I think it’s safe to say that the Kings are no longer,”underdogs.”
Last night the Kings completed the four game sweep of the St. Louis Blues advancing to their first Western Conference Final in 19 years–This is only the second time in franchise history the Kings have advanced to the Western Conference Finals. With the series win over the Blues, this years Los Angeles Kings squad is the only No. 8 seed to take out the top two seeded teams in their conference–taking out the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in five games and the No. 2 seed St. Louis Blues in four.
They’ve reached the third round of the playoffs thanks to a strong penalty kill, flawless goaltending by Jonathan Quick, and strong offensive support form their leaders: Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar.
Brown and Kopitar combined for 12 points in this series (Both scoring two goals and four assists), and Quick lowered his Goals Against Average to 1.55 and improved his save percentage to an impressive .949 in the process–Those numbers lead all goaltenders in the playoffs thus far.
Everything seems to be clicking for Los Angeles. They’re killing off 92.1% of their penalties, they’re getting potent offense from their top six forwards, Quick is doing backflips in net, they immediately respond to goals against, they can score on you short handed, and they win in regulation (Game 5 in Vancouver was the only game this postseason to go into OT– Stoll scored to advance LA into the second round).
Those are solid ingredients to have if you’re cooking up a recipe to win the Stanley Cup.
Even though St. Louis lost, you have to respect the fact that the Blues came off a very impressive year. The Blues gathered 109 points in the regular season, and took home the Central Division crown after starting their campaign 6-7-0 before Ken Hitchcock took over.
Hitchcock has to win the Jack Adams (coach of the year) trophy. This was the Blues first trip to the second round since 2002, and first playoff birth in three years. When he took over in November, the Blues went on a 15-2-4 run. Those stats have got to be looked at when choosing this years Jack Adams recipient.
St. Louis dominated the Sharks in round one winning four straight games advancing into the second round. Unfortunately for St. Louis, their journey would end in the Conference semi’s after losing game four last night, 3-1.
The face of the matter is that the Kings were in complete control of the series. To briefly break it down for you:
Game 1: The Blues struck first, but the Kings responded with three unanswered goals. St. Louis couldn’t figure out Quick after their first and only goal. LA dominated once they tied the game.
Game 2: A laugher for Los Angeles. The Kings scored four first period goals winning 5-2–led by three Dustin Brown assists and two Anze Kopitar goals (one of which came short-handed).
Games three and four were almost identical. The Kings scored first, the Blues would tie it up, then LA would pull away, and would eventually sweep the series.
Los Angeles has absolutely found their groove not only on defense, but on the offensive side of the puck this postseason.
The Kings have 15 players with at least one goal, and 17 with at least one point. These are pretty significant numbers considering the Kings have only played 9 postseason games thus far. Brown leads LA with 11 points (6G+5A). He also has, arguably, the prettiest goal for the Kings this postseason, and without a doubt the biggest goal in the postseason. Here’s the goal that was the game winner in last night’s game four:
Kopitar has 10 points (3G+7A), Richards has 8 points (3G+5A), and Williams & Penner have heated up, both accumulating 7 points (both scoring 2G+5A).
You can look around at the other series currently taking place, and you won’t find numbers as impressive as the Kings’. Everyone’s contributing, the big name players are scoring consistently, Quick is on top of his game, and they’re finishing everything from their checks and scoring chances, to finishing their games in regulation.
I don’t see anyone else in the playoffs working this well together as a collective unit. The scoring is diverse, the penalty killing is superb, the goal support is present, and they’re not afraid to be physical.
Something that isn’t brought up enough, and is very important, is the consistency factor. Nobody has dropped off offensively, and as the playoffs go on, more and more players on the Kings roster are starting to get in a groove. That is a very important characteristic for a team to have if they want to play in the finals.
The Kings are just the third No. 8 seed in history to reach the conference finals. The Canadiens did it two years ago, and the 2006 Oilers are the lone 8 seed to win the conference and play for the Cup.
This is just the second trip to the Conference Finals in franchise history for the Kings. 1993 was the last time they made it this far, and that was the season they reached their one and only Stanley Cup Final.
I believe history will repeat itself for the Kings this year.