The Los Angeles Kings barely made it in to the playoffs this year with 95 points and a 40-27-15 record, but now they’re being picked by some analysts as the new favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Well the Kings are currently 8-1 to start the playoffs. They haven’t lost a game on the road. They just swept the second best team in the west, the St. Louis Blues. Oh, and they also beat the best team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks, in five games to start the playoffs.
The Kings are only the third 8th seed to advance past the second round (Edmonton 2006 and Montreal 2010), and they’re the first team to ever eliminate the number 1 and 2 seeds.
The Kings are on track to win the whole thing if they can keep up they way they’ve been playing.
Now, the whole team has played exceptionally well this whole playoffs, but there are two players that stick out the most.
Captain Dustin Brown and Goaltender Jonathan Quick.
Dustin Brown just had an average season with 22 goals and 32 assists in 82 games, but he’s really turned it on in these playoffs with 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 games. He’s been the perfect captain in these playoffs. He’s putting goals on the board, he’s making plays, and he’s as physical as they come, attacking some of the other teams best players. You couldn’t ask for much more from Dustin Brown right now.
Jonathan Quick has been the undisputed MVP for the Kings, not only in these playoffs, but throughout the regular season. The majority of people say that he is the soul reason why the Kings were able to squeeze themselves in to the playoffs. Quick is currently first in the playoffs with 8 wins, second in save percentage with .949, he’s second to Cory Schneider, the Vancouver goaltender who got knocked out of the playoffs by Quick and the Kings. Quick is also second in goals against average with 1.55, Schneider again is ahead of Quick in that category.
Quick is also one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender in the league later on in the summer after the playoffs. He finished, in the regular season, 5th in wins with 35, 5th in SV% with .929, 2nd in GAA with 1.95, and 1st in shutouts with 10.
Those aren’t the only two weapons the Kings have, but they are currently the most notable contributors to the teams success.
If you have watched at least one of their games during these playoffs, you’d notice that every player does what they’re assigned to do. The play makers are making plays, the snipers are scoring goals, the grinders are grinding, the defensemen are defending, and their goaltender is keeping the puck out of the net.
It’s amazing what happens when everyone does what they’re supposed to do on a team.
The Kings are a scary team right now, and it seems like everyone is pulling for them. Even myself, a Stars fan, is pulling for the Kings in these playoffs.
I’d kind of like to see the Phoenix Coyotes advance to play the Kings because they’re virtually the same type of team, they’re also from the same division, and it’d be nice to see Quick face off against Mike Smith who has caught fire as a goaltender in these playoffs.
But of course it’d be great to see the Kings play the Nashville Predators in the next round because you’d get to see Quick face off against Pekka Rinne, one of the other Vezina Trophy finalists.
If you haven’t been paying much attention to the Kings these playoffs, I highly advise you to start doing so, it’s some of the best hockey you’ll see right now.
I get chills every time I watch this video. It doesn’t get much better than the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It’s been 4 straight years since the Dallas Stars have seen the playoffs and it’s been frustrating for fans, but this season wasn’t a complete failure.
The “Pesky Stars” came in to this season without Brad Richards, without an owner, and with a first year coach in Glen Gulutzan. Oh, and not mention, below the salary cap floor, so there were no high expectations.
The 2011-2012 season started out with 6 new players out of free agency, Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler, Radek Dvoark, Jake Dowell, and Adam Pardy. They also picked up forward Eric Nystrom off waivers, just so they could get above the cap floor.
As a whole the new signings had a significant impact on this season, Michael Ryder made the most impact, setting a career high with 35 goals, and just one point away from matching his career high in points. Eric Nystrom also set a career high in goals with 16 and in points with 21. Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak didn’t rack up the points, but both made huge significant roles in defensive play, and epitomized the word “pesky.” Jake Dowell also didn’t bring in big points, but helped a lot on our fourth line with his grittiness. Sheldon Souray came in to the season trying to prove that he is still worth something in the NHL and I believe he did that, showcasing his great defensive work and that bomb of a shot from the blue line.
Jamie Benn put together yet another stellar season with 26 goals and 37 assists, and those numbers don’t even speak for how great he was. Jamie Benn is simply a player that you must watch to understand his greatness.
Loui Eriksson led the team in points this season with 26 goals and 45 assists. Loui showed again this season that he is one of the, if not THE most underrated player in the NHL. Loui’s value to the team is just as much as any other big name player is to their team.
Kari Lehtonen was the team MVP this season and has showed that he can be an elite goaltender. Kari put up 32 wins and 22 loses, as well as a .922 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average.
Now I did say that coming in to this season, the expectation level for the Stars was very low, but as the season went along, and after you saw how they played, there was no reason for them to not make the playoffs.
Just a couple weeks ago they were on top of the Pacific Division and were looked to at least get a playoff spot, but when you go 3-7-0 in your last 10 games of the season, in a division that’s as tight as it is, you aren’t going to make the playoffs and that’s exactly what happened.
This wasn’t a case of the Stars running in to some teams that were just purely superior than they were, or other teams just pushing them right out of the playoffs. The Stars knocked themselves out of the playoffs. As it has been for the past 4 years, the Stars have been in prime position to make the playoffs, but have just blown it in the end. They haven’t been able to “win the last game” and quite frankly, it’s irritating, and has gotten old.
So what needs to happen now? Is it time they go ahead and fire General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk? Should Glen Gulutzan get booted as the Head Coach after just one season?
Neither of those things should happen.
To start, I think Gulutzan has done a great job with what he’s had. He came in to the position without any NHL coaching experience and at the time, a broken team. He took that broken team, fixed it up as much as he could, and put them in to playoff contention. So give him another chance, he deserves it.
As for GM Joe, I haven’t been to pleased with some moves he’s made since he got here, like firing Dave Tippett, telling Mike Modano he can’t play here, and trading James Neal to the Penguins who finished 4th in goals with 40 and 7th in points with 81 this season.
But Nieuwendyk started to make better moves this past season, grabbing Ryder, Fiddler, Dvorak, and Souray, while not having an owner, so I’m a little excited to see what he’s going to do this off-season now that he has an owner, meaning money.
GM Joe needs to go out and grab a true number one defenseman, and there are a good amount of those in free agency, and he also needs to grab a franchise altering forward, also plenty of those in free agency. He also needs to give Jamie Benn a nice big contract extension, he deserves it, and I don’t think anyone in Dallas wants to see him in free agency next year., letting other teams try and grab him from us.
They also need to really push on trying to develop players like Reilly Smith, Austin Smith, Jordie Benn, and Brenden Dillon in their off-season camps they hold so we can see some strong young talent throughout the 2012-2013 season. To me there’s nothing better than when you can develop your own players, just look at guys like Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, and Steve Ott, all three of them are great players that any team would love to have, and all three were developed in the Stars system.
So all-in-all this season wasn’t a total failure, they exceeded their low expectations. As long as the Stars address their off-season issues, then they should be fine next year, and hopefully can bring playoff hockey back to Dallas.