The brooms are going to be out very soon in Los Angeles as the Kings are on their way to a sweep of the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Finals. There are multiple reasons to believe that a sweep is coming, and the defensive clinic that the Kings are putting on is primary to this sweep.
The Kings are a talented hockey team, and they are much deeper than the Devils. They have a lot of offensive weapons, but what they are doing defensively is incredible. They play a shut-down defensive style that creates turnovers and offensive chances going the other way.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter has them buying into this defensive system, and their ability to prevent goals has them undefeated on the road in the 2012 postseason. The Kings are 9-0 away from home in the playoffs.
The Kings have played in 15 games in the playoffs through Game 1, and they have surrendered two goals or less in 13 out of those 15 games. They have given up three goals only twice. They are in every game they play, and they are also a team that is comfortable playing in tight games.
The Kings have shown that they are comfortable in low-scoring games; that is something that everyone should expect to see the rest of the way in this playoff series. They have trust in their teammates, and that goes a long way to not playing tight.
They also have a great goalie in Jonathan Quick, and he deserves a lot of credit for the Kings’ success as he has compiled a 13-2 win-loss record. To go along with that is a goals-against average of 1.49 and a .946 save percentage.
These are staggering numbers for a goaltender. Quick is the heavy favorite amongst Kings players to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given to the playoff MVP. Quick is a great young goalie and has been dominant in the 2012 playoffs.
Quick loves to play the percentages. He takes away everything down low and makes the shooter beat him with a very good shot. He is incredibly athletic, perhaps quicker laterally than any goalie since Curtis Joseph.
Quick is essentially making the opposition place their shots perfectly. When a goalie does this, he can make even the best shooters in the world miss the net. When players feel like they need to be perfect with their shots, they will miss or they will look to pass instead of shoot.
This was on display in Game 1 as Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk passed instead of shooting the puck several times. This is not the strength of Kovalchuk’s game as he has one of the league’s better shots. Quick is pressuring players into making poor decisions and ultimately reducing the number of shots on goal.
There are other reasons to see a sweep. The Kings a have a great group of puck-moving defensemen as well, and Drew Doughty is the best among them. Doughty has 11 points in the playoffs and is a rising star in the NHL.
There are no weaknesses in the Kings’ back-end; they are doing a great job of transitioning the puck out of their zone to their forwards. The transition is seamless, and if it continues, the Kings are well on their way.
Another reason for their success so far is the strength of the Kings depth at forward. The Kings are loaded up front with players who have a lot of skill. All four of their lines can do damage, and they all play a significant role.
Center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown lead the Kings in scoring with 16 points. Each of them has seven goals and nine assists. They play on the Kings first line with winger Justin Williams who has 12 points in the playoffs. Clearly, this unit is dominating as evidenced by the 44 points between them.
The second line is made up of center Mike Richards and wingers Dustin Penner and Jeff Carter. This is a very talented line that could be the top line for most other teams. They have combined for 30 points in the playoffs so far.
This is where the Kings physically assert themselves. The third line is made up of center Jarret Stoll and wingers Dwight King and Trevor Lewis. As a unit they are averaging just less than 15 minutes per game. This is a perfect example of why the Kings are so dominant.
The fourth line got the Stanley Cup Finals’ first goal in Game 1. When you get production from a fourth line on the road, you are doing things well because the home team gets the last change. The fourth line is comprised of center Colin Fraser and wingers Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson.
They are all players who are willing to get dirty and get in on the forecheck. They are relentless, and the Kings' ability to roll four lines is a huge advantage for them. They just keep on coming and never seem to stop.
In contrast, the Devils struggle to get their offense going as they are not nearly as deep or talented. They get their offense from a few players, and that will make it easier for the Kings to employ their imposing defensive style on New Jersey.
The Kings are going to continue to shut down the few players that pose a threat and make the lesser offensive players beat them. This strategy has worked very well so far, and it will carry the Kings to a decisive Stanley Cup win.