2012 NHL Playoffs: Barriers Between the Los Angeles Kings and the Stanley Cup
When the Los Angeles Kings were seeded at No. 8 and set to play the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, no one could have predicted the upset. In fact, this year's Los Angeles Kings are the tenth No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 team since the playoffs were set this way following the 1994 - the first to do it in less than six games.
The Kings burst into Vancouver taking a 3-0 lead over the Presidents Cup winners, only to close out the series in five.
The Kings match-up very well with St. Louis because of their similar styles of play as both teams like to clamp down defensively if they achieve the coveted early lead.
The major difference is the fact that the Blues rode out their two solid goaltenders all season, whereas the Kings utilize a strong defense anchored by arguably the best goaltender in the league in Jonathan Quick and future Captain Drew Doughty.
The Kings have played nothing short of amazing so far and are clearly playing the best hockey out of the Western Conference.
Here is the complete Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup profile...
St. Louis Blues
Before I just hand the series over to the Kings, they still have to beat the St. Louis Blues two out of the next five possible games.
During the regular season, the Blues had the best goalie tandem in the league, hands down.
Brian Elliott led the league posting a .940 save percentage and 1.56 goals against average while starter Jaroslav Halak finished in the top five in both categories.
With Halak out since game two of the San Jose series, the Blues must count on Elliott to lead the comeback against the Kings.
Judging by the way the Kings dominated games one and two, I think it's smooth sailing to the second round for Darryl Sutter & Co. in Los Angeles.
Incredible Goaltending Ahead
The Kings dominated both Vancouver goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider and are poised to run through Brian Elliott and his St. Louis Blues—only to find more goalie trouble.
The Kings have one of the best goalies in the playoffs in Jonathan Quick, but if they can complete the series against the Blues they will have to face:
Veznia candidate Pekka Rinne finished the 2011-12 season leading the league in wins (43) and saves (1,987).
Rinne and his incredible defensive duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter are the perfect team to knock off the Kings.
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has been the most clutch netminder in the playoffs, posting three thrilling overtime wins and a 39-save shutout to close out the series over the Chicago Blackhawks.
If the Desert Dogs can ride out Smith's hot streak past the Nashville Predators, it will be interesting to see how the Pacific Division rivals will match up.
Lundqvist is the front-runner for the Veznia this season after leading his team to 39 wins en route to the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers are the team to beat in the playoffs and Hank is the perfect goalie to spoil all cinderella stories.
Holtby is fresh off one of the most exciting games in the playoffs—a triple overtime loss to the Rangers—however, the 22-year old is one of the hottest goalies in the playoffs.
He anticipated being the third-string goalie for the Caps coming into the 2012 playoffs, only to start all seven games against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and complete the upset in overtime.
Holtby will be the Conn Smyth winner if the Caps win the Cup this season, however, the Kings have the best offense left in the West to take him on.
The Devils' franchise goalie, Marty Brodeur, has won three Stanley Cups in his Hall of Fame career, and if the veteran can anchor his team past the rest of the Eastern Conference the Kings will have an extremely difficult time against him.
The only weak goalie in the playoffs is the Philadelphia Flyers' Ilya Bryzgalov, who in fact has led a team to the Stanley Cup in the past. The Kings match up well with the Flyers, but I'd take Jonathan Quick over Bryzgalov any day.
Future Penalty Kill
Los Angeles has purely dominated both the St. Louis Blues' and Vancouver Canucks' power-play units thus far with an over-90% effective penalty kill.
St. Louis shredded the Sharks for six power-play goals throughout the short five-game series before running into the Los Angeles Kings in round two. So far, the Blues are 0-for-10 on the man-up against the Kings while allowing two short-handed goals.
Not only does the Kings' penalty-kill lock down defensively, they have scored a Stanley Cup playoff-leading four shorthanded goals—proving they have the most aggressive and dominant power-play in the quest for the Cup.
If the hockey Gods are feeling extra special with this year's script, then the Flyers will play the Kings for the 2012 Stanley Cup.
Philadelphia's man-up lines, led by superstar Claude Giroux and playoff sensation Danny Briere, are by far one the most exciting power-play cores in the league. A Flyers-Kings matchup would present a rare opportunity to see a showdown between the most prolific power-play unit face off against the Kings' unmatched dominance man-down.
Prolific Scoring of the Eastern Conference
The Rangers, Caps, Devils, and clearly the Flyers all have unmatched offenses compared to the Kings.
The Rangers' silky smooth offense is led by true blue-collar captain Ryan Callahan dishing the puck to snipers Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards while the Devils' Zach Parise carries the arsenal of Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac and Patrick Elias.
In Washington, the Caps turn to "The Great 8," Nicklas Backstrom, and Alex Semin for offensive production.
The best offense, however, comes from The Fresh Prince of Philadelphia Claude Giroux and his playoff-leading 15 points. The Flyers lead the league in playoff power-play effectiveness (38.2%) and will not hesitate to run the score up to eight goals per game.
However, out West, the Yotes, Predators, Kings and Blues are all built on defense—making for an amazing Stanley Cup no matter the matchup.
Season Series Against Possible Opponents
St. Louis Blues
Season Series: Kings 3-1, Kings +6 goals
LA 5, STL 0 - (10/18/11); LA 3, STL 2 (11/22/11); STL 1, LA 0 (2/3/12); LA 1, STL 0 (SO - 3/22/12)
Season Series: Tied 3-3, Kings +1 goals
LA 2, PHO 0 (10/20/11); PHO 3, LA 2 (OT - 10/29/11); LA 4, PHO 3 (12/26/11); LA 1, PHO 0 (OT - 1/5/12); PHO 1, LA 0 (2/16/12); PHO 5, LA 4 (SO - 2/21/12)
Season Series: Kings 3-1, Kings +3 goals
LA 4, NSH 3 (11/8/11); NSH 2, LA 1 (2/27/12); LA 5, NSH 4 (3/6/12); LA 4, NSH 2 (3/17/12)
New York Rangers
Kings 3, Rangers 2 (OT - Stockholm, Sweden Season Opener)
New Jersey Devils
Devils 2, Kings 1 (SO) - October 13, 2012
Kings 5, Capitals 2 - January 9, 2012
Kings 4, Flyers 3 (OT) - October 15, 2012