Monday, April 23, 2012
Kings: upset of the Canucks was in numbers only
By Dan Arritt
Of all the major first-round upsets in professional sports, the Los Angeles Kings' five-game victory over the Vancouver Canucks was probably one of the least surprising.
At least to everyone inside the L.A. locker room.
Sure, the Kings knocked off the President’s Trophy winners, the team with the best record in the NHL during the regular season, and they did it with relative ease.
But with the talent they had on the roster, the Kings were long overdue due for a hot streak.
They basically endured five months of June gloom before realizing they needed to win more than they lost just to qualify for the playoffs for a third straight year, and likely save the jobs of general manage Dean Lombardi and his personal choice to coach the team out of its winter doldrums, Darryl Sutter.
In mid-March, they finally managed a winning streak of more than four games, a six-game stretch in which they beat playoff-bound teams such as the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues, their opponent in the next round.
Even when the Kings lost their final two regular-season games to the Sharks to miss out on just their second Pacific Division title in the franchise’s 44-year history, there was no panic in the locker room, just a sense of preparation for the task at hand.
Most experts picked Vancouver to win the series, but a look beyond the won-loss records suggested the Kings were a legitimate threat all along.
The Kings have five Stanley Cup winners on their roster, and four others who have been to the finals. They have a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie in Jonathan Quick and a Norris Trophy nominated defenseman in Drew Doughty.
They had all the pieces to take it to the Canucks and every reason to succeed.
Vancouver, meanwhile, was missing its leading goal scorer from the regular season, Daniel Sedin, for the first three games due to a concussion. His absence also seemed to silence his twin brother, Henrik, who didn't show up until Daniel returned for Game 4.
They managed to win that game and avoid becoming the first President’s Trophy winner to get swept in the opening round, but then the series went back on the road, a place the Kings are surprisingly more comfortable than at home. They won their fifth straight road playoff game and seventh in the last nine games to eliminate the Canucks and get past the opening round for the first time since 2001.
The series will likely go down as one of the great upsets in hockey history but in reality, the Kings were really just heating up.
Don't expect the temperature to drop anytime soon.