Say what you want about luck. Say what you want about injuries. Say what you want about missed calls. But the Los Angeles Kings just played five games against the Vancouver Canucks, and won four of them.
That is all history will remember. It will go down in the history books as a 4-1 series victory for LA, and no one will remember the details.
With that being said, it would be foolish to pretend that the breaks didn't go almost exclusively in LA's favor—whether it was the absence of Canucks' leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin for the opening three games, or the bizarre ways in which Dustin Brown scored two short-handed goals...in the same game. The kings definitely benefited from some higher power that was clearly not a Canuck fan.
People will say that it is better to be lucky than good. Sometimes this is true. And yes, the Kings got lucky. But you can't say that they weren't good as well.
They came out in back-to-back road games and quieted the Vancouver crowd. They played with aggression, passion and precision. They had a game plan to push the President's Cup winners around, and they did.
They finished off hits, chased after loose pucks and capitalized on their chances. Luck only becomes relevant when you have the talent to make it count. That's going to be a famous quote some day, remember I said that.
Despite taking a 3-0 series lead back to LA, the Kings were thoroughly dominated in Game 4. Daniel Sedin returned and rejuvenated a team that appeared to have already accepted their fate.
Most of your brain tells you, "Hey, we've still got a 3-1 lead, we'll be fine." But a little part of your brain, probably the part that creates worry and pessimism, says, "They are back to full strength. They had four separate four-game winning streaks throughout the season. They are fighting with reckless abandon, sitting on the verge of elimination. We might be in some trouble here."
It goes without saying that it was very, very important for the Kings to finish it in Game 5. The Canucks struck early in that game, with an almost indefensible goal by the Sedin twins. The game stalled at 1-0 until the third period when Drew Doughty eluded several Vancouver defenders, got down around the goal line and slid the puck into the crease.
Brad Richardson, the sole King amidst four Canucks, somehow found the puck in the mess and put it into an open net. The Canucks were shaken and the Kings went on to win in overtime, on what the home crowd will tell you was a missed hooking penalty.
The Kings may not have the strongest offense in the NHL, but they just might have the strongest goaltender. Jonathan Quick was a force against Vancouver, just like we knew he could be. He frustrated the Canucks high-powered offense in all of the four wins.
His positioning was impeccable. He rarely allowed a rebound. And even when the Kings fell behind early, he kept them in it with big save after big save. He was easily the star of round one.
And I believe he is why the Kings will win in round two.
The NHL playoffs are about two things: power-play goals and the hot goalie. Jonathan Quick will fulfill the latter requirement, and the Kings showed me enough on the power play (and penalty kill) for me to believe they can score a little.
The Blues are a dangerously good defensive team, so those goals become even more important. The first team to score in each game will hold an enormous advantage, and I wouldn't expect to see any score above 3-2 in the entire series.
This isn't Flyers-Penguins. Every goal is huge. And I think if the Kings play the same way they did against the Canucks, they could take the series in six or seven games.
As for the other second-round series, I like Nashville over Phoenix in seven (yes, even though I am writing this after the Coyotes took Game 1), New York over Washington in six and Philadelphia over New Jersey in five. Now, I only correctly picked five of the eight first-round series, so you can probably only rely on two of these four to be true.