So we all had picked a Pacific Division team, any Pacific Division team, as the likely Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals, right?
Well, I for one sure didn't. But the Los Angeles Kings brought that scenario one step closer to reality Sunday when the completed a very impressive sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs.
After struggling to find consistent offense all season, the Kings seem to have finally figured it out here lately. The eye test for Sunday's Game 4 told me they were outchanced as well as outshot, but a stiffing defense, stellar goaltending from Jonathan Quick and an offense that's moved from "popgun" to "dangerous with depth scoring" has been a lethal combination so far. And as quickly as they dispatched the Blues, people are starting to ask is this their year?
Essentially, the Los Angeles Kings are not your older brother’s 8-seed. They dispatched the Vancouver Canucks with general ease and are looking to do the same to Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues. They will be in the Conference Final, and will probably win that series, too.
If the Phoenix Coyotes win one of their next three games against the Nashville Predators, it will be an all-Pacific party in the Western Conference Finals and one of the first times in recent memory I can remember a No. 7 and 8 seed facing off.
So Dallas Stars fans, what's your reaction to this sudden divisional dominance? A wonderful reminder that with a good enough goalie, all you've got to do is get in? Or more depressing because the Stars were very close to taking the places of both of these teams in the playoffs?
After the jump, a look back at the Stars top prospects this season, catching up with the World Championships and stuff.
- The folks over at HF are adding a "prospect awards" write up for each franchise this offseason, and here's how they think the Stars youngsters panned out. [Hockey's Future]
- An undrafted free agent, Brenden Dillon wrapped up his year by making a very good impression in his NHL debut. Not a bad way to wrap up a season. [ESPN Dallas]
- You might have heard or seen, or you might have seen Razor good-naturedly responding to the ribbing, but USA beat Canada 5-4 in overtime Saturday in the preliminary round. There's still a long way to go yet, but it's always fun to imagine the Sutter expression that result caused on the face of Canada's coach. [DallasStars.com]
- Kari Lehtonen must be having flashbacks to the end of the Stars season as his Finnish national team seems to be similarly offensively challenged. Even when he got the day off, as he did Sunday in Finland's 1-0 victory over Slovakia, the team still needs a stellar effort from its goalie, this time from Petri Vehanen. Also, Zdeno Chara was not happy with the reffing. Shocking. [IIHF.com]
- By my count, all the Stars at the tournament except Lehtonen should be involved in World Championship games today, with Philip Larsen and Loui Eriksson squaring off while Tomas Vincour, Alex Goligoski, Richard Bachman and Jamie Benn all get teammate-free contests. [IIHF]
- In case you ever wonder where Steve Ott got it from, this is what his dad Butch does for fun over the summer. [@otter2nine]
- Tornado forward Jack Prince was honored with the NAHL's The Messier Project Leadership Award at the league's banquet on Sunday. [DallasNews.com]
- Rick Dudley, currently a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs (insert jokes.... now), is expected to become assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. [TSN.ca]
- The Phoenix Coyotes will try to join their Pacific Division brethren in the Western Conference Finals today as they attempt to close out the Nashville Predators, but they will have to do so without Rostislav Klesla, who was suspended one game for boarding. [Tuscon Citizen]
- The brass over at NBC are so desperate to have Sidney Crosby back in the playoffs that they've brought him back in the form of Kings forward Jordan Nolan. [Puck Daddy]
- Rounding out the Stars choices for their top five series is the top five hits of the season. Usual suspects, apply here.