While the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils continue their border war in the East, the Los Angeles Kings have risen to a seemingly indomitable level. They’ve dismantled the President Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks, swept away the #2 seed St. Louis Blues, and are now up 3-0 on the clearly outmatched Phoenix Coyotes.
These Los Angeles Kings, who only barely made the playoffs thanks to a late season surge to grab them the #8 spot, are playing at an otherworldly level across the board.
Offensively they’ve seen contributions from not only the red-hot top line of Anze Kopitar (5 goals, 9 assists), Conn Smythe candidate Dustin Brown (7 goals, 8 assists), and Justin Williams (2 goals, 8 assists), but from the second and third lines as well. Jeff Carter (acquired via a trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline) recently notched a hat trick in Game 2 against Phoenix, rookie Dwight King has found a knack for timely game-winners, and Mike Richards has been a presence with his 10 points in the playoffs (3 goals, 7 assists).
Brown, however, has been the biggest story. The Kings captain is having a historic playoff run. In addition to his league-leading 15 points, Brown is doling out hits left and right (60) and has been the heart and soul of the team. Between him, Kopitar and Williams, the Kings’ top line has accounted for 14 goals with Kopitar and Brown also sporting a +/- of 12 a piece as well.
Defensively the Kings have been even scarier. LA was the best defensive team in hockey during the regular season, thanks in large part to the freakishly athletic net minder Jonathon Quick (who has been described as a Maryland King Crab in net for his flexibility). What the Kings have added to the table this post season, to go along with their already tough to break defense, is a very pesky forecheck and increased shot blocking. The Coyotes were on the receiving end of this last night, being constantly harassed in their own end to the point where they couldn’t get the puck across center ice in the closing minutes of of the game. As for shot blocking, the Kings defensemen are averaging 8.4 blocked shots per game as a unit. That’s a lot of shots not even reaching Quick between the pipes.
Much of LA’s success comes as a result of perfect defensive depth. Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and Matt Greene are all right-handed shots, while Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez are lefties. The Kings have natural righty-lefty pairs (Scuderi-Doughty, Mitchell-Voynov, and Greene-Martinez) that each have particular strengths. Doughty can do pretty much anything well, Scuderi and Mitchell are excellent on the penalty kill, and Greene and Voynov add defensive and offensive capability, respectively. Ice time for the three pairs has been fairly even as a result (roughly 25 minutes per game each), allowing coach Darryl Sutter to always have fresh legs on the ice. Furthermore, with an offensive and defensive-minded defenseman on the ice at all times, the Kings forwards know what to expect without looking around to see who is on the ice, allowing their aggressive forecheck to be running constantly. The old adage is that defense wins championships, the Kings certainly have it with their dynamic defensive pairs and “Johnny Be Quick” in the crease; they’re averaging a meager 1.60 GAA per game, the best in the playoffs.
How does an 8th seed all of a sudden make the 1,2 and 3 seeds look helpless? The answer is simple: the talent was always there.
So where did this team even come from? How does an 8th seed all of a sudden make the 1,2 and 3 seeds look helpless? The answer is simple: the talent was always there. The Kings were pegged by many to be a top team in the West at the start of the season. The addition of Mike Richards, further development of a young and talented group of skaters, and the establishment of Jonathan Quick as a reliable goaltender made the Kings seem like one of the more formidable teams in the league, only they weren’t.
Before bringing in current head coach Daryl Sutter on December 17, the Kings were a disappointing 14-13 and 10th in the West. Since then, Sutter has lead them to a 34-13-11 record (including the playoffs), a record worthy of a deep playoff contender. He’s created a locker room with excellent chemistry, and a team that believes in each other. Credit GM Dean Lobardi as well; the reunification of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (who found great success together in Philadelphia), and keeping the heart and soul of the team in captain Dustin Brown have been huge reasons for why the Kings click so well together.
Simply put, the Kings have been playing well since Sutter came in, and they’ve been playing playoff hockey since the second half of the season began in order claw their way into the postseason. With the increased scoring prowess of Brown and the increased physical intensity that postseason hockey brings, the Kings have only further improved what was already a solid team before the playoffs even began.
LA has tapped into the talent many thought was there from the get-go. The Kings are Skynet, and Skynet is now self-aware.
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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