For most eighth seeds, knocking off the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Canucks in the opening round would make for a pretty satisfying postseason. It certainly was satisfying for hockey fans everywhere outside of British Columbia.
But the Kings look anything but satisfied. They’re halfway to doing the exact same thing to the team with the second-best record in the NHL this season and show no signs of stopping after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in their second-round series with St. Louis.
It might just be time to realize these Kings could just have a legitimate claim to the throne this year.
Los Angeles is doing it the way most Cinderellas navigate their way through the NHL postseason: With a goaltender leading the way.
Jonathan Quick should be a familiar name to hockey fans after back-to-back stellar campaigns, the latter of which earned him a spot alongside Henrik Lundqvist and Pekka Rinne as a finalist for the Vezina this year. But if the late starts on the West Coast kept him a secret to some, these playoffs are proving Quick’s coming out party.
The UMass product is 6-1 so far in the playoffs, posting a sparkling 1.56 GAA and a .952 save percentage. That included 27 saves Monday night as the Kings won Game 2 in St. Louis 5-2.
But Quick isn’t a one-man act. The Kings are playing solid defense in front of him and using a balanced attack to overwhelm the Blues the same way they did the Canucks. Add in the physical play the Kings have brought and there are shades of the formula Tim Thomas and the Bruins rode to a Cup last year.
Dustin Brown, the captain the Kings considered trading after acquiring Jeff Carter at the deadline, might be the only guy rivaling Quick in the Kings’ ascension. Brown leads L.A. with 4-5-9 totals through seven playoff games, while his hitting has set the tone physically.
Behind him Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Justin Williams and even the much-maligned Dustin Penner have each racked up a half dozen points, while Carter chipped in his first goal on Monday.
Defensively, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi, who won a Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009, have provided the steady play in their own zone to help Quick hold the high-powered Canucks and Blues to just nine goals in seven games, while Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov add some offense from the blue line.
Need some special teams? The Kings’ penalty kill has allowed just three goals on 33 chances in the playoffs, a 90.9 percent success rate. They’re perfect against the Blues, who were 0 for 9 on Monday and are 0 for 12 in the first two games of the series. L.A. is just 3 for 37 on the power play itself, evoking another comparison to the Bruins, but the Kings have made up for that with four shorthanded goals.
L.A. is a long way from hoisting the Cup for the first time in franchise history. They’ve earned just six of the 16 wins they’ll need for that prize. But that’s six more wins than a lot of eighth seeds ever get, and having done it in just seven games against the top two teams in the regular season this year, there’s plenty of reason to think the Kings are a legitimate threat to get the rest of the wins their need to turn Hollywood into a hockey hotbed for the first time since that guy named Gretzky was gliding across the Forum ice.