- Scott Burnside, NHL
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What else can you say about Jonathan Quick? The dude was a fortress. He got into the heads of the Canucks, Blues, Coyotes and Devils, players on those teams trying so hard to make perfect shots that they began to miss the net more than hit it late in all four of those series. Quick was nominated for the Vezina Trophy after a regular season in which he kept the Kings afloat while they struggled to score and find their consistency. He brought his game up another level in the playoffs, as if that was even possible.
Perfect balance. That's what the Kings had on defense. Three puck-movers paired with three stay-at-home, shutdown types. Three righties with three lefties. After Jack Johnson was traded to Columbus and Slava Voynov was called up to replace him on the second pairing, everything fell into place. Rob Scuderi played with Drew Doughty on a top pairing that had a dominant playoffs. Not to be outdone, Willie Mitchell was a major minutes player and played with the emerging Voynov on the second pair. The underrated Alec Martinez completed the pairs with shot-blocking machine Matt Greene. Doughty, after a two subpar regular seasons in a row, re-emerged in the playoffs as the all-world defenseman who first exploded on the scene in 2010. There will be Norris Trophies in his future. His play this postseason was certainly Conn Smythe-worthy.
The 1-2-3 punch at center of Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll was too much for anyone to handle in these playoffs. It afforded head coach Darryl Sutter the ability to not worry about matchups, confident any of his lines could do the job against any other line. That's significant, given that the Kings opened all four of their series on the road, where they don't have last line change. Kopitar and linemate Dustin Brown both had Conn Smythe-worthy playoffs entering the Cup finals but both players dipped at times, which affected the team's offensive output, Still, overall, a terrific postseasons by both players, the top two scorers on the team. Richards was a beast as the No. 2 center with a 200-foot game unmatched in these playoffs. Dustin Penner was reborn. Rookies Jordan Nolan and Dwight King had key moments. All in all, four-deep on the forward lines is hard to beat.
Power play: C
Hey, every team has a weakness, right? The Kings' lowly ranked power play wasn't an asset, much like it wasn't for Boston a year ago in the Bruins' championship run. As Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told us before the playoffs, power plays are overrated in the postseason. Having said that, the Kings did score six power-play goals in the Cup finals -- including three in the first period of their Game 6 clincher -- their man advantage coming somewhat alive. Still, it wasn't a unit they relied on a whole lot to win games this spring, that's for sure.
Penalty kill: A+
Talk about dominant. Here's where the Kings might have won their Stanley Cup. Total shutdown of their four opponents' power plays in the playoffs while tallying a league-leading five shorthanded goals. To allow New Jersey just one power-play goal in the Stanley Cup finals was unreal. The 5-on-3 kill in Game 3 was a defining moment in the series. Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Jeff Carter, Stoll and Trevor Lewis were top notch on the PK this spring. Mitchell, Scuderi, Doughty and Greene were equally formidable on defense. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that Quick make a few saves on the PK when needed.
Everything Sutter touched in the playoffs turned to gold. Not bad for an Alberta farmer who had shoveled manure the day GM Dean Lombardi offered him the job in December. Sutter's direct and honest communication with his team, which his players will tell you they greatly appreciate -- even if it's tough love sometimes -- had an obvious impact in the way in which the club responded night in and night out with a consistent effort. Sutter's decision after the first round to swap Penner with King was pure genius, Penner finding a home on an effective second line with Richards and Carter while King found his role on the third line with Stoll and Lewis. Sutter's poise, experience and tactical know-how were top-notch in these playoffs.