With an 8–1 record in the NHL playoffs and having knocked off the top two seeds in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings are looking like a good bet to go one step further than in 1993 and win the Stanley Cup.
In a playoffs marred by the unexpected, the Kings, on paper, shouldn’t be such a surprise. In fact, perhaps the bigger surprise in the Western Conference is who their next opponent is—the No. 3 seed Phoenix Coyotes.
The L.A. Kings turned their season around by hiring Darryl Sutter as head coach in December. With him in charge, the Kings have a 25–13–11 record. Prior to his arrival, which is why L.A. is only the No. 8 seed in the West, they had a weak 15–14–4 record.
A key ingredient for a team to make it far in the playoffs is the stellar play of their captain. The Kings have been getting just that from their captain, Dustin Brown.
While one man does not make a team, Brown’s play has been spectacular in these NHL playoffs. Brown has six goals and five assists in nine playoff games and is doing exactly what the Kings expected him to do when they drafted him in the first round in 2003.
Brown hasn’t missed a game in three years and has been very consistent in getting between 50 and 60 points in each of the past five seasons with L.A. He’s averaging roughly 0.7 points per game. In this year’s playoffs, he’s averaging 1.2 points per game.
The Kings have been winning with an air-tight defence. They haven’t let in more than three goals in a single game—they did that once and that was their only loss. Goaltender Jonathan Quick has posted a terrific 1.55 goals against average and .950 save percentage.
As parity is quite prevalent in the NHL, it was only six years ago that a No. 8 seed made it to the Stanley Cup finals. The 2006 Edmonton Oilers scratched and clawed their way to the Stanley Cup finals. The Kings, by contrast, have been dominant from Day 1.
The Kings have an impressive and star-studded roster. It is quite a contrast to that of the ownerless Phoenix Coyotes, who seem to have taken unwanted players and created a juggernaut.
Los Angeles reunited Jeff Carter with his good friend Mike Richards just prior to the trade deadline in February. The Kings took on his 11-year $58 million contract but have not seen the kind of numbers Carter put up in Philadelphia.
The Kings needed to revive their scoring but Carter has failed to do this. Of the 16 teams that reached the playoffs, the Kings scored the fewest goals. But if you ask them now, they’re likely not too concerned about their goal production, given the stellar play of Quick and their defence.
The Time is Ripe
For the Kings, though, the time is now. Their cap hit is $63.7 million, just slightly under the NHL cap of $64.3 million. They have not yet signed Quick to a contract deserving of his talent; however, the Kings still have him for one more season at less than $2 million.
The Kings have been getting outstanding play from their top 4 defencemen: Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, and Matt Greene.
Doughty is the young No. 1 defenceman who can do it all. He has starred with Canada at the junior level and in the Olympics and was a Norris Trophy finalist two years ago.
Scuderi won a Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mitchell is a big veteran who is rock solid, while Greene is even bigger and provides that important physical presence.
And while Brown has been getting plaudits for his timely scoring, the Kings have Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Justin Williams, and Dustin Penner who have all scored 30 goals in a season at least once in their careers.
With Richards, Williams, and Carter all drafted by Philadelphia in the first round, the Kings are, in a sense, “Flyers West.”
The Los Angeles Kings have never won the Stanley Cup. This year is their best chance and despite their No. 8 seed, it won’t be an upset if they do it.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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