How the Los Angeles Kings Are Starting to Play Like Champions Once Again

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of their Western Conference Semifinals series on Tuesday with the kind of defensive performance that helped them win the Stanley Cup last season.

The team's success begins and ends with the play of superstar goaltender Jonathan Quick, who is playing his best hockey of the year after a lackluster regular season. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner was the first star of Tuesday's game, stopping all 35 of the shots he faced to earn his second shutout of the playoffs.

When the Sharks started to create more offensive-zone pressure in the third period and fired 16 shots at Quick, the Kings' goalie stood tall and made all the important saves to prevent his team's lead from slipping away.

With another victory under his belt, Quick is now 5-1-1 in the playoffs with a 1.36 GAA and a .953 save percentage, which are better than his numbers from last year's championship run.

There is no better playoff goaltender than Quick right now, and with teams unable to figure out a way to beat him consistently, Los Angeles has a very real chance of becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

Quick is not only a "hot goaltender," he's also one that's playing with a ton of confidence as a former champion. When he's on top of his game, the Kings are nearly unbeatable, and his impressive play in net gives his teammates more freedom to take chances offensively, because he will bail them out more often than not if defensive breakdowns occur.

Speaking of Quick's teammates, several of them have raised their games since the postseason started.

One of those players is No. 1 defenseman Drew Doughty, who has a reputation as a big-game player. The 23-year-old superstar has tallied three points in seven games, but his play in the defensive zone has been fantastic. He ranks first among all Kings bluelin...

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