The Los Angeles Kings and their fans waited patiently through three periods of play and even some extra play to see who the Kings would face off against in the Western Conference Finals. They finally got their answer just under four minutes into overtime of game seven of the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. tThe Kings will have to go through Chicago for a spot in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
However, one thing was already set in stone, no matter the team the Kings would have to face, no matter if the Kings would be on the road or in the comfort of the Staples Center to start the series. That one thing, was Jonathan Quick will have to continue his stellar play if the Kings want another shot at the Cup.
Outside of the Kings’ dominance at home, Quick’s play is really the only thing that has rolled over from last year’s Stanley Cup title run.
Quick has been outstanding through two rounds for the Kings. He has the best save percentage, goals against average and the most shutouts among playoff goaltenders. Honestly, a 1.50 GAA, .948 save percentage all aided by three shutouts through 13 games, you can’t ask your goalie to play much better than that.
It is not like these were gimme games either, Quick has came through in the clutch for the Kings. After falling in a 2-0 hole to the St. Louis Blues in the first round, Quick only allowed six goals on 110 shots to close out that series with four straight wins. In the Kings’ grueling seven game series against the Sharks, he pitched two shutouts and allowed two or fewer goals in all but one game, giving the Kings a chance to win every game through the last second of each game.
In my opinion it is this clutch save that got the Kings to the next round of the playoffs.
Who knows what would have happened had that goal gone in. The momentum may have shifted towards the Sharks going into overtime, if the game even made it there, and the Sharks could have pulled out the first road victory in the series.
Now, the Kings move onto Chicago, a team with players like Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Jonathan Toews. A team that is averaging just under three goals a game, a team that has had 12 different players light the lamp through 12 games, and a team that will have that oh so precious home ice advantage.
Yes, the Kings will have to win away from the Staples Center in order to get into the next round. Winning all of their home games will get them just three wins and they need four. But, at this point of time, I doubt there is any other goalie besides Quick that you would want in your net going into a series where you have to steal a game away in the other team’s barn.
Sorry for jumping ahead here, but if the Kings do get past Chicago they would either face the Boston Bruins or Pittsburgh Penguins, a very tall order no matter the outcome. You have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jarome Iginla and Kris Letang to name a few on the star studded Penguins roster and then there is Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Nathan Horton anchoring a gritty, but talented Boston team.
The top two offensive team through this point of the playoffs, Boston averaging just over three goals a game and Pittsburgh over four goals a game await the Kings if they can get past Chicago. If that is not a prime example of the expression, “pick your poison”, then I don’t know what is.
Of course, the Kings have to get there first.
But, if Quick continues the play that has got the Kings to this point in the post season, then the Kings will have a shot. A shot not only to make it there but to be the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships since the Red Wings did it in ’97 and ’98.