By Nick Craddock
Don’t fret about the aging Lakers, good people of Los Angeles, your Los Angeles Kings will win the Stanley Cup and bring joy and a championship banner to the Staples Center soon enough. Without being so bold as to bet my own money, I would assure any willing (and possibly chronic) gamblers to place their bets on the team in Black and White to hoist the Cup as NHL champions in June.
Despite Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Finals arguably being the sloppiest two games of the Kings’ playoff run to date, the boys from LA managed to edge the Coyotes 4-3 in overtime in Game 5 to take the series in five games and advance to the Stanley Cup to face the winner of the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils. Somehow, the Kings survived a lackadaisical start, particularly from stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, a 5-on-3 Coyotes powerplay in the third period, and a Phoenix powerplay in overtime to avoid giving the fellow upstart Coyotes yet another breath of life in the series.
Really, the Kings were just a “Mike Smith” away from sweeping the Coyotes in four games as the Phoenix goaltender briefly returned to his earlier round form in pushing the series back to Glendale, Arizona for what turned out to be the decisive Game 5.
Still, the fact remains that the Kings have only needed 14 games to dispose of the Western Conference’s top three seeds and own a perfect road record (8-0). The small sample size of games has been proof enough that the Kings are playing the best hockey of any team in the playoffs. Continue reading