Found May 06, 2012 on Fox Sports West:
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LOS ANGELES Though the national and Canadian media and more casual hockey fans have leapt onto the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings' bandwagon during their shockingly short dispatches of Vancouver and St. Louis, don't expect Dustin Brown to remove the team's blinders. "We just focus on what we have to do in here in this room," Brown said at practice Saturday. "What the media or analysts or whoever is saying about us, we've got to understand we really haven't accomplished anything yet." One month and one day removed from the infamous Clowe-gate game that threw a wrench into Los Angeles' plans for a divisional title and home ice advantage in the playoffs, Darryl Sutter's bunch has reached the Western Conference Finals for only the second time in the franchise's 44-year history, courtesy of a 3-1 win over the shell-shocked St. Louis Blues that punctuated the franchise's first-ever sweep. So forgive us if we slightly disagree with Dustin Brown's assessment. Something that is universally acknowledged, however, is that Jonathan Quick has meant more to his team than any goalie has meant to their team in the 2011-12 season. After another effective start by Los Angeles they outscored St. Louis 8-2 in first periods in the four-game sweep Quick was at his absolute best while keeping the Blues scoreless during a second period in which they were outshot 13-2. "He's the same as Hasek, same as Belfour," Ken Hitchcock said. "He never quits on the puck. It's a very unique skill. It's not common. He never stops looking for a puck." The game's signature goaltending moment came midway through the third period when Andy McDonald stopped up on a 4-on-3 rush while looking for a trailer. He found Kris Russell, whose shot through traffic in front was deflected by Quick before trickling towards the goalline. Somehow it ended underneath the goaltender's pad in a how-did-that-manage-to-stay-out moment. "I think Anze Kopitar got a piece of it actually," Quick said. "Kopi made the dig. I didn't think I made it. I know I didn't. It was huge. It was just a scramble play, and that's something that not only our defense but our forwards have been doing all year long. They've been getting back, helping out down low and in front of the net. Obviously that's a game-saver right there." By stopping 96 of 102 shots against the Blues, Quick remains the backbone of the suffocating defense the Kings have developed as their calling card. Los Angeles has limited its opponents to two goals or fewer in eight of nine games in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs; not surprisingly, they're 8-1 in those games. His dominant second period is a major reason the Kings will have a well-earned day off Monday while waiting for an opponent to emerge from the Phoenix-Nasvhille series that the Coyotes currently lead three games to one. "They were getting a few chances. They got a few pucks to the net," Quick said about St. Louis' second period push. "Sometimes those periods are easier than the ones where you see four shots. Everything's going to bring its own challenges. I was fortunate enough to make a few saves and kind of get a little bit of a rhythm. I think going into the third period with that 2-1 lead was huge." That momentum carried into the third period when Quick used a sharp glove save to stop David Backes on a hard, rising shot after the Blues' captain had received a McDonald pass while skating in from the left wing boards. At this point, it's apparent that Los Angeles isn't in the middle of a playoff "run"; this is more accurately described as a "sprint". They became only the third eight-seed in league history to make the third round of the playoffs a feat accomplished in only nine games. And similar to the nine 1-0 games they were involved in during the regular season they finished 3-5-1 in said nailbiters the Kings' margin for error on Sunday was exceptionally tight. Despite the 12 goals scored in the three previous games and the three markers Los Angeles finished with after Brown's tension-relieving empty-netter, this game had much more of a tighter ambience. "We played very, very well on the road," Hitchcock said. "But even as well as we played today, you've still got to outwork the goalie and if you look at the seven games we've played against Quick, we've scored seven goals and we have not found a way to outwork him. He made maybe five, six unbelievable saves off the second shot, but that's who he is." "L.A. plays the way you have to play to win the cup nowI'm sure they've had stumbles along the way to figure it out, but it looks like to me like they've figured it out." Much like the playoff run-starved Kings fans, Anze Kopitar struggled to find a wide-enough perspective in which to frame the importance of Sunday's win. Because of the broken ankle that removed him from the 2011 playoffs, his lone postseason experience prior to 2012 came in a six-game defeat to the Vancouver Canucks in 2010. "The last thing I can compare to this is probably my draft day," he said after considering if there were any career moments that rivaled the team's current stretch. "But this definitely tops it off, because it's a lot more fun, and we're still going. Now we've got to enjoy this one today, go have a nice day off tomorrow, and then recharge our batteries and get 'er going again."
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