Kings’ coronation almost inevitable
I had actually started a blog about the ongoing zombie apocalypse and I now pivot back to hockey.
A natural segue if you ask me.
The premise of my abandoned blog was based on last week’s zombie incidents in Miami and Baltimore. In case you missed them, in Miami, a naked man, supposedly high on something, possibly bath salts, nearly chewed the face off a homeless man. You know a story is messed up when being naked in public is pretty much incidental to the story.
That was followed a few days later by a man outside Baltimore deciding to reenact the ending to “Hannibal” and eat another man’s brain.
I imagined myself being approached by frantic editors telling me of zombie attacks in Rehoboth Beach and how I would write the lede.
"They want you…dead!"
“Rehoboth Beach is known for its restaurants, but now, the tourists have become the meal.”
"Hang on to your faces, the zombies have come to Rehoboth Beach."
"Rehoboth Beach calls itself 'The Nation's Summer Capital,' but now it will be known as 'Zombieland.'
I ended up stopping at the following graphs:
“Given the state of the world today, it really was only a matter of time until we add zombie attacks to the mix. Possibly half the country is set to vote for a man named Willard who prefers to be called Mitt who has promised, as part of his economic platform, to repeal his own health care law.
The Los Angeles Kings are two wins away from the Stanley Cup. So really, the zombies are coming at a good time.”
One change since then: the Kings are now one win away from the Cup. Not only that, they are one win away from establishing themselves as one of the finest playoff juggernauts of all time.
For anyone that has followed hockey for a long time, this truly is a sign the zombie apocalypse is not only coming, it is already here.
For pretty much their entire existence, other than Wayne Gretzky’s seven years, the Kings have been an afterthought. In their own hometown, the Kings are L.A.’s equivalent of Chuck Palahniuk with a dedicated cult following, but never a real threat to challenge the bestseller list with the Lakers, Dodgers, UCLA basketball and USC football.
In the 1987 movie “Dragnet,” Dan Aykroyd has the line, “Sure, this city isn't perfect, we need a smut-free life for all of our citizens; cleaner streets, better schools, a good hockey team.” It's been the truth for the better part of 45 years.
So yeah, it’s a little surprising that this franchise has put on one of the five greatest playoff runs in the history of the NHL. 15-2 overall. Defeated the 1,2 and 3 seeds in the West. In all four of their series’, the Kings have held a 3-0 lead. Ten straight road wins. Undefeated in overtime.
Yes, they still need to win that 16th game. But there is an inevitability about this Kings team that leads you to believe they could play playoff rounds until August and still never lose. The only mystery is how they struggled so much to barely squeak into the playoffs as an 8 seed?
The answer to that question was the Kings’ struggles to score goals during the regular season, a problem that was rectified with the addition of Jeff Carter from Columbus. So what if Carter’s onerous contract expires around the time my one year old son will be finishing middle school? He was the missing link that gave this club two lines that could score. The Kings are one win away from the Cup, and since the Cup is what its all about, it was worth it to eat that contract.
In reality, the Kings march to the Cup has been inevitable perhaps since they finished off the top seed Vancouver Canucks and definitely since they dominatingly swept the second seeded St. Louis Blues in Round 2. Anyone that saw that series could see this was a team that may not be stopped. They toyed with a good Blues team. Once the Nashville Predators melted down in the second round against Phoenix, there was nobody that was stopping Los Angeles.
In the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils have been reduced to a footnote in the Kings march to history. Yes, games 1 and 2 in New Jersey required overtime, but anyone that has watched the Kings this postseason had no doubts the Kings were winning. They have a kind of magic on their side, and the Devils were put on the canvas seemingly for good in Game 3, just as the Canucks, Coyotes and Blues were before them.
The Devils’ problem has been threefold. First of all, the Kings gigantic forwards have forechecked New Jersey into oblivion. Once the Devils get out of their zone, they run into L.A.’s defenseman, which features Drew Doughty, back to playing like he could accept the crown of “Best Defenseman of His Generation” from the recently-retired Nicklas Lidstrom and run with it. Underrated vets Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene have been solid, while puckmover Slava Voynov has emerged as a Sergei Zubov-type.
And if the Devils get by that, they have to solve goaltender Jonathan Quick, which nobody has done all season. Even when the Kings struggled in the regular season, Quick was otherworldly. Quick has been so good, when the Kings got up 2-0 in Game 3, it may as well have been 6-0. It’s almost impossible to put into words how good Quick has been this postseason. His goals against average was 1.44 BEFORE his 4-0 shutout in Game 3. He’s stopped nearly 95 percent of his shots. The Devils have had almost no margin for error because they can’t count on scoring more than a goal on Quick.
The moment this series was over is crystal clear: the Devils, already with Mike Richards, the Kings best penalty killer in the box, were given a four-minute power play when Carter high-sticked Adam Henrique in the face. The Devils had a 5-on-3 for a minute.
And the Kings stole that momentum by killing the first 30 seconds and then drawing a penalty on Marek Zidlicky to negate the bulk of the four-minute minor. The Devils were given a golden opportunity and couldn’t take advantage. You knew after that, the Kings were winning this game. Even with a steady stream of Kings going to the penalty box, the Devils power play was rendered helpless by the Kings penalty killers. If this were football, the Devils would have been declining the penalties. The Devils shouldn’t feel too bad; the Kings did this exact same thing to the vaunted Vancouver power play in Round 1.
No, Devils fans, don’t feel too bad at all. Your team wasn’t stopping the coronation of these Kings. Can New Jersey win Game 4 and stave off the inevitable? Maybe. Then again, everything about the Kings seems inevitable, including hoisting the big hardware Wednesday night.