NHL Playoffs: Los Angeles’ Unexpected Offensive Roll Continues

As one watches the Los Angeles Kings move through the NHL playoffs, one wonders how this team ended up as the 8-seed in the West and barely qualifying for the postseason to begin with. The offensive force this team has consistently brought is coming out of nowhere and they did it again in Phoenix last night, with a 4-2 win that opened the Western Conference Finals.

Dustin Brown has been the Kings’ go-to player all year and he was active in the offense all night, getting off seven shots and his assist to center Anze Kopitar got the scoring started just a few minutes into the game. Phoenix responded with a goal from Derek Morris. After a Kings goal in the second period, Morris responded with an assist and the game was tied 2-2 going into the final period.

Throughout the playoffs, Phoenix has played a dangerous game of chicken with goaltender Mike Smith. He’s been the best in the league all year, but you cannot allow your goalie to get pummeled with the raw number of shots Smith sees each night. Los Angeles got 17 shots in the first period, 14 more in the second and then hammered Smith with 16 more attempts in the final period. Eventually the law of averages say some of those are going to get through, especially when the key offensive players for the opposition is the one taking the shots. Kopitar got off six shots and forward Dustin Penner got five. And of Brown’s seven, one of them came with about 12 minutes left in the game and it found the back of the net to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. Los Angeles tacked on one more goal in the closing minute after Phoenix pulled Smith and played 6-on-5 in a desperate attempt to tie the game.

Los Angeles has been winning games throughout the postseason thanks to its defense and to their own elite goaltender Jonathan Quick. The Kings’ netminder was good last night, but not great, and the fact LA was able to win a game with sustained offensive force shows that whatever the seed numbers, the Kings are the better team in this series, and now they’ve got the first win under their belt.

The Eastern Conference Finals open tonight when New Jersey crosses the George Washington Bridge into New York City to face the Rangers. TheSportsNotebook’s series preview will be posted later this morning.