With their second 2-1 OT victory in as many games against the NJ Devils, the Kings moved to 10-0 to continue their unbeaten streak on the road this Stanley Cup Playoffs.
How? Why? But . . .?
Coaches, players, and fans have questions and are searching for answers, but no one has pointed the finger at Gary Bettman as the architect of major media market Los Angeles’ unheard of streak. We’ll leave the conspiracy theories for his pal David Stern and the NBA. But how else can you explain the Kings dominating fashion in the playoffs?
No matter who is on the ice for the Kings they implement their system. The efficient defense outnumbering the forwards deep in the zone, with quick tape to tape transitions out of the defensive zone into an aggressive forecheck seems simple, but is effective. Without knowing any better, you’d say it was the same three forwards on the ice the whole time, since all four lines have just about executed to perfection throughout the postseason. But the one constant on the ice is Jonathan Quick.
On Saturday Quick allowed only one goal against on 33 shots faced, nearly twice as many as New Jersey steered his way in the Game 1 2-1 OT victory. His playoff best goals against averagelowered to 1.44 (compared to second best Lundqvist 1.82), and his .944 save pct is also the best in the playoffs. But he brings confidence to everything the other Kings on the ice are trying to do.
The Kings killed off 4 of 4 power plays on Saturday, and barely even allowed a shot during them. If the penalty kill hadn’t been so good, the undisciplined penalties the Kings took would spell trouble. The defensemen chased down every dump in and support from the forwards were able to clear the zone almost every time.
The Kings tried to establish their forecheck knowing that Quick is there to back them up if they were aggressive or too aggressive. The Kings were caught on multiple odd man rushes per period, but Parise, Kovalchuk and Henrique couldn’t find the net. It was actually during the Kings best run of play, when they had taken all the sting out of the game, that New Jersey’s Ryan Carter deflected the shot from the point down to the ice so the bouncing puck squirted between Quick’s stick hand and his body.
The Devils certainly had the better chances, and for most of the game (particularly in overtime) they outplayed the Kings. If it wasn’t for Doughty’s coast to coast stick handling with wrist shot through the Devils screen that surprisingly beat Brodeur in the first period, they wouldn’t have had any offense going. New Jersey kept them to the outside. But they got the goal. Similar to Game 1, once again the Devils missed chances with the net pretty much wide open. With under 10 seconds to play a sloppy pass from the boards out towards the crease was almost smashed into a game winning goal by Kovalchuk, but Kopitar was there to just get his stick in the way, and the fluttering puck bounced off the crossbar.
The Kings withstood early pressure in overtime. And 13 minutes in, Jeff Carter centered a pass to Penner on the doorstep of the goal. Carter circled behind the net to find the puck which never made it onto Penner’s tape, he circled around to the front of the net, and stumbled into a shooting lane short side as Penner and three Devils opened up a Fast track to the goal in the gridlock in front of the net.
So despite superior play and highlight goaltending, the Devils are in the same situation that EVERY team that has played the Kings this postseason was. They are headed to Los Angeles facing a 2-0 deficit in the series. I’d certainly ask the Canucks, Blues, and Coyotes for advice, but it might not help. They might feel like they were the victim of bad bounces, and their 4-1 or 4-0 series losses don’t reflect the reality of the matchup. But that doesn’t matter.
If Devils coach Peter Deboer called up Alain Vigneault, or Ken Hitchcock, or Dave Tippett you’d like get the best advice you could get. And in a typical, understated hockey manner they’d tell him, “Good Luck.”