The underachieving Kings made the playoffs on the second to last day of the regular season, sneaking in as the no. 8 seed. Nobody figured to give them much of a chance against the Vancouver Canucks, who took home the Presidents Trophy for the second consecutive season.
LA quickly dispatched of those Canucks, not only taking the series in five games, but possibly ending Roberto Luongo‘s career with the Canucks.
Their second round matchup against the St. Louis Blues was more of the same. The Kings took a tough, physical team like St. Louis and knocked them off in a sweep. Having knocked off the no. 1 & 2 seeds, all that remained was the no. 3 Phoenix Coyotes. It was a similar song as the first two rounds.
The Kings took a Cinderella story in Phoenix and brought them back to earth, hard and fast. Needing just five games, the Kings eliminated the Coyotes to reach their first Stanley Cup Finals since 1993. And as they wait for their opponent in those finals, they should be the favorite either way.
The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils look like they’re playing to seven games, with the Devils currently holding the 3-2 edge in the series. It’s been a series that has been a knock-down-drag-out fight and could still have another pair of games to go. Neither team appears to have a clear edge over the other, except for the fact that the Devils hold the series edge.
Regardless of who the Kings end up facing, they should be considered the favorite. Remember, this is a team that was supposed to be right in the thick of things deep in the postseason before they spent the entire regular season playing like a team that didn’t even deserve a postseason berth.
There’s top tier talent on the forward ranks. Anze Kopitar is getting better as these playoffs go on and, along with Dustin Brown, is a leading candidate for the Conn Smythe. Dustin Penner has gone from the doghouse to the penthouse, while Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are heading into their second Stanley Cup Finals in the last three years.
But where this team really succeeds is defensively. Drew Doughty has been incredible during these playoffs. A strong blue line is just part of the reason that the Kings were the no. 2 defensive team in the league during the regular season.
Of course, the other big part is the guy between the pipes, Jonathan Quick. If the Kings pull it off, Quick has a shot at becoming the second consecutive goaltender to take home the Conn Smythe. He’s allowed more than two goals just twice, and has a pair of shutouts. He’s the best goaltender in the league, and he’s proving it in these playoffs.
This Kings team seems to have everything you need to contend for a title. They have the size, the speed, and the toughness, along with the hot goaltender. They’ve knocked off each of the top three teams in the Western Conference with quite a bit of ease, and now set their sites on either the Rangers or the Devils.
Regardless of who they end up facing in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings should open up as favorites. They should have a leg up on either team because of the rest, particularly with Quick getting an extra bit of down time. The Devils have the ability to skate four lines, but they haven’t faced the likes of the Kings defensively yet. And the Rangers have had enough trouble finding the back of the net, without having to score on this team.
The pieces are in place, and it would appear, at this point, that the Cup is LA’s to lose. Of course, that’s also why they play the games. Stay tuned.