By John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist / Bracket Challenge Blog
The Los Angeles Kings will have the road-ice advantage when the Stanley Cup Final starts next week.
Most teams would rather open a series at home, but the Kings will take the longest road winning streak in Stanley Cup history with them when they open in New York or New Jersey on May 30. The Kings made it 8-for-8 on the road this spring and 10 in a row away from the Staples Center overall by beating Phoenix 4-3 on Tuesday to close out the Western Conference Finals in five games.
The Kings' 10th straight road win moved them past the New York Islanders of 1982 and '83, who won nine straight road games on the way to the last two of their four consecutive Stanley Cups.
L.A. is just the second No. 8 seed to make the Final under the current playoff structure, which was established in 1994 -- the 2006 Edmonton Oilers lost to Carolina in seven games. It's also the first team since the 2004 Calgary Flames to eliminate the first three seeds in its conference on the way to the Final. The common denominator between the teams is Darryl Sutter, who coached the Flames to the final eight years ago and led the Kings to this year's title round.
Run and gun -- Game 5 in the West was an entirely different kind of game than the first eight that were played in the conference finals.
There were just 31 goals (3.88 per game) scored in the first four games of the two conference finals. That average had been surpassed before the end of the second period on Tuesday, which ended in a 3-3 tie after each team scored twice.
The seven goals scored on Tuesday were the most in a game since New Jersey beat Philadelphia 4-3 in OT in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Only three of the 19 games played since then had seen as many as six goals.
Working overtime -- Tuesday's game was the 22nd this spring to reach overtime, matching last year's total and equaling the third-highest total in any playoff year. It was also the first since Game 5 of the Washington-New York Rangers series in the previous round.
The Kings' victory continued the success of road teams in playoff OT games. The guys in the white sweaters have now won 14 of the 22 games that have gone past regulation. The Kings have won both of their -- they also won 2-1 at Vancouver on April 22 on a goal by Jarret Stoll.
L.A.'s penalty-killers allowed their fifth power-play goal of the spring on Tuesday when Taylor Pyatt scored in the first period -- but came back a few minutes later to get their fifth shorthanded goal when Anze Kopitar scored on a deflection. The five shorthanded goals are one less than the combined total of the other 15 teams in this year's playoffs.
Quick enough -- He allowed more than two goals for the first time since Game 4 of the opening round, but Jonathan Quick was good enough to backstop the Kings to the Final for the first time since 1993.
Quick hadn't allowed three goals since Vancouver's 3-1 win at Los Angeles two rounds ago, and the three goals he allowed kept him from setting a single-season record -- he'll have to settle for a tie with Terry Sawchuk of the 1952 Detroit Red Wings for the most consecutive games in one playoff season allowing fewer than three goals.
Despite being beaten three times on Tuesday, Quick still leads all playoff goaltenders in wins (12), goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (.946). He is also the biggest reason the Kings raced through the first three rounds of the playoffs in just 14 games. Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format for all series in 1987, the fastest any Cup-winner has reached the Final is the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, who needed only 13 games.
Not quite -- The Phoenix Coyotes still have never made the Stanley Cup Final, but this year's trip to the conference finals was still a first for a franchise that had won just two playoff series since entering the NHL as the Winnipeg Jets 33 years ago.
The Coyotes are going home because they just couldn't generate enough offense. Phoenix scored just eight goals in the five games against the Kings and had just 11 in its last eight games. None of those 11 goals was scored after the second period.
Although he's heading home for the summer, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith has nothing to be ashamed of. Smith allowed just 14 goals in the five games, even though his team was outshot 202-131. He finished with a 1.99 GAA, a save percentage of .944 (second only to Quick) and three shutouts.