And they are. The simple story is that the Kings dominated on defense all year but couldn’t score, losing 2-1 games on their way to an eighth seed in the Western Conference. By adding scorer Jeff Carter late in the season, they finally had a complete (or complete-er) team that could compete on both sides of the ice. The simpler story is that LA is 14-2 in the playoffs and undefeated on the road.
As for New Jersey, they really came out of nowhere from my perspective. I don’t pay the Eastern Conference much mind until the Stanley Cup finals anyway, but the Devils really weren’t on my radar at any point this season, which, as far as the East was concerned, seemed to be all about the Rangers and Flyers, the woes of the Penguins, and the what-if-they-meet-the-NHL’s-own-Coyotes-in-the-finals Florida Panthers, for a series I would have relentlessly hashtagged #catsanddogs.