9:54 AM CDT, May 24, 2012
I stayed up late Tuesday night so you didn’t have to. I watched the Los Angeles Kings-Phoenix Coyotes go overtime so you didn’t have to.
And if you’re a Blackhawks fan, you didn’t want to see it because you’d see the future and it’s ugly and painful.
You already know the Coyotes. They’re the team that waxed your Hawks in the first round. You might not know the Kings. They’re the Coyotes on steroids.
Remember how the Coyotes killed the Hawks’ beloved puck-possession game and forced the play to the boards and then left the Hawks for dead? Remember how the Coyotes relied on a big goalie who made the supposedly sharpshooting Hawks look inept?
The Kings did it better. The Kings did everything better. That’s why they’re going to the Stanley Cup Final after charging to a 4-3 overtime win in Game 5.
Before you sneer at the Kings as an eighth seed that got lucky, take a look at coach Darryl Sutter’s record after being hired in December. The Kings went 25-13-11 under the former Hawks captain and coach. By contrast, the Hawks went 24-18-7 in the same span.
For what it's worth, the President's Cup-winning Canucks went 31-11-7 over that stretch and the Central Division-champion Blues went 30-12-7. And for what it's worth, the Kings wiped out the President's Cup-winning Canucks in the first round and then swept the Central Division-winning Blues in the second round. That's not luck. That's a team with the talent to execute in virtually every situation.
The Kings are big and fast. They can score and defend. They devour loose pucks in the middle of the ice and destroy opponents along the boards. They will play any style of game you want --- wide-open or defensively obsessed --- and they will beat you at it, especially in your barn. They have won an NHL record 10 straight playoff road games.
The Kings’ best players have been their best players, and their other skaters have been nearly as good, from Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar down to Jarret Stoll and Dwight King.
Hey, Stan Bowman, what are the Kings doing with legitimate Nos. 1 and 2 centers?
Hey, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, do the Hawks have any “best’’ players?
The Kings also have scoring depth that makes them impossible to check while also trying to score yourself after Los Angeles acquired Jeff Carter late in the season.
Hey, Stan Bowman, how does a team add a top-six scorer late in the season? You mean that’s legal after all?
And we haven’t even talked about Jonathan Quick, who appears to have a 10-year reservation at the Vezina Trophy finalists table. The Mike Smith who tortured the Hawks in goal in the first round was made to look like he had training wheels in the Western Conference Final.
The Hawks couldn’t get past the Coyotes in the postseason. Sames goes for Nashville. This came after the Hawks couldn’t get past St. Louis, Nashville or Detroit in the Central Division. I know the Blues, Predators, Red Wings and Hawks all finished with more points than the Coyotes and Kings. I also know it doesn’t matter. The Hawks know it doesn’t matter after the Coyotes took away their game and took away their spring.
What matters is the Coyotes and Kings met in the conference final, and the Kings won. That’s the new target: a team that is deeper up front than the Hawks, stronger across the blue line than the Hawks, infinitely better in net than the Hawks, and hungrier if not tougher 1-20 nightly than the Hawks.
That’s what the Hawks are shooting at next season, and I’m thinking, thank goodness there will be a lockout.
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