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Five reasons Kings advanced to conference final

by Curtis Zupke

How does a team advance to the Western Conference Final averaging 2.00 goals a game and losing five of six road games? How did that team win a Game 7 with four shots on goal in the first period and three shots in the third?

Yes, these 2013 Los Angeles Kings are grindingly unique. Instead of leaving the opposition in its rear-view mirror in a neat, 20-game, 60-day scamper through the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they did last season, these Kings needed 13 excruciatingly close games in 29 days to get through the first two rounds.

The next thing that comes easy for L.A. will be the first. Yet it sits on six straight playoff series wins after eliminating the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night.

There are no eye-opening revelations in answering the aforementioned questions, but here are five reasons the Kings advanced to the conference final:

Jonathan Quick
Goalie - LAK
GAA: 1.50 | SVP: 0.948
1. Jonathan Quick

Where else do we start? The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner was superb in Game 7 of the conference semifinals with a glove save on Logan Couture in the second period and a left-arm stop on Joe Pavelski in the third.

Quick allowed 10 goals in seven games and three goals in the final three games. San Jose managed six even-strength goals in the series.

Beyond numbers, the stronger Quick got, the more of a psychological toll it took on the Sharks, who scored 15 goals in four games against the Vancouver Canucks and averaged 2.58 goals a game in the regular season.

"Jonathan Quick is just a fantastic goalie," San Jose captain Joe Thornton said after Game 7.

2. The penalty-killing unit

This is an extension of reason No. 1, but L.A.'s PK unit played an integral role given that almost half of San Jose's goals in the conference quarterfinals came on the power play.

The return of defenseman Matt Greene in Game 4 lent leadership and physical presence to a group that already boasted Robyn Regehr, Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty on the back end and forecheckers Mike Richards and Trevor Lewis up front. There's also that Quick guy in net.

All four of San Jose's power-play goals were scored by the first unit -- two by Couture, one by Joe Thornton and one by Dan Boyle. San Jose got two goals total from their bottom-six forward group in the series.

3. The Game 2 comeback

If the Kings go on to win a second straight Stanley Cup, this should be given more due by the oral historians. Though it's not quite the "Miracle on Manchester" of 1982 or the "Frenzy on Figueroa" of 2001, it isn't too far behind.

Down 3-2 with fewer than two minutes remaining and staring at a 1-1 series split going to San Jose for Games 3 and 4, the Kings got power-play goals by Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis 22 seconds apart for a 4-3 win and 2-0 series lead.

4. Home sweet home

Greene was asked before Game 7 to describe the feeling in the room when the team is rolling at home. The granite-faced defenseman said there really wasn't much to it.

"It's preparation," he said. "We do it the same way every night. You go over your opponent and you go over what you want to do in the game plan and that's it."

The "it" is a gear-assembly dominance at Staples Center, where L.A. has won a franchise-record 14 straight and seven in a row in the playoffs. Los Angeles has outscored opponents 38-18 during the streak. L.A. also has killed 18 of 19 penalties at home in the postseason.

5. Trevor Lewis

He won't fill up a statistical sheet and is hardly a household name, but Lewis deserves recognition as an instrumental role player.

Lewis plays on the penalty-killing unit and power play, and generally makes those little plays that get the puck out of the zone or prevent an odd-man rush by the opposition. He scored the winning goal in the Game 2 comeback and was even or plus-1 in six of seven games.

Although he lost 11 of 14 faceoffs in a return to his natural center position, Lewis turned in one of his best games in Game 6 when he played four minutes shorthanded and a career-high 20:17 total.

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