Los Angeles may have given up this goal to St. Louis, but they're 8-1 in the postseason and they're peaking at just the right time. Photo courtesy Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The first two rounds of the NHL postseason are complete and only the conference finals and Stanley Cup finals remain. We’ve narrowed an original 16 playoff teams down to just four and you don’t just eliminate 12 professional hockey teams without some story lines developing. Here are the most noticeable ebbs and flows in the first month of trophy hockey.

They Might Be Kings

The Los Angeles Kings are quickly becoming the darlings of this year’s postseason, but even using an endearing term like that might be doing a disservice to the level of hockey this squad is playing. L.A. sent the winners of the President’s Cup in FIVE games and then SWEPT the second-seeded St. Louis Blues. Speaking of that St. Louis squad, they had a fearsome goaltending tandem with a borderline ridiculous GAA and Los Angeles never scored fewer than three goals a game.

Now the next test will be Phoenix, who, once again, is the favorite if you’re going by the seeds. But with the hockey havens of St. Louis and Vancouver slashed and burned, Los Angeles is looking more and more like the team to beat of the four still alive.

Despite being a HUGE market, the City of Angels is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of hockey. Well, the Kings are quickly changing that culture in southern California. In less than a month they’ve gone from being a team that squeaked into the playoffs to a squad that has their eye on Lord Stanley.

The Pen Isn’t Mightier

Hey, remember when we all highlighted the Penguins as the favorites to win the East. Oh, we were so young and so naive.

Here’s the real truth: singling out a favorite in the Stanley Cup playoffs in this day and age is an absolute crapshoot. There is so much parity in this league that any one of the sixteen teams really have almost an even shot at winning it all. Pittsburgh was a sexy choice, yes. But, as we found out, a sport as tough as hockey really could care less about sexiness.

Flying and Dying Round-by-Round

Philadelphia proved that NHL teams live and die by the round when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs. As I already mentioned, a LOT of people liked Pittsburgh to go far into this year’s postseason. So when Philadelphia jumped up on them 3 games to none in the first round, it took all but a second for everyone to crown them as the new favorites in the East.

Well, after winning in six, they lost in five to New Jersey. So the Devils routing them 4 games to 1 must mean THEY were an even tougher team. Well, actually New Jersey needed seven games to put away the Florida Panthers. It really makes about as much sense as man learning to fly.

The best way to picture the Stanley Cup playoffs is as an ever-changing landscape. The most impressive team one round may be the most embarrassing one the next. The end result is a heavy dose of surprises as evidenced by the fact that only one of the four highest-seeded teams remain alive and they escaped by the closest of margins.

Washington Springs Continue to Disappoint

Capitals fans might tell you that this year was different. But, after exiting AGAIN before the conference finals, the only NOTICEABLE difference was that the seas got rough much, much earlier this year. After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau amidst a regular season slump, the team continued to struggle and eventually found themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture. A late season surge secured the seventh seed for them, but the postseason was once again all too Washington-esque.

After knocking off the defending cup champion Bruins, the Capitals blew a Game 5 lead on a devastating double minor penalty and then lost the series in Game 7. The bellwether moment of the season came in the second period when Washington’s offense led a Power Play-like onslaught in the Ranger’s defensive zone when the two teams were at full strength but failed to put the puck in the back of the net. I can’t think of a better analogy for the way this team continues to struggle in April and May.

Oh-For Canada

Did you say hockey was a Canadian sport? I don’t believe you. The only two Canadian NHL squads to make the postseason were Ottawa and Vancouver and they both got bounced in the first round by New York and Los Angeles, the “Americaniest” of American cities.

With the way professional sports are today, obviously you shouldn’t read too much into this. All the teams still alive have PLENTY of foreign-born players on their rosters including several Canadians. Still the trend is sort of interesting, especially when you consider the fact that Vancouver finished with the best regular season record in the league.

NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!