In sports, there is peaking at the right time, and then there's whatever the Los Angeles Kings are doing.
With a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, the Kings not only continued their thunderous run of 10 playoff wins in 11 tries, they also received a friendly interpretation -- but only one -- from the referees to help put the game out of reach.
Unlike Game 1, which was a thorough domination of the Coyotes disguised as a close game, Game 2 was more of a close encounter disguised as a blowout. Though hardly threatening, the Coyotes were at least in the game before the Kings received a string of power plays while up 2-0 late in the second period. Already on the power play, the Kings got one of those slashing calls made possible by today's ridiculously fragile -- but look how much better they make you! Totally worth $150! -- one-piece sticks to put the Coyotes in a tough spot.
On the delayed call, with Dustin Brown demonstrably powerless to play the puck without his broken stick, Trevor Lewis stepped in to control the puck in the corner. Stationary, Lewis saw Shane Doan approaching to administer a check ... and turned his back.
Doan plays dirtier than his wholesome image in the media would imply, but in this instance he was a victim of tough circumstances: It's hard to avoid a guy who sees you coming and, after you've already began your bodycheck, turns his back to you. In no surprise to anyone, Lewis' nose hit the boards and was bloodied, and Doan was tossed for the game with a major boarding penalty.
(Anyone who saw the Kings' first-round series with the St. Louis Blues might have seen some irony here: Alex Pietrangelo was bloodied on a similar hit from behind -- removing him from the lineup for a game and a half when that series still had the chance of at least imposing a speed bump in the Kings' spring march -- but aggressor Dwight King only received a two-minute minor on the play. Worse, the NHL issued a rambling explanation about the call that mentioned when Pietrangelo's blood was discovered and only made them look as comical as most paranoid fans generally find them to be.)
The Coyotes gamely killed most of that super-sized 5-on-3, but finally the odds paid off and Anze Kopitar's smart delayed shot deflected off Jeff Carter's skate to make it 3-0 for the Kings.
If the sequence with Doan was a fortunate read from the officials, the Kings' fortune ended there. Almost as if they were feeling guilty, the NHL referees somehow interpreted a Billy Smith golf slash by Mike Smith (no relation, other than in spirit) to the back of Dustin Brown's leg as an opportunity to call an "embellishment" penalty on Brown, who could barely skate his way to the box.
It seems NHL referees sometimes do this when their conscience feels burdened, so they continued the irony in the third period: While King probably deserved his goaltender interference call for making contact with Smith, the refs did not see Smith's swan dive to the left as worthy of an embellishment penalty.
Later, with the Coyotes' frustration rising in what could quite easily be their final home game of the season, Martin Hanzal left the officials no choice but to get it right: With speed, he boarded a decelerating Brown from behind and face-first into the boards.
This was the more classic no-no hit, and though announcers and pundits immediately pondered whether Doan would get a call from Brendan Shanahan, Hanzal's hit is the one that deserves consideration for supplemental discipline.
That's a whole lot of talk about officiating and violence, but really what else is there to report in the Kings' three-round path of devastation that hasn't already been said? They play four lines, they circumvent opposition forechecks, and on the rare occasions they are exposed through the interior of their defense the superb Jonathan Quick is there to shut the door.
Oh, Jeff Carter notched a hat trick in this one, but in truth it was just his turn to collect the stat-sheet glory, as the entire team played as well as it has for 11 games and counting.
And sure, Quick earned another shutout with 24 saves, but it was mostly routine after some stellar first-period stops. The popular narrative is that Quick is a hero in these playoffs, but really he's a hero for getting the Kings to the eighth seed while the team spent the regular season getting its act together. Now that they're there, they're cruising along and could do so with Darren Pang in net. Quick, instead of being the backbone, is only leaned upon in emergencies.
Through 11 games and counting, this team hasn't had many of those.