EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown was sitting at his dressing-room stall for the longest time after the Kings' 4-3 win in Game 3 on Saturday night at Staples Center, surrounded by media.
Among the many questions he fielded was whether the Kings had the Chicago Blackhawks on the run and how there was an air of a champion about his team, having taken a 2-1 lead over the defending champs.
Brown kept shaking his head, trying to downplay the idea that somehow the die has been cast with two straight Kings wins, even if one of them came in Chicago in Game 2 -- breaking the Blackhawks' eight-game home winning streak -- and the Kings have somehow managed to win Games 2 and 3 in spite of giving up at least the first goal.
But the fact of the matter is that having lost two straight, the Blackhawks are facing another critical test Monday in Game 4 in their march toward what they hope is a second straight championship.
Here are seven things that will play a critical role in whether they even this series and, for the third straight series, synthesize the playoff matchup to a best-of-three.
Deep as a well
The Kings are winning the depth battle quite handily. Since late in the second period of Game 2, when a Mike Richards pass jumped into the net off Justin Williams' skates, the Kings have outscored the Blackhawks 10-3, and the last of those Chicago goals was a frankly meaningless goal by Patrick Sharp with 4.2 seconds left in Game 3. The Kings are simply rolling four lines over and over as Blackhawks head coach Darryl Sutter seems unconcerned with any meaningful line matching. "We take great pride in our depth as a team, forwards and defense," Richards explained Sunday. "When we get into a rhythm of rolling four lines and staying out of the penalty box, I think it's big for our hockey team because it allows us to roll four lines and come at the other team in waves and just keep that relentless pressure on. I think it's big for our team." The Blackhawks have that capability too, and there's lots of skill on their side of the puck to make it so. We saw it earlier in the playoffs, but it has not been apparent yet in the conference finals. "It's time to bring it, it's time to play our best hockey. No more waiting. Everyone knows and understands we can bring more," captain Jonathan Toews said Sunday. "We know how good a team we're up against and what it's going to take to beat them. We can be positive about a lot of things and remind ourselves what we're capable of as a team and where we've been before, considering this situation in the series. So let's go play a great game for each other tomorrow. It's a great opportunity for us."