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Kings the exception for playoff success by a No. 8

OK, so there's always a chance.

The Kings' 3-0 series lead over the Blues supports the argument that any team making the playoffs has an opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. While the Kings have shown a lower team can succeed, history has shown the likelihood of an eighth seed winning the whole thing is between slim and none.

Los Angeles is a win away from becoming only the third No. 8 seed to reach the Cup semifinals since the NHL created the Eastern and Western conferences. The 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers were the only eighth seed to play for the Cup. They lost in seven games to Carolina, which was the second seed in the East.

Reach the postseason and you never know? For the most part, it's hogwash. The math isn't pretty for lower seeds, something fans should remember the next time a team (see: Sabres, Buffalo) makes a late-season surge toward eighth place.

Since 1994, when the league implemented the East and West, no team finishing sixth or worse in the conference has won the Cup. More than half (35 of 68) of the teams that played in the conference finals were a first or second seed. Fifty-three teams (or 77.9 percent) finished in the top four. Only five conference finalists (7.3 percent) were seventh or eighth seeds.

Only three teams that finished seventh or worse have played for the Cup -- the 1994 Canucks, the 2006 Oilers and the 2010 Flyers. Over the same period, only the 1995 Devils (fifth), the 2000 Devils (fourth) and the 2009 Penguins (fourth) won it all after entering the postseason worse than a third seed.

But look at the Kings, you say? Great idea. They have a quality roster.

Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Dustin Penner have scored 30 goals or more at least once in their careers. Drew Doughty is an elite defenseman, Jonathan Quick a terrific goalie. They're rich with depth and role players.

The standings show the Kings finished eighth in the West, but the reality is they were considerably better and a few whiskers away from finishing much higher. They finished two points behind Phoenix for the division title after suffering three overtime losses in their final four games, including two in a shootout.

Los Angeles scored 194 goals this season, fewest among playoff teams, and had a 17-14-15 record in games decided by a single tally. With a dozen goals at the right time -- or one every other week -- they could have cruised past 104 points and finished with the third-best record in the conference.

Obviously, other teams would have finished higher with timely goals or if they picked up more points in overtimes and shootouts. But when you look at the Kings, you see a strong team that struggled for various reasons, underachieved during the regular season, still had enough to reach the playoffs and came together at the right time.

Their success so far, while surprising, is understandable.

Los Angeles is playing to its potential, much like the 2010 Flyers did. Philadelphia was loaded with talent when it slipped into the playoffs on the last day of the 2009-10 season, finished seventh in the East and lost in the finals to Chicago.

Any team making the playoffs can reach the conference finals and put itself in position to win the Cup. It's true. It starts with very good personnel.

Looking back, the 2005-06 Oilers were the one exception. The top four teams in the conference were eliminated in the first round in 2006. Edmonton beat fifth-seeded San Jose in the conference semifinals and sixth-seeded Anaheim in the conference finals. The Oilers were one team out of 68, or 1.4 percent, to reach the finals.

That, my friends, was a mirage.


McGuire in good spot

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson's decision to hire Marc Bergevin as general manager last week marked the third time in four years in which NBC analyst Pierre McGuire finished as a finalist and didn't get the job.

"I'm the Susan Lucci of the NHL GM pool," McGuire said by telephone last week.

The final three in Montreal included Bergevin, Julien BriseBois and McGuire. Bergevin was an assistant GM in Chicago while BriseBois had the same position in Tampa Bay. McGuire was an assistant coach and won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1991 and had various management positions before taking the TV job.

"At the end of the day, you can't be disappointed," he said. "You're involved in a very thorough search. You're going against the very best people at that position. It's just a gut feeling. If you were to put all three candidates in a room and have them make a presentation, they would probably all be pretty similar."

McGuire is the best sideline reporter in TV with his informative, no-nonsense approach. He helped define a role NBC created with his work between the benches. His encyclopedic knowledge was a big reason he was in the mix when Minnesota hired Chuck Fletcher in 2009 and Tampa Bay hired Steve Yzerman in 2010.

He also has job security and a very good relationship with NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood, who has encouraged McGuire to pursue his goal of becoming a general manager. McGuire last week also was runner-up for an Emmy, the award that escaped Lucci for years. He finished behind football reporter Michelle Tafoya.

"The biggest thing is that I have an unbelievable job at NBC Sports," McGuire said. "Sam Flood is one of the most elite people in all of professional sports. He's a brilliant, brilliant guy. I work for him, so I feel really good about where I work right now."


Top of the charts

Martin Brodeur, celebrating his 40th birthday today, is looking more like the Devils goaltender of old rather than an old Devils goaltender. He has three overtime victories this year after going 12-21 in that situation before this season. He's also the biggest reason New Jersey has a 2-1 series lead over Philadelphia.

Brodeur, whose contract expires June 30, had a slow start to the postseason and was pulled in Game Three against Florida in the first round before regaining his form. He has allowed two goals or less five times in the past seven games, which included his record 24th postseason shutout.

He has a 2.16 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in the postseason. It marks his best postseason GAA and third-best SP since 2002-03, when he posted a 1.65 GAA and .934 save percentage en route to the Stanley Cup.

Brodeur has a 105-85 record with a 2.01 GAA and .919 SP in 191 playoff games in his career. He has a 656-371 record with 105 ties and 58 overtime-shootout losses during the regular season. He has a 2.23 GAA and .913 SP in 1,191 games.



Ovie on ice

Alex Ovechkin has been saying all the right things, but bet the house he's not thrilled with how he's being used by Capitals coach Dale Hunter. You can also safely assume Hunter isn't overly concerned.

Ovechkin played about 13 1/2 minutes when he scored the winner against the Rangers in Game Two and played more than 35 minutes in the triple-overtime loss in Game Three. He averaged nearly 20 minutes per game during the regular season but played less than 18 minutes five times in his first 10 playoff games.

"I don't think it's the time right now to talk about this," Ovechkin told reporters after Game Three. "Everybody wants to be on the ice. But in different situations, you have to do what you have to do. If it takes giving me 13 minutes of ice time and we win the game, I'll take it."


Around the boards

*The Predators haven't confirmed why Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn were suspended for Game Three against Phoenix, but speculation was rampant they missed curfew the night before Game Two. Trotz said they wouldn't have played the second game if he knew at the time. "Hell would have had to freeze over," he said.

*Former Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell is among the finalists to win the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly player. He took just three minor penalties for the second straight season. "This game can be played hard," Campbell told reporters in Florida, "and the right way."

*The Hockey News listed Buffalo-born defenseman Dylan Blujus as its 57th-rated player for the NHL draft next month. He played for OHL Brampton the past two years. In the USHL's futures draft last week, Lancaster forward Josh Gabriel was picked in the second round (16th overall) by Tri-City while Orchard Park defenseman Charlie Manley was selected in the third round (32nd overall) by Waterloo.