It wasn’t pretty, but the Los Angeles Kings managed to win a tight series with the St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Every game was decided by one goal, and while the Blues were often the team in control of the pace of the contests, it was ultimately the Kings who were able to get the timely goals and key saves to win the series.
Now, as they wait to face either the San Jose Sharks or the Anaheim Ducks in the second round, it seems appropriate to examine which players have had the biggest impact on the team’s success.
Here are our three candidates for the Kings’ MVP of the playoffs (thus far):
F Dustin Brown (1 goal, 1 assist)
No, Brown didn’t blow anyone away with his offensive numbers from the series, but anyone that watched him play could tell that he was instrumental in the Kings staying close in games. He played with a brash intensity that rubbed off on his teammates, and his 31 hits set the physical tone that the Kings had to employ to overcome a Blues team hellbent on beating the more aggressive club.
A quick look at some advanced statistics only increases the appreciation for his play during this series. His on-ice Corsi (goals, saves, missed shots, and blocks, expressed as a per 60 minutes rate statistic) was the best among the forwards who played in every game of the series, with an 8.23 in the six games. That means that when Brown was on the ice, he and his teammates generated more offense than the opposition did, which is remarkable considering how thoroughly the Blues dominated shots on goal in the series.
D Drew Doughty (1 goal, 2 assists, 28:49 ATOI)
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Doughty’s goal in Game 6 helped give the Kings a nice cushion to work off of as the Blues tried to slug their way back into the contest, but it was his defensive play when his team was short-handed that earned him a slot on this list.
In the series, the Kings’ penalty killing unit went 15-for-17 in killing off power plays, and especially did well in Games 2 and 3 when they went 8-for-8 as discipline became an issue. He led the team in time on ice in those short-handed situations (among those who played all six games), and his mix of physical play and acute defensive awareness was a big asset to the Kings in this series.
G Jonathan Quick (1.58 GAA, .944 save percentage)
Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season when the Kings won the Stanley Cup, and after a shaky couple of plays in Game 1, he settled down tremendously. Despite facing nearly 30 shots per game, Quick was able to allow only 10 goals in the six games of the series, and grabbed a shutout in a tight Game 3 triumph that enabled the Kings to get into the win column in the series.
While the team’s offense sputtered, it was Quick that kept them in games with his cool confidence in net, and without him, this series could have quickly (no pun intended) gone south for the Kings.
And the Winner Is….
Doughty and Brown were both integral to the team’s success, as was the resurgence of Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar, but Quick is the blatantly obvious choice for this distinction. Simply put, the Kings would have been eliminated had Quick not played as well as he did throughout this entire series, and he will need to continue to do so if the Kings are going to have a sequel to their championship performance of a season ago.