LOS ANGELES -- Because of their ability to possess the puck and their playoff pedigree, the Los Angeles Kings were a popular pick for a deep run in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After two lopsided losses to the San Jose Sharks to open their Western Conference First Round series, the Kings need to fix some serious problems if they want to win a game in this postseason, let alone a series.
Because of the way the standings shook out in the West, two of the best teams in the NHL were guaranteed to be knocked out in the opening round with San Jose and Los Angeles playing in one series and the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks in another. That said, the Kings have struggled to be competitive.
"We'll play better [Tuesday]," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "It's not like there was a death in the family or something."
San Jose scored five consecutive goals to open the series in Game 1 and then after Los Angeles opened an early 2-0 lead in Game 2, the Sharks responded with seven straight to embarrass the Kings.
Now the scene shifts to Staples Center for Game 3 on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME), and the Kings will hope the comforts of home help turn this best-of-7 series around. For that to happen, there are several issues that need to be addressed.
Here are five of them:
1. Odd-man out
Los Angeles afforded San Jose far too many prime scoring chances, and this is actually four or five problems rolled into one. The Kings cannot get into a track meet-style affair with the speedier Sharks, but that's exactly what they've allowed to happen in the two contests at SAP Center.
The Sharks were able to carry the puck into the offensive zone and fire shots from the rush on goaltender Jonathan Quick far too often. Too many of these chances came on odd-man rushes. The two goals at the end of the first period in Game 1 were on odd-man opportunities, as were the first three goals of the second in Game 2.
Some of the ways to prevent so many of these are pretty simple. The Kings have been burned by poor line changes in both games. That's a combination of communication and hustle.
They have also been caught with too many offensive players too deep in San Jose's zone. Patrick Marleau's goal in the second period of Game 2 was a simple 3-on-2 breakout for the Sharks because the Kings were pressing at the other end and all three forwards were too deep to track back and help in time.
"We are running into a problem with consistency," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "We're not playing hard enough on a shift-by-shift basis, and when a team is playing as well as San Jose is and has the first two games at hand, you're going to run into some problems."
2. Middle management
Another big reason for the number of chances the Sharks have created is their ability to force the Kings into turnovers. Los Angeles is typically adept at managing the puck, getting it out of its own zone and to a place the Kings want it, in the opposing team's end.
That has been a problem in these two games. Too often they've turned it over trying to exit the zone (see Mike Brown's goal to open the Sharks' onslaught in Game 2), or the Kings are simply forced to give the puck back to San Jose and head to the bench for a change.
"If we're not playing the way we're supposed to, having the coverage we're supposed to, then those types of things are going to happen," Regehr said. "We've really got to clean that up in a hurry."
There was a point during the first period of Game 2 where the Kings looked like they normally do, controlling the pace of the game and creating chances of their own through physical play and cycling the puck in San Jose's zone. They are going to need much more of that in Games 3 and 4.
3. Star wars
San Jose's fourth line earned plenty of praise for scoring the first two Sharks goals in Game 2, and the trio of Raffi Torres, Brown and Andrew Desjardins has played well. That said, a bigger issue for the Kings is San Jose's top guns are all firing.
By moving Joe Pavelski to the middle of the third line, San Jose coach Todd McLellan made his team appear even deeper in Game 2, and the Sharks have outscored the Kings 7-0 since then.
San Jose's top eight forwards from the regular season by average ice time (not including Marty Havlat, who hasn't dressed yet in this series) have combined for eight goals and 21 points in the first two games. Meanwhile, the Kings' top eight forwards have no goals and four points. Pavelski has four points by himself, while each member of the second line (Marleau, Logan Couture and Matt Nieto) have three each.
Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar have each set up two goals, and have played pretty well. The Kings are going to need more from players like Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams.
4. Net presence
Given the outlandish number of breakdowns in front of Quick, it is tough to criticize his play to this point. Still, he has allowed 12 goals on 56 shots, one year after allowing 10 goals in seven games against San Jose.
Goalie - LAK
GAA: 7.20 | SVP: 0.824
He couldn't find Justin Braun
's shot from the right wall that made it 3-2 in Game 2. Marleau's shot to make it 4-2 was to the short side after it appeared he had enough time to slide across from left to right. Goalies are going to face quality scoring chances in any game, and while expecting them to turn aside all of them is unfair, Quick didn't stop many after a great first period in Game 2.
Quick isn't at the top of this list for good reason, but he's also on it for one too. The Kings will need more from him as well.
"I'm not doing the job. I feel fine," Quick said. "When I'm going into the games, I feel good. I think it's going to go the way we want it to go, but it hasn't. You got a routine that you've had for years, that you feel works. It's worked in the past. It hasn't worked the past two games, but you're just going to stick with your routine and focus on the details. Like I said earlier, we're trying to win one game and go from there."
5. Best behavior
The Kings have been shorthanded nine times in the first two games. San Jose scored twice on the power play, but that's not as much of an issue as sending so many players to the penalty box.
Things came a bit unglued at the end of Game 2. Richards was hit with a double-minor for spearing, and Matt Greene earned a pair of roughing minors in one post-whistle scrum. Some of that was certainly frustration at the lopsided score, but the Kings are going to need better discipline against a talented Sharks club that can make them pay for their acts of misconduct.