Amodeo: Kings showing no signs of slowing down

Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer

(Cassie Storring/CM)

It’s safe to say the Los Angeles Kings have surprised a lot of people in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Just squeaking into the eighth seed after having some trouble in the final regular season series with the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have ploughed their way through the first two rounds, knocking off the first seed Vancover Canucks and most recently, the St. Louis Blues, who had no trouble downing the Sharks in the quarterfinal.

By knocking out the Blues, the Kings move to the Western Conference Final for only the second time in franchise history. The last time the Kings went as far was back in ’93, where they where able to knock off the Toronto Maple Leafs and advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Montreal Canadians, only to lose to the Habs in five games.

The Kings also became the first team in NHL history to knock off a first and second seed in the same playoffs, and that feat was made possible due to a solid depth chart and contributions from many different players.

Leading the way for the Kings was once again the combination of Dustin Brown’s physical play and Jonathan Quick’s goaltending. The series against St. Louis also brought out the best in Kings rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, who scored a goal and got in a fight in Game 4 and has done an excellent job creating energy in the place of injured Kyle Clifford. Veteran Dustin Penner has also been thriving in the playoffs, just 10 points away from reaching his regular season totals.

Dustin Brown continued his aggravating, hard-nosed play and had no trouble controlling the forecheck against the tough St. Louis defenders. His physical play resulted in the Blues taking unnecessary penalties throughout the round and not only was Brown a physical force, but he lead the way offensively for the Kings, potting two goals and four assists in the round, including two goals in Game 4. To boot, he notched two of his assists shorthanded to increase his point production to four while a man down.

At the other end of the ice, Jonathan Quick has been solid in goal for the Kings. He gave up just six goals in the four-game series against the Blues. Quick’s stat-line is pretty incredible in these playoffs, having a record of 8-1, a .949 save percentage and a 1.55 goals against average. His ability to make timely saves has certainly been the backbone of the Kings’ squad, as they have been able to rely on their goaltender even when being outplayed in a game.

The Kings penalty kill has also been a key factor towards their success in these playoffs. Not only are they killing off almost every penalty that they take, but they have been scoring shorthanded as well – often times, it seemed as if LA’s best scoring chances came while the Blues were on the power play. With a 92.1 penalty kill percentage and four shorthanded goals scored, the Kings are able to play a physical game and not be afraid to take penalties.

As the Kings second line has begun to contribute offensively, combined with the entire depth that the Kings have, and Brown and Quick’s solid play, the Kings look to continue their dominance in the Western Conference Final. Since they have some time off between series as the remaining three are still to be decided, they can heal up some injuries, including Jeff Carter’s nagging ankle that has certainly slowed him down throughout the season.

As James Duthie of TSN put in, “The only problem the Kings have is deciding who would win the Conn Smythe, Dustin Brown or Jonathan Quick,” and that’s a pretty good problem to have.

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