In a recent article, a quick survey was conducted to find out who is the favourite to win the Stanley Cup in the view of hockey fans.
779 votes were counted, and here are the results:
Note: these figures are vastly different from the predictions made before the NHL playoffs began.
Many believed the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury had the best chance to win. However, the Penguins fell out of the playoffs after trailing 0-3 in the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Since the Los Angeles Kings are the No. 1 favourites now, I will analyze what they have done to get to this stage of the playoffs.
Goaltending is always a key element for playoff success. It proved to be vital for all four teams in the Western Conference, and it was somewhat the same in the East.
Jonathan Quick played lights-out hockey against the Vancouver Canucks. He was a little lucky to face only one Sedin twin for three of the five games they played. Quick outplayed Roberto Luongo in Game 1 and 2 and returned to L.A. with a command on the series.
Did he play better than Cory Schneider remains a question. More will be discussed on this issue later on.
In the second round, Jonathan Quick continued to play well and outplayed struggling St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott by quite a wide margin. Elliott seemed to have lost his composure and the Blues are trailing 0-3.
Willie Mitchell is the unsung hero so far in the playoffs. He is not often visible on the ice for big eye-popping plays, but he neutralizes the opposing offense.
With his long stick and impeccable positioning, Mitchell has a long history of shutting down the best forwards in the NHL. In the first round, he took away offense from the Henrik Sedin line; in the second round, his assignment was on Andy McDonald and company.
Dean Lombardi was ecstatic when the Canucks let go of Willie Mitchell two seasons ago. We all see why now.
The Los Angeles Kings go as far as Dustin Brown brings them. It is very clear that the American-born captain is playing the best hockey of his career and it seems like no one can slow him down.
It is not as if Dustin Brown is only visible on the score sheet either. Brown finishes all his body checks, he plays on the Kings penalty kill unit and he scores shorthanded goals while he is out there.
Everything listed above are things that everyone knows already.
Here is what you may not know yet:
1. Los Angeles Kings have not faced a top-25 goal scorer yet in the playoffs.
The toughest test was Daniel Sedin at 28th overall (30 goals), and he played his first game since March 21 recovering from a concussion caused by a Duncan Keith elbow in the neutral zone. Daniel Sedin only played two games in the series, anyway.
What about the St.Louis Blues? David Backes was their leading goal scorer with 24 goals (60th in the NHL). Therefore, the goaltending statistics might be inflated due to the last of tough tests he's faced.
2. Los Angeles Kings have yet to face a really hot goalie.
The toughest competition the Kings have faced was Cory Schneider, the backup in Vancouver. In a three-game competition between Quick and Schneider, Cory Schneider allowed 4 goals and Jonathan Quick gave up 3 goals.
3. Timing is everything.
The casual fan must remember one thing: The NHL playoffs is the toughest, and longest journey in professional sports.
The Kings have just entered the beginning of May. There are still six weeks remaining in the playoffs before a winner is decided. As well as the Kings have performed, they aren't even half way there yet.
4. Strength of other teams.
The New Jersey Devils are the team to beat in the Stanley Cup finals. The team is led by 30-goal scorers Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson. Youngster Adam Henrique has scored big goals, including an overtime winner to beat the Florida Panthers.
Even though Martin Brodeur is aging, his experience of winning the Stanley Cup cannot be overlooked.
You may not believe me now, but I have called it here first. Devils in seven over the Kings in the finals.
Here are the other recent articles by Joseph Trenton: