Here’s an interesting query for you to digest as you begin to tuck into the meat of the second round of the playoffs: Take a wild guess how many roughing penalties the Los Angeles Kings have in this year’s post-season.
That would be three – one to Jonathan Quick and two to Drew Doughty. So much for the big, scary Darryl Sutter-coached Los Angeles Kings. Actually, the Kings have a more difficult time counting how many players are on the ice than they do keeping their sticks down, as evidenced by their three minors for too many men on the ice and two for highsticking. Care to guess how many charging penalties the Kings have sat out? One. Crosschecking? Zero. Fighting? Zero.
In fact, of the 28 minor penalties the Kings have taken in eight playoff games so far, almost half of them have been for hooking (six), tripping (four) and too many men on the ice (three). The big, bad Kings have averaged just seven penalty minutes per game in the playoffs so far.
So what’s the point here? Well, it’s that the Kings are also known as one of the toughest teams in the NHL. They take the body often and without reservation and they grind teams down with their size and nastiness and ability to control the play by using those attributes. Anyone who watched the Kings first round series with the St. Louis Blues came away thinking it was the most entertaining, most hard-hitting series of the playoffs so far. In fact, many wondered how much the Kings would have left in their tank after going toe-to-toe – in the figurative sense, since there wasn’t a single fight – for six games with such a similar opponent. Well, if the first two games of the second round are any indication, there appears to be plenty of energy in reserve.
So it appears there’s no need to hide your kids or hide your wife from the Kings, unless of course they intend on going into the corner for a loose puck. The Kings clearly are not the boogeyman. What they are is a team that, for the most part, plays the game the way it was meant to be played. They play on the edge, but rarely cross it. They play hard and they hit to make an impression, but they also play with an incredible amount of discipline. So really, it’s not so hard to do that in a game where emotions run high and there’s a ton of physical contact.
In the first round series with the Blues, the two teams averaged 80 hits per game between them and the pace was furious, the emotions were high and the play was as physical as you’re going to see at any point in this year’s playoffs. And those two teams combined for just 13.7 penalty minutes per game between them. You know why? Because it was played between two physical teams that are coached by men who know how to control their players’ emotions. Take a look down the Kings bench and you’d be hard-pressed to figure out whether they’re winning or losing a game, or ahead or behind in a series.
And unlike a lot of other teams, the Kings and the Blues don’t take every hit, every after-the-whistle remark, or every scrum around the net as an affront to their pride and masculinity that needs to be avenged at all costs. They hit hard and they take as well as they give. And that’s the way hockey was meant to be played.
Throughout the regular season, the Kings were second in the league with 1,446 hits and were fourth in the league with just an average of 10 penalty minutes a game. They had a total of 19 fights, which was five more than B.J. Crombeen and 21st in the NHL. In fact, there were eight guys in the American League who had more fights than the Kings did during the season.
But still, the Kings are regarded as one of the toughest, if not the toughest, teams in the league. Are they angels? Absolutely not. Dustin Brown’s simultaneous attempt to elbow Jaden Schwartz in the head and take out his knee was a despicable act that deserved a suspension. But for the most part, the Kings are a group of players that knows its limits. The game after they lost Jarret Stoll to a Raffi Torres head shot, the Kings had exactly eight minutes in penalties and did nothing to go out of their way to seek retribution. (A lot of the credit for which has to go to the league for wisely suspending Torres for the remainder of the series.)
The Kings are Stanley Cup champions and are setting themselves up for another long playoff run, in large part because they play with the discipline of a champion.
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Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.