I have been a Los Angeles Kings fan for as long as I can remember. To further refine it, the first season I recall being a fan was during a horrible, horrible season where the Kings couldn't buy a win! Surely I can be forgiven for being a bit cocky, as I wasn't even alive the last time we made the Stanley Cup finals...So this is just a bit of a rant about how wrong people were.
At the start of the NHL season, I recall so many people claiming it to be a Canucks v Pens final, or Blackhawks v Pens, basically anyone v the Pens, but no mention of the three underdogs this year, the Kings, the Predators and the Coyotes...At the start of the playoffs, everyone predicted the Canucks to take out the Kings, the Red Wings to take out the Coyotes, and the Blackhawks to beat the Preds. Fair enough I suppose, they are the defending President's Cup holders and Western Conference Champs, perennial Stanley Cup contenders, and winners from 2 years ago.
Who would have guessed that the Kings, consistently able to build a huge lead and blow it, would win it in 5, quite comfortably too. The same team that just 4 years ago were an embarrassment to the Pacific Division...Same with the Coyotes, Pacific Division winners who finally wrestled the Sharks from it, and took it to the recent Champions. And let's be honest, who has ever put the words Nashville Predators and Stanley Cup Champions in the same sentence?
Can the Kings be seen as legitimate title contenders now? Surely they can right? I mean, during the Canucks series, with every game naysayers would yell "Kings can't hold this, they're gonna still lose to the Canucks!", or "Who cares, the Blues will deal to you quickly!" And then mocking West Coast hockey for not being rough enough to win.
So the Kings won in 5 games, and then in 4 games, including a 5-2 rout that involved scoring 4 goals in one period. Something the Kings simply don't do. The #1 seed and #2 seed have fallen to the #8 seed, the Kings that apparently were to easily fall to their opponents. Proving to be dominant enough on the Penalty Kill, and on defense to win games and beat the best opponents. All the same while going 8-1, and 5-0 on the road. Beating the Blues twice in St Louis where the Blues were so dominant in the regular season.
And as for the Eastern Conference being far more dominant than the Western Conference, look at LA's record against the Eastern teams, its fairly scary for the Prince of Wales winner I must say...
Quick is a shoo-in for Vezina, and his performances have proven testament to that. .948 SV%, a shutout in a 1-0 thriller where the Kings were outshot by a long margin. The Kings have scored shorthanded more times than on the powerplay, and have been killing penalties like madmen recently. They've peaked at the right time.
But will the #8 seeds ever be considered favourites? Probably not, but the underdog label seems to work well for them, as when they're not expected to do well, the 18,000 faithful spectators at Staples will support either way, and the Kings will show belief. A sweep for the first time in franchise history (Best of 7), and two 3-0 leads in both series have proven dominance both home and away from home.
Can the Kings bring home the Cup? Yes. Will they? That's another question, but surely the naysayers must be gone by now, and there can be no doubting the Kings as they are now. Whether it be the Coyotes or the Predators, Kings fans should feel comfortable enough to say that they're going to the finals.