With my tears currently blurring the vision of my screen, I painfully type every word of this time-honored AC tradition of acknowledging the Anaheim Ducks' playoff opponent. As of this very moment, I still have not fully recovered from the results of the LA-Anaheim series. My heart still hurts for Teemu and my head still hurts from the echoing laughter from LA fans. But as much as I absolutely loathe, detest, and abhor the LA Kings, I will honor the good ol' playoff hockey tradition of the handshake line. Yes, while we may all want to pull a Milan Lucic and use some choice phrases as we shake hands, let's keep it classy, at least on our side of things.
But when all is said and done, The LA Kings kicked the Anaheim Ducks' asses in Game 7, clear and simple. The Ducks had the chance of closing the series out earlier. They didn't show up at all for Game 7. But the LA Kings did. And so they are now off to Chi-Town to face the 2013 Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. *cue Chelsea Dagger*
Jonathan Quick Reigns in Net...for now
Firstly, as much press as the Ducks earned from spinning the goaltending carousel of Jonas Hiller, Frederik Andersen, and eventually future American Hero John Gibson, it was LA goaltender Jonathan Quick who made the final statement in net. No, contrary to popular NHL belief that Quick is some kind of goaltending god,there were a couple beautiful ways in which the Ducks really exposed him as a mortal being, including the night in LA when he was actually pulled from net. But the folly was on Ducks for not consistently attacking the crease enough and exploiting the space left behind by Quick in skating above the goal line. But in the instances where the Ducks did add forecheck pressure in the offensive zone, it was really Quick's aggression in the crease and straight out acrobatic athletic ability that rescued his team.
I will just say that I look forward to the future when all eyes will be on Southern California as "Jonathan Quick versus John Gibson" headlines dominate all of NHL. Quick better not get too comfortable being the face of the Red, White, and Blue, because Gibson is on the rise!
Kings of Defense
I really can't talk about LA's blue line without mentioning Drew Doughty. I hate him so f***ing much. He's a cocky sh*t-talking LA King that plays hockey so damn beautifully. He and Jake Muzzin were an absolute b**** for the Ducks to play against. Not only is Doughty one of the best defenseman in the NHL, but he plays quite the responsible offensive game as well. The Kings' blue line took a big hit when they lost Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell. In the beginning of the series, the Ducks really exploited the the fact and it began to look like the Kings would not be able to recover without two of their defensive mainstays. And yet, the Kings were able to regroup and get back to their juggernaut defensive game that we all have come to know and dread. They did exactly what the Ducks did to them in Games 1 and 2, but instead of regressing as the series went on, it only got better and better. Even without Regehr and Mitchell, guys like Alec Martinez and Slava Voynov stepped up and the Kings were able to shut down any Anaheim activity in the middle of the ice. This Kings' defense is exactly why the Ducks wanted to avoid the match-up.
Since when did you have this kind of offense?
The Kings had us all utterly fooled when they went through a rough stretch in scoring goals during the regular season. They took a gamble in acquiring Marian Gaborik during the trade deadline. What looked to be a questionable move ended emerged as being a big winner in the post-season. He ended up becoming one of the Kings that had us Ducks fans screaming and pointing out, "WHERE IS GABORIK?!! FIND HIM AND COVER GABORIK!" The Ducks must have mistaken Gaborik for the old, injury-prone Blue Jackets Gaborik that went unnoticed most of the season. Well, they paid for that dearly in goals.
Anze Kopitar is one of the only Kings that I will actually tolerate. The guy is so good a hockey player and just has such great hockey sense on the ice. His point total in the post season speaks volumes as to his dominance among his teammates. His effort along the boards and in front of the net ends up on the scoreboard. He is a constant on the Kings' score sheet.
While Kings like Kopitar, Gaborik, and Jeff Carter received the most buzz, it was really the emergence of depth players that was the tipping point. The Kings have a knack of building up momentum in the off-season when it really matters. When players like Trevor Lewis, Tanner Pearson and Justin Williams decided to show up and contribute offensively in the last games of the series, it spelled the end of the Ducks. Game 7 summarized all that was right for the Kings and all that went wrong for the Ducks.
We All Love Teemu
The words "classy" and "LA Kings" are words hardly ever used in the same sentence...but "Teemu Selanne" would be name linking those two words in a statement. This year, the Kings did show some upright great class when it came to saluting our beloved Teemu Selanne. From honoring him with the orange paddle board in his last regulation game at the Staples Center to staying on the ice after the series win to stick tap a salute the Great Eight to the apology from LA Kings Coach Daryl Sutter to Selanne....That's the beauty of hockey.
Battle for California has only just begun
So now as you fly to Chicago, I thank you LA Kings for what looks to be the true beginning of a beautiful NHL rivalry. May we meet again frequently in future post-seasons and renew the cross-town hatred. I wish you the worst of luck and pray to the hockey gods that you get your asses handed to you by the f***ing Hawks. Do us all a favor and at the very least, beat up on the Chicago Blackhawks on the way to your playoff demise. That way, the Hawks can resemble the walking dead as they fall to the emerging Eastern Conference Champs. If we can't have it, no one else in the Western Conference can.
I will now go curl up into a little ball in a dark room and cry myself to sleep. Suck it LA and see you next year.