenseman Matt Greene is the funniest member of the Kings.
During a feature on life at home with roommates Drew Doughty and Trevor Lewis, Bryson chimes in with a quip about them acting like a married couple because of their constant bickering. Doughty and Lewis seem like a bit of an odd fit.
The star defenseman who can be flashy on the ice and a big personality away from it is paired with a grinding forward who is one of the quietest members of the Kings. They seem to make it work though.
Other teammates work well together; Sharks forwards Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins had some spare time in Glendale, Ariz., and helped deliver the funniest scenes of the episode. Kennedy and Desjardins decided to walk from the hotel to a nearby Cabella's, a large hunting, fishing and outdoor store.
The complex that houses Gila River Arena is essentially an outdoor mall, but it is expansive, so getting from the hotel to other side where the Cabella's is was more of a journey than they expected.
While in the store, they first had some fun trying on hunting gear before Kennedy duped Desjardins into an archery competition he easily won.
The Kings have been doing a lot of winning of late, and the cameras have captured the champs regaining their title-worthy mojo. The Sharks have stumbled, but it is possible the message from McLellan and Pavelski is finally starting to pay dividends.