2012 NHL Playoffs: 5 Key Takeaways for Los Angeles Kings Following Game 2
There aren't many hockey fans that predicted a 2-0 series lead for the Los Angeles Kings once that matchup with Vancouver was set, yet here we are. I had the utmost privilege to watch game two with a diehard Kings family—as in pre-Gretzky era Kings fans who couldn't be happier following another incredible 4-2 victory on the road.
For those who believe momentum from the regular season is key for playoff success, this series is sure to change your ways. Vancouver closed out the 2012 campaign winning eight of their last nine games and secured their second straight President's Trophy as the league's best regular season team.
The Kings, on the other hand, finished out the season with back to back close, scrappy, playoff-esque games against San Jose—both finishing in shootout losses.
I am a firm believer that once the playoffs start, anything can happen. Last year we saw an incredible series between Vancouver and Chicago in which Chicago forced overtime in Game 7 after starting the series down three games to none.
The next two for the Kings break down like this:
Game Three: at Los Angeles; Sunday, April 15, 10:30 PM EST
Game Four: at Los Angeles; Wednesday, April 18, 10:30 PM EST
Vancouver is not quite in panic mode just yet, and can certainly come back and win this series. Knowing that, here are the five key takeaways for the Kings following their impressive 2-0 road trip in B.C.
Talked the Talk
The Kings have made headlines for themselves for some "interesting" PR schemes. First, the time keeper at Staples Center mistakenly paused the clock, allowing Drew Doughty to snipe a game-winning goal with 1.8 seconds left when the game should have carried into overtime.
Fast forward to Game 1 of this series, where the carrier of the official @LAKings twitter handle possibly had a few too many, or was sincerely fired up after the Game 1 upset and unleashed a hilarious tweet directed at Canucks fans:
@LAKings: "To everyone in Canada outside BC, you’re welcome.”
Canucks fans weren't going to let one game get in their heads, so they didn't retaliate in any way. Plus, they were clearly outplayed, so there wasn't much to say anyway. However, once the Kings shocked all that is devout Canuck nation north of the border in Game 2, their social media team released another sassy tweet:
@LAKings: "We apologize in advance for anyone this tweet offends: LA Kings lead series 2-0".
Unstoppable Penalty Kill
The Kings have had a solid PK all season long and let it loose last night against a soft, Sedin-separated Canucks special teams unit.
Daniel Sedin has been out since receiving an cheap elbow to the dome with post-concussion issues, and it's clear it's left a 67-point sized hole the Canucks offensive.
Much credit needs to be given to Canuck center Ryan Kesler, who had a very impressive game knifing through the Kings roster to register six shots on cage, however he couldn't put any of them past Vezina candidate Jonathan Quick—let alone tally a point.
The most impressive part of the Kings special teams unit was their two short-handed goals from Dustin Brown. The first goal followed Kopitar leading a rare man-down breakaway and undressed everyone in British Columbia except Luongo, to which Dustin Brown cleaned up the rebound and buried his first of the night.
The Kings' aggressive penalty kill is surely one of the top in the league, and played a massive role in the Kings' two road wins.
Brown Continues Hot Streak
The Kings Captain finished off a strange, roller coaster of a season with 23 points in the final 21 games. Hollywood could only hope the Captain would continue his impressive offensive play as the only drawback Los Angeles has had all season is lack of scoring.
Brown has four points in the Kings two wins, including two unpredictable short-handed goals in Game 2—one shy of the NHL record books which he would have shared with none other than No. 99.
The Captain plays each game with incredible poise and patience, having this to say following the Game 2 upset:
"It was important for our top guys to lead by example," Brown said after scoring the Kings' first two goals. "You need big performances at this time of year."
Richards Stepping Up
Richards sniped the Kings first goal in Game 1 on two-man advantage, forced a turnover and set up the go-ahead goal with 3:14 left and assisted the empty-netter to sink Vancouver in the final seconds of the Kings' first 4-2 win.
Richards left Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault puzzled, having this to say about the Kesler-Richards matchup following Game 1:
"I'm not sure I like that matchup," Vigneault said, breaking into laughter before adding he might change it up for Game 2 on Friday night.
All of Richards' three points came in Game 1, but the play that stung Vancouver the most was when he lit up Alex Burrows like the Lions Gate Bridge.
The Most Underrated Player in the League
All season long the Kings rode Quick's incredible games between the pipes, literally having the league's least productive offense.
Much of the Vezina talk is given to either of the St. Louis Blues goalies who put up one of the most impressive dual-goaltender years in recent history, or Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist—with the occasional Tim Thomas chatter lingering in the halls.
What's unfortunate is that the rest of the league hasn't heard of Jonathan Quick just yet, even after stellar performances all of last season.
Quick got his goals against average down to 1.95 for the entire 2011-12 season—a number largely overshadowed by St. Louis' Brian Elliot who posted a ridiculous 1.56 GAA. However, Quick was the only goalie to record an incredible 10 shutouts.
Best believe the Kings are true contenders for the Stanley Cup behind such a young, talented roster anchored by No. 32 Jonathan Quick.