The Los Angeles Kings are off to the Conference Finals for just the second time in franchise history, and the first time in 19 years. They’ve gotten there this year as the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed, and had to get through the West’s top two teams first.
But don’t you dare call them an “underdog.”
Outside of finishing eighth in the Western Conference, nothing about this team screams underdog.
A true underdog is usually a team low on talent or experience that has overachieved, that is playing above its skill level and that finds a way to get by the higher-seeded favourite without necessarily coming off as the better team. None of those criteria fit this Kings squad.
The Kings are highly talented and deep. They haven’t just gotten by the top seeded Canucks and Blues, they’ve plowed through those two teams in nine mostly dominating performances. They haven’t escaped a couple of series against better teams, they’ve used the two series to prove that they were, in fact, the better team all along.
And they’re certainly not a team overachieving or playing way above their heads. The Kings underachieved in the regular season and are now finally playing up to their capabilities.
Jonathan Quick has been superb, but this isn’t J.S. Giguere dragging an underwhelming 2003 Ducks team past vastly superior teams. On the contrary, Quick is giving a vastly superior team great goaltending.
They’re solid in net, they’re playing well defensively, and they’re loaded down the middle.
Call them an eight-seed if you must (they’re like an eight-seed with an asterisk), because that’s where they found themselves and that’s what they earned (or rather failed to earn in the regular season), but don’t insult my intelligence by calling them “underdogs.”
Other than that, here are your morning links:
- Upsets are the rule rather than the exception this post-season (Montreal Gazette). Fair enough, but the Kings beating the Blues was not an upset. It was a team that underachieved in the regular season beating a less experienced team that overachieved in the regular season.
- The NHL is reportedly set to announce Coyotes ownership deal with Greg Jamison (Puck Daddy). Jamison is a former CEO of the Sharks.
- Ovechkin not heading for suspension (Washington Examiner). Here’s video of the hit. Ovie left his feet, hit Girardi around the head, and could be considered a repeat offender.
- Rostislav Klesla was suspended one game on Sunday for boarding Matt Halischuk (CBS Sports).
- Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn are expected back for Nashville’s Game 5 in Phoenix tonight (Montreal Gazette). As I wrote on Friday, keeping the pair out of Game 4 was playing with fire, and the Preds got burned.
- Kostitsyn guarantees better offence for Predators (The Tennessean). He better deliver then, because these guys aren’t in any position to be guaranteeing anything right now.
- The Kings are partying like it’s 1993 (The Hockey Writers).
- The Blues refuse to blame injuries for their loss to the Kings (ESPN). I won’t discount the significance of St.Louis’ injuries, but L.A. just manhandled them too easily to think that a healthy Halak (and healthier Pietrangelo/Backes) would have made the difference.
- Shop NHL’s marketing strategy angers fans (Bloguin.com). Usually it’s the championship merchandise and paraphernalia that comes out amazingly fast, not the eliminated merchandise.
- The Devils outclassed the Flyers in more ways than one on Sunday night in Newark (National Post).
- The Flyers have been no-shows against the Devils (CSNPhilly.com)
- Rick Dudley’s Toronto exit strategy has Draft implications (Toronto Star).