Hockeywood is halfway to putting out a sequel, and the script looks a lot like last year's: timely goals from unlikely sources, defense that doesn't take a breather, and a Conn Smythe-caliber campaign from Jonathan Quick in net.
The plot's simple enough on paper. The Kings were tested over seven games by the Sharks in a way they weren't along last year's Stanley Cup run (L.A. has already lost more playoff games through two rounds than they did in 2012, five to four). The home team won every game in this series, as did the team that scored first.
Justin Williams, who hadn't scored since Game 3 of the first round, scored twice, 2:57 apart, for the only scoring the Kings would get, or would need. He now has nine points, five of them goals, in four career Game 7s. Two goals was enough for L.A. to become the first defending Cup champs to make it past the second round since Detroit in 2008.
Two or fewer goals has been enough for a Kings victory four times this postseason, and a big part of that is Jonathan Quick, who you're really going to love when he backstops the U.S. team in Sochi. Quick was in one of his lights-out fugues, stopping 25 of 26 shots (13 of them in a furious third period). But none were more important than this save on Joe Pavelski with five minutes remaining. In a series that came down to one game, one goal, this is as good an explanation as any why the Kings are moving on:
Getting square in front of Marc-Eduoard Vlasic's slapper, low and through traffic, is impressive enough. But the awkward, sprawling glove stop on Pavelski, all alone and facing an open net? Part luck, part unbelievable talent, it's the sort of crucial save that championship teams make, and the also-rans don't.
"You're thinking the worst and he comes up with the save and you're, like, 'Thank God that guy's back there,'" Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said of Quick.
(Now's the time to feel bad for Joe Pavelski, who was unable to corral the initial rebound before Quick flopped over , and just couldn't get the air to put it over Quick's outstretched glove. Sometimes, elevating the puck is the hardest thing to do. Pavelski has an entire summer to play his own personal "History Will be Made" commercial in his head. Seriously, look how much twine he was staring down.)
The NHL has to be thrilled: the final four is as sexy as they come. No matter who wins tonight's Detroit-Chicago Game 7, both conference finals will involve marquee teams, and major American television markets.
Quick's reward for surviving and advancing? He gets to test his mettle against some of the West's best goalscorers. And Pavelski? He gets a pat on the shoulder from Jonathan Quick. Close, but no top-shelf.