The stars finally aligned for the Kings.
Not the stars that sparkle in the nighttime sky, but those that occupy a roster spot on the Kings, and swallow up a big chunk of the team’s budget.
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar were outstanding in the four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference semifinals, tallying six points each.
Mike Richards and Dustin Penner were all over the ice, scoring five points apiece and showing the Blues they wouldn’t back down from anybody.
Drew Doughty earned every nickel of his $6-million salary, and Jonathan Quick, if he didn’t prove he was the best goalie in the NHL during the regular season, he certainly did while shutting down St. Louis, and before that the Vancouver Canucks.
“We’re all clicking right now,” Brown said during a conference call Monday.
One of the issues the Kings had during the regular season was their best players weren’t clicking at the same time.
Richards was unbelievably good while scoring nine goals in November, but painfully silent over the next three months. Brown scored one goal in November, but caught fire in late February. Kopitar scored one goal in December, but seven in March.
Penner didn’t score more than six points during any month of the regular season, but has seven in nine playoff games. Doughty didn’t register a three-point game all season, then produced a goal and two assists in Game 3 against the Blues.
Quick has been the most consistent player on the Kings this season and that carried into the playoffs. He has allowed just 14 goals in nine playoff games, in stark contrast to his last two playoff appearances, when he gave up 41 goals in 12 playoff games.
"We've all bought in," Penner said. "You can tell by the way we carry ourselves, as a team and individuals, on a daily basis."
Brown said that the top players on the Kings have been real good, but the team has also benefited from role players stepping up at crucial moments during the playoffs.
Jarret Stoll scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of the Vancouver series, defenseman Matt Greene scored a momentum-changing shorthanded goal in Game 2 of the St. Louis series and earned points in all four games, and rookie wingers Dwight King and Jordan Nolan also scored big goals against the Blues.
“It’s not just our top guys that are playing well and getting us big goals,” Brown said “We’re getting depth scoring, which is huge this time of year.”
Even when it comes to making the right play at the right time, the Kings are getting it done. Brown pointed to the 1-0 victory against the Canucks in Game 3, when L.A. needed to execute in every facet to earn the victory.
“We had one opportunity to score a goal and we did,” Brown said. “Every other opportunity, every other play was made from top to bottom, which allowed us to win the game, 1-0. That’s what playoff hockey is about, is having everyone buy in and having big players step up.”
Now it’s on to the third round for just the second time in franchise history, and the first in 19 years. The Kings don’t know their opponent yet. The Phoenix Coyotes lead the Nashville Predators, 3-games-to-1, heading into Game 5 tonight in Phoenix.
Brown said he doesn’t plan to sit down and watch the game, but he’ll have it on somewhere in his busy house, which includes three young sons. Resting up both physically and mentally is the key at this point.
“You get to this point of the year and, physically, you can find a way to get yourself going, but mentally you’re in a high-stress, high-pressure situation day in and day out," he said. "Just to have a day to not think about hockey, or being under the type of pressure that comes with being in the playoffs, it’s nice just to get away from the game for a day or two and let your mind reset.”