Despite holding home-ice advantage, the Phoenix Coyotes were never supposed to pose much of a challenge for the Los Angeles Kings -- not after the Kings needed just nine games to dispatch the Western Conference's top two teams in the previous rounds.
But there were moments as Game 5 went deeper into overtime where it looked like the Coyotes would take the Kings to their longest series yet.
In the end, no.
Well, technically yes: The Western Conference Final was the Kings' longest series by virtue of Game 5 stretching 17:42 into overtime, after the Kings needed just 4:27 of Game 5 overtime to get rid of the Vancouver Canucks and needed merely four games to swat away the St. Louis Blues.
But all told, the Kings beat the third-seeded Coyotes the same way they mowed through the first and second seeds: A balanced and methodical attack, excellent penalty killing -- including yet another shorthanded goal -- and the occasional dose of game-saving goaltending from Jonathan Quick.
Quick helped the Kings withstand a slow start to Game 5 with a stunning pinwheel save on Radim Vrbata, just as he has on several occasions this postseason until the Kings took control of a given game.
The Kings outshot the Coyotes 51-41 in Game 5, just as they outshot Phoenix by about 10 shots in every game of the series.
The Kings blitzed the Coyotes in the first two games on the road, just as they blitzed their home-advantage victims in the previous two series.
And once home, the Kings extended the series lead to 3-0, just as they had against the Canucks and Blues, too. A 3-0 series lead is the death knell in hockey, so the rest was just details.
Aside from Jeff Carter's hat trick in Game 2 -- when L.A. won 4-0, outshooting Phoenix 40-24 -- Carter and fellow ex-Flyer Mike Richards did not have a stellar series. But it didn't matter. The Kings are deep and balanced enough to get supplemental help from many sources while Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown lead the way up front, Drew Doughty anchors their excellent blueline, and Quick cleans up the rare mistakes.
Kopitar and Brown lead the Kings in scoring, but for once they are not alone. When it wasn't Carter on one night, it was checking winger Dwight King -- who had four goals in the series -- on another. King scored the late winner in Game 3. Dustin Penner woke up again to score the series-clinching winner in Game 5.
As a result, the Kings have won 12 of 14 playoff games, outscoring opponents 41-22 overall (including four empty-net goals) and outscoring the Coyotes 19-8. A penalty kill that has eliminated over 91 percent of opponents' power plays was key again in Game 5, killing off a 5-on-3 that might have given Phoenix breathing room. A Kings power play that is clicking at under 10 percent hasn't hurt them, as this team has routinely outplayed and outshot opponents at even strength.
If the Coyotes were going to scare the Kings, it was going to come first through the goaltending of Mike Smith, who like Quick, put up a Vezina-worthy season. Smith certainly did his part, earning the shutout in the Coyotes' only win in Game 4 and facing over 40 shots on multiple occasions.
But despite Smith's best efforts and Coyotes captain Shane Doan's two goals in Game 4 to key their only win, the Coyotes simply didn't pose enough of a challenge for a Kings team that looks to be the Stanley Cup favorite.
There's no shame in that though. The Coyotes did no worse than the Canucks and Blues before them. They've merely been ousted by the team that should hoist the Stanley Cup in 2012.