A two-day break could not have come any sooner for the Vancouver Canucks. Down 3-0 in their first round series, the Presidents' Trophy winning squad certainly did not expect to face such a formidable foe in the Los Angeles Kings. However, the league's royalty have found timely goal scoring while piggybacking stellar play from starting goalie Jonathan Quick.
So as the Canucks attempt to be the fourth team in NHL history to surmount a comeback from a three-game deficit, and win, the Kings simply need to win one of their next four games in order to advance.
But is a first-round victory all we can expect from the team who slayed the reigning Western Conference Champions? No, not at all.
The Kings faltered somewhat down the stretch but they are not the same club as last season, or even earlier this season. No longer are they a defensive team that collapses during every rush. No longer do they have an anemic offense that couldn't score on Nikolai Khabibulin. This club has a new coach, a new system and a few choice forwards who represent a much better fit.
In fact, the Kings' offense has been a focus of the site several times. Back in December, we thought their scoring would take a hit without Mike Richards. And it did. We also discussed said offense taking a turn for the best once Jeff Carter arrived. With a team so packed with talent, it only made sense that their luck would turn.
Following a few seasons under defensive-minded coach Terry Murray, these Kings needed to find a way to break through. They began changing personnel by promoting rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, two big bodies capable of falling in line, forcing Brad Richardson and enforcer Kevin Westgarth to the press box. That infusion of youth coupled with the instant chemistry between Carter and Richards has transformed the league's 29th offense into one that has averaged three goals-forced per game in the playoffs.
And as you should know by now, three goals is more than enough for Quick, who has extended his Vezina Trophy-worthy regular season into the playoffs. At the prime age of 26, Quick has certainly vaulted his standing into that of the elite netminders, posting a shrewd 1.34 GAA and .965 save percentage over these three games against the 'Nucks.
Last season, the Boston Bruins got hot at the right time and became an unstoppable force. This year, it could be the Kings as their forwards continue to gel, their goalie continues to stand tall and their defense, which has steadily improved as Drew Doughty gained confidence, aids their two-way battle to 16.
At 6/1, the odds of the Kings winning the Stanley Cup seem pretty far fetched. Nevertheless, this organization has all the pieces, from the net on out, to not only defeat the Canucks but to advance much farther into the postseason.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.