May 29th, 2013
It took a full 60 minutes. It took Jonathan Quick playing out of his mind. It took Justin Williams’ heroics. And it took Dustin Penner’s dirty work. It took all of that for the Kings to leave Staples Center on Tuesday Night with a 2-1 victory in game 7 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals vs San Jose, which earned them a trip to the Western Conference Finals.
After a first period that was more conservative than the Republican National Convention, Justin Williams gave the Kings a big boost in the 2nd period with two quick goals in less than three minutes. Williams hadn’t scored in his last 8 playoff games, but now has 5 goals and 9 points in 4 career game 7’s. Jonathan Quick slammed the door on the Sharks after that. San Jose mounted an attack in the third period that was more relentless than my crazy ex-girlfriend in Chicago, but Quick stood his ground time and time again.
When Sharks forward Joe Pavelski appeared to have an open net with about 5 minutes left, the entire building thought the game was about to be tied. Somehow, Quick kept the puck out of the net, leaving everyone astonished. He made another phenomenal glove save on Logan Couture with 1:20 left in the game as well. It’s amazing that Quick is playing even better hockey this spring than last year’s Conn Smythe winning performance.
I like how Dustin Penner has slept through the last two regular seasons, then really earned his paycheck in the playoffs. Penner threw his weight around all night, and was a big part of the Kings out hitting the sharks 39-30.
The Sharks were tough, and so was their goalie Anti Niemi, but Jonathan Quick was better. I love the Shark fan that called the Kings post game show and claimed that losing Raffi Torres was the difference in this series. That fan conveniently forgot that Torres suspension caused the Kings to lose Jarrett Stoll for the entire series, who is far more valuable to the Kings than Torres is to San Jose.
The bottom line is that once again, the Sharks top players flopped harder than Lebron James did against David West last night. The Kings combo of Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Carter, and Richards scored 9 goals in the series. The Sharks combo of Thornton, Marleau, Couture, Burns, and Pavelski scored just 5 goals in the series. To win big in the playoffs, your best guys have to play well, and you have to have the goaltending. The Kings edged the Sharks in both of those areas.
So who do the Kings want to play next? Conventional wisdom says the Kings should want the Red Wings because they get home ice advantage, and because they’ve won 14 in a row at home, but take a closer look kids. Goaltending is always critical, and there is a much better chance that Quick will outplay Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, as opposed to the upstart and talented Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings. Quick and Howard will likely be battling it out next winter for the starting spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
The Sharks had the best home record in the league this season, so home ice was critical in that series. However, the Kings are one of the few teams in the league who have beaten the Blackhawks in Chicago this year. Chicago peaked early, while the Red Wings appear to be peaking now. Both teams fans are annoying as hell and you’ll have to put up with their ugly mugs at Staples Center. Bring on the Blackhawks!
This year’s playoff run has been much tougher for the Kings than last year. LA went 16-4 on their way to the cup, and lost only once in the first two rounds in 2012. This year, they’ve already played 13 games in the first two rounds, and the team badly needs rest over the next few days. The Kings know they can play better, but they seem resigned to the fact each and every game the rest of the way will be a grind. With Quick in goal the Kings will always have a chance, and as long as the Kings top 6 continue to come through, you have to like their chances to repeat. Meanwhile, the Sharks playoff hopes are shattered once again. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it Nor Cal!