Temperatures soared to near record highs Tuesday in Phoenix, where the mercury climbed to 107 degrees. But not even that desert heat is as scorching as the Los Angeles Kings when they take their act on the road.
Granted, the Kings have been pretty good wherever they've played this postseason, rolling through the first three rounds of the playoffs in just 14 games. But when they venture outside of the Staples Center, Los Angeles has been unbeatable. Literally.
The Kings are returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993 after closing out the Coyotes with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday. That win pushes Los Angeles' record on the road this postseason to a perfect 8-0. And the bad news for whoever comes out of the East is that the Kings will start the Cup Final on the road.
The Kings now stand alone in the NHL record books for the most consecutive road playoff wins in both a single season and with a streak over two years. They have won 10 straight overall on the road after taking the last two games in San Jose last spring before being eliminated at home by the Sharks.
If the previous record holders are any indication, that bodes well for the Kings' quest for their first Cup in franchise history. Chicago had held the single-year mark with seven straight road wins en route to a championship in 2010, while the Islanders were the only other team with nine straight road victories over two seasons in 1982 and 1983. The Isles won the Cup in both of those years, capping their run of four straight titles.
If the Kings can join those Blackhawks and Islanders clubs as Cup champions, their success on the road will be a big reason.
So why have the Kings been so dominant on the road this postseason?
Like most success in the playoffs, it starts in goal. Jonathan Quick has been amazing throughout the Kings' run regardless of where the Kings have played, posting a 12-2 record with a 1.54 GAA and a .946 save percentage. His work on the road has been particularly impressive. Quick has allowed just 13 goals on 251 shots in 504 minutes over LA's eight road contests, good for a 1.55 GAA and a .948 save percentage in those eight victories.
He's gotten plenty of support, too. The Kings struggled offensively throughout the regular season, finishing 29th in the league with just 188 goals. Things haven't changed much in the postseason at the Staples Center, where LA has just 11 goals in six games, scoring four or more just once.
But away from the shadow of Hollywood, the Kings have been a completely different team. They have 30 goals in their eight road games, scoring four or more in six of those contests. And they've done it with a balanced attack that doesn't rely on any one line to carry the team.
Tuesday's victory was a perfect example of that, with goals from top-liner Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty, second-liner Mike Richards and the resurgent Dustin Penner in overtime. The top line of Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams has combined for 16 goals and 42 points, while the second unit of Richards, Penner and Jeff Carter has 11 goals and 30 points. The likes of rookie Dwight King (five goals) and Jarrett Stoll (two goals, both game-winners) add further depth to the attack.
The Kings aren't doing it with extra men, either. Much like the Bruins last spring, Los Angeles is succeeding despite a dismal power play. The Kings are just 6-for-74 (8.1 percent) on the man advantage, though even there they are better on the road (5-for-42, compared to just 1-for-32 at home).
The power-play struggles haven't cost the Kings because of how good they are on the penalty kill. Los Angeles is 5-for-57 (91.2 percent) overall on the PK, but on the road, they are nearly perfect (2-for-41, 95.1 percent). They have also scored five shorthanded goals, matching the number of power-play strikes they've surrendered. That includes a key shorthanded goal on Tuesday, when Kopitar tied the game at 1-1 and erased Phoenix' early momentum.
Taking momentum away from the home team and the life out of an opposing crowd has become the Kings' specialty this summer. And it's not like they've taken an easy path.
Los Angeles has beaten each of the top three seeds in the West, knocking out all three of the conference's division champions in succession. They shocked the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks in five games in the opening round, swept a St. Louis club that finished just two points back of Vancouver with 109 points in the regular season, and have now ousted the leader of their own Pacific Division in five games.
Even more amazing than the Kings' success on the road this spring is the fact that there was absolutely no sign that such a run was in the making. The Kings were a dismal 29-66 on the road in the playoffs coming into this postseason, and even this year in the regular season they were better at home (22-14-5) than on the road (18-13-10).
But with some amazing goaltending from Quick, a balanced attack and a smothering penalty kill, Los Angeles is now the undisputed all-time Kings of the road. And that road has taken them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
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