Each Wednesday throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Kevin Weekes will be offering his pluses and minuses for the teams competing in the game that intrigues him most that night. Weekes will also be assisting fans with three must-watch elements of the game.
It's no secret the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings don't like each other. This season, they are adding another chapter to the bitter rivalry in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Depending on which team you root for, you either love or hate to recall their 2014 Western Conference First Round series. The Sharks took a 3-0 lead before losing the next four to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.
San Jose had a 2-0 lead heading into Game 3 on Monday and could have put a stranglehold on the series, but Los Angeles responded with a 2-1 overtime win.
Game 3 had more than 100 combined hits, which to me is an indicator of how far the Sharks have come as a group in the physical game. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of that in Game 4.
I expect a good one when the Kings visit the Sharks at SAP Center in Game 4 Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; USA, CSN-CA, CBC, TVA Sports).
Here's my breakdown of the game:
Pluses: Goalie Jonathan Quick played his best game of the series in Game 3 with 29 saves, some in spectacular fashion. It was pretty much a must-win for the Kings; they didn't want to go down 3-0 even though they came back two years ago against the Sharks in that same situation.
Defenseman Drew Doughty continues to quietly impress night in and night out. He played 35 minutes in Game 3 and as long as he is on defense, the Kings have a chance every night.
Kings forward Dustin Brown made the key play on the game-winning goal with a hit on Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi and got the puck in the zone to forward Vincent Lecavalier, who fed forward Tanner Pearson for the goal. There's a reason the Kings have won the Stanley Cup twice in the past four seasons: they make plays at the right times and find ways to win games.
Video: LAK@SJS, Gm3: Pearson goes five-hole for OT winner
Minuses: The Kings don't score goals as easily as the Sharks do. Los Angeles doesn't have as many natural goal scorers and have to work harder for offense. That also puts more pressure on Quick, who we know is capable of handling the load since he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012.
Los Angeles needs to come out with a fast start. There's obviously a big difference if the series is 2-2 or 3-1 after this game so the Kings need to apply pressure, be physical and try to take over in the first period.
Pluses: Goalie Martin Jones has been excellent against his former team. It was interesting to see how he played against them with the emotions and everything else.
San Jose generated some really great looks last game. Forward Joe Pavelski has been outstanding, as expected, and the Sharks have the offense to match the Kings at every position. Having defenseman Brent Burns, and adding Paul Martin on defense and forward Joel Ward, has only strengthened their depth.
Despite the result, I really liked the Sharks' last game. They scored in the first minute and applied pressure the entire game. They just couldn't win it.
Video: LAK@SJS, Gm3: Thornton gives Sharks an early lead
Minuses: The Sharks had the worst home record during the regular season among playoff teams and couldn't take advantage of home ice in Game 3, losing in overtime. If they lose the game Wednesday, the series will be 2-2 after they held a 2-0 lead. The "Shark Tank" used to be an intimidating place to play; San Jose would routinely put up 20 shots in the first period.
San Jose was 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 3. In 10 minutes of time with an extra man, they only had three shots. That has to change if they want to win Game 4 and the series.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. The physical battle. Two very powerful skilled teams that play a heavy game.
2. How many minutes will Drew Doughty and Brent Burns play? That is a great matchup within itself among two premier defensemen in the NHL.
3. Does Los Angeles ride the momentum of the Game 3 win, or does San Jose find a way to win at home?