Kings Outlast Blackhawks, Discover There's One More Series to Go
The Los Angeles Kings made history by stunning a third arena's crowd this spring.
By beating the Chicago Blackhawks on a pinball goal at 5.47 into overtime, Coach Daryl Sutter's charges became the first NHL squad ever to win three consecutive Games 7 on road ice.
The fact that they did it against such elite foes -- and legitimate Cup contenders in their own right -- as San José, Anaheim, and defending champions Chicago makes the accomplishment all the more impressive. Unbelievable, even.
And there's no doubt they saved the best for last:
Except it's not the last.
Watching from the comfort of their own respective homes, the New York Rangers surely enjoyed the drama, the action, and most of all, the bumps and bruises the Kings endured to earn the right to meet them.
Yes, them, the Broadway Blueshirts, the fifth seed in the East, who held their own as two of the top three -- Boston and Tampa Bay -- couldn't stay the course. They handled the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins themselves.
New York has now benefitted from three days' extra recovery time and the confidence that, no matter what, über-goalie Henrik Lundqvist is always ready.
Actually, über is German; Lundqvist is Swedish, but super-målvakt just doesn't have the same impact in English.
However, King Henrik will need to ratchet up that impact if the Rangers expect to surprise the road warriors from Los Angeles. It's the King against the Kings, and let the analyses begin, most of which will go something like this:
No one seems to mention two other factors that weigh in the Rangers' favor. Alain Vigneault has seen his share of Daryl Sutter's roll-four-lines-and-counter system while with Vancouver. His spectacular failure to beat it is what plopped him in the Garden in a backhanded sort of way. He's clearly had time to brood -- as fired coaches do -- and muse about what could be done differently.
And that leads to the second factor: speed. Personnified by another Swede -- Carl Hagelin -- the Blueshirts will bank on the Kings' failure to hit what they can't catch. Whether or not they'll be able to connect on that quickness is the variable. The seemingly endless Los Angeles depth will have much to say about that.
So while the rested Rangers head West, the Kings must take a deep breath and get back to work.