After the Los Angeles Kings knocked off the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the NHL playoffs, most of the coverage focused on what the Canucks did wrong. The Kings were the no. 8 seed, and they were up against the winners of the Presidents' Trophy, after all.
The Canucks were going through the motions of the regular season, waiting for the real run. The playoffs and another shot at the Stanley Cup, that was what was really all about, right? Well, the Canucks, and management, and the fans for that matter, all forgot something. You have to win at each level to get to the next.
Where the Canucks might have been surprised, the Saint Louis Blues had some warning. The Kings were coming at them with all cylinders firing. Not playing like the no. 8 seed, to say the least.
Blues swept aside by surging L.A.
That didn't stop the Kings from sweeping the no. 2 seeded team in the Western Conference right out of the way with a 3-1 victory May 6. It was one of the lesser efforts the Kings put out in the postseason, but still enough to send the Blues off. Saint Louis joins the Canucks in wondering where the Kings of the playoffs came from.
The Kings didn't clinch a playoff berth until just before their 81st game, but have been on fire ever since. Truth be told, they were carrying on a surge that began in the waning weeks of the regular schedule. Los Angeles became the only team in NHL history who came in at the no. 8 seed and knocked off the no. 1 and no.2 in their conference in the same year.
How far will the Kings go?
The Kings will face the winner between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Nashville Predators. Phoenix leads the series 3-1 and will look to close things out Monday night. If the Coyotes come through or if Nashville rebounds might not matter. The way the Kings are playing, either one will likely be a stop on the way to the Stanley Cup finals for the squad from Los Angeles.
Against the Blues Dustin Brown continued leading the Kings, Anze Kopitar stayed hot, and Jonathan Quick hasn't let down in front of the net. The Kings' great play doesn't excuse the fact that the Canucks were sent to the offseason early. Vancouver will still have to look for ways to improve, and Alain Vigneault could still end up out of a job. The Kings are showing the other side of the equation, that's all.
Jeff Musall has been a fan of the Vancouver Canucks since he started following hockey. He was disappointed by the early exit and hopes the team can right the ship for next season.