May 21, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Tyler Toffoli celebrates after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period in game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

A Different Conference Finals For The Los Angeles Kings

So, yeah, that just happened. The Los Angeles Kings just evened up the series with the Chicago Blackhawks, with a 6-2 victory. It is kind of hard to say the series is tied up when the Kings are leading the series in goals, 7-5, especially after the third period in Game 2, but the series is based on games won, not goal differential. Still, the Kings did the unthinkable after getting smacked around in Game 1 as if this was the 2013 Western Conference Finals.

To be honest, I only saw about 10 minutes of the game. It was scheduled to air at 5pm PT in Los Angeles, which pretty much explains why I did not watch it. I blame LA traffic. What I did not see, I heard on the radio. In Los Angeles, the Kings’ radio broadcast was presented on 1150 AM with the sweet sounds of analysts Nick Nickson and Darryl Evans. Great play-by-play that made me feel as if I was there in Chicago. Or at the very least, watching at home. But I am getting away from what this is really about.

This team is not the Kings they were against Chicago last year. After Game 1 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals where LA lost 3-1, I have to admit I thought the Kings were going to have a repeat of the 2013 WCF. When the Hawks scored their third goal on a 3-on-1 break from Marian Hossa to Johnny Oduya to Jonathan Toews, I had flashbacks from a year ago of me slamming my head on a wall and repeating to myself, “I hate you Chicago, I hate you Chicago, I hate you Chicago.”  That continued into Game 2 when Ben Smith made it 2-0 for the Blackhawks. Whilst driving around, listening to the radio and hearing that horn, the cheering from the United Center crowd and that atrocious song, ‘Chelsea Dagger’, for a split second I thought, “well, football season is not THAT far away”. But then it hit me, the Kings will be alright:

Right on, Bailey. I then remembered something I tweeted out during LA’s dominant win over the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of that series

Sure enough, things started to change. About two minutes before the end of the second period  Justin Williams got his sixth goal of the playoffs.  He tipped the puck in front of net and it slipped underneath Corey Crawford for the goal. There was life! My driving through the streets of Los Angeles was slightly more bearable knowing the Kings were only down by one goal. But then something magnificent happened in the third period: The Kings scored, and then scored again, and again, and again and again. Six unanswered goals on the defending Stanley Cup Champions on their home ice. This was Chicago’s first loss at home in the playoffs, and they lost big. The Kings put them in their place with five third period goals.

It was amazing. How could I have thought anything other than “the Kings got this”? Actually, it is pretty easy to not think that knowing LA, but this is a new era of Kings hockey. General Manager Dean Lombardi has had a plan for this team the last several years and in these playoffs is where we are seeing his moves put into action. The Kings are not built for Pacific Division Championships, leave that to the flashy teams like Anaheim who are already on vacation. The Kings are built for the playoffs. This seems to be something Chicago didn’t take seriously.

Perhaps the Blackhawks thought they would blast through LA like they did last year… but it is not last year. It is 2014 and the Kings have scoring to go along with their hard-nosed defensive strategy. Having Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson a year older and more experienced is helping immensely. The mid-season acquisition of Marian Gaborik, who has the most goals in the playoffs with nine, seems to be paying off (note: please give Gaborik a hefty extension, Mr. Lombardi). Jeff Carter is emerging at the right time (his hat-trick in Game 2 is proof of that) and when Drew Doughty is getting points, everyone on the opposition is in trouble.

Good job, Patrick Sharp! And now momentum has swung in favor of the Kings, nice. The series shifts to LA for Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday where a raucous Staples Center crowd will be awaiting. That does not guarantee victory, but it is a hefty advantage for the Kings and right now, Chicago does not want any advantages to favor the Kings. So far, this series is turning out better than last year’s, so let’s keep it that way, okay LA?

Mike W.R.

Twitter: @TheBigDisco

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