The Los Angeles Kings looked very good in beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 to take a 3-1 series lead in the West final. They looked so good that a Stanley Cup appears within reach - there's no way this team will lose a series this year.
I almost had it right. Kind of. When a blank Stanley Cup playoff bracket was put in front of me in April, my sports gut made it clear which teams I was taking. The New York Rangers were coming out of my East and the San Jose Sharks were coming out of my West. Of the Rangers I was sure, but when it came time to actually put ink to my Sharks-over-Kings prediction, my conscience screamed at me, “What are you doing! You fool!” I should have used common sense. I was a smart ass instead.
After an 0-3 series comeback and elimination of the Sharks and a 2-3 series comeback and elimination of the Ducks, the Kings have taken a stranglehold 3-1 series lead on the Blackhawks, after dropping Game 1. This team is built to face adversity and to step up for the most important games and moments. They make a habit of it. Check out
Monday’s Fenwick chart from ExtraSkater.com. After their depth of defense and goal scorers got the Kings a 4-0 lead, they went into cruise control. When Chicago got serious and cut it to a two-goal deficit, Los Angeles started to pick it up again.
If you don’t believe in clutch, just watch a Los Angeles Kings playoff run. They have all the ingredients for greatness and still build on that by getting exceptional performances from young, understated players. In 2012, they had Dwight King score five goals and eight points in 20 games as an energy player. In 2013, Slava Voynov tied for the team playoff scoring lead in 18 games. This season has been the best yet though, with Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Jake Muzzin all contributing huge points.
It never ends with this team, from the top down. And when they turn it on, there’s no stopping the Kings. Now just one win away from reaching their second Stanley Cup final in three seasons, you have to wonder if Los Angeles is only a couple of weeks away from its second championship as well. The Blackhawks are a talented team that can match the Kings’ depth and skill like no one else, but even they look buried through four games. The goaltending just hasn’t been there. Shots were even between Chicago and Los Angeles through two periods in Game 4 – but the Kings had a 4-1 lead because they scored three times on four shots. And the star power hasn't been strong enough, either. Where art though Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa? The Kings are turning the lights out in Chicago, just as their own power play is lighting it up. As TSN’s Ray Ferraro mentioned during the broadcast, this Los Angeles team is better than the one that won it all in 2012. It has all the key contributors from that roster still in place, but it has Marian Gaborik, Pearson, Toffoli, Muzzin – and all the experience and growth gained from and since the 2012 win. Most importantly, they've stayed similarly healthy this season. Los Angeles has settled into that groove again. They may lose Game 1 of the Cup final and they may even lose Games 5 and 6 of the West final – like that matters with the Kings. They may drop a game here and there, but they will not lose four of seven. I almost had it, but pride got the better of me. Should have picked that other team in the first round bracket. Sorry New York. I know it may
seem like trolling at this point – and I do like your team very much – but the Kings machine is not losing a series this year.
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