The Los Angeles Kings enjoyed a good regular season, tallying 100 points with their 46-28-8 record. But in the top-heavy Pacific Division, the Kings’ record was not up to the level of the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks. LA had the 6th-best record in the West and the 10th-best record overall.
The term “magical” is often inappropriately used when describing a Stanley Cup run, but in the case of the LA Kings, the term sums up their postseason perfectly. Los Angeles made NHL history by winning three 7-game series to get to the Stanley Cup Finals, which included 0-3 and 2-3 comebacks in the first two rounds. Once the Kings squeaked past the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, it certainly seemed that the Cup was theirs’ to lose. This thought was confimed when LA defeated the New York Rangers in 5 games to claim hockey’s ultimate prize. A story made for Hollywood reached its conclusion in Los Angeles, of course.
- For a team that wins the Cup, we obviously look to postseason moments as the peaks of a season. And no player had more big moments during this spring’s playoffs than Justin Williams. After enjoying a solid regular season with 43 points (19 G, 24 A), the Conn Smythe winner went off in the playoffs, putting up 25 points (9 G, 16 A) in 26 games. More importantly, Williams earned the nickname of “Mr. Game Seven” by improving his game seven record to 7-0 (!!!) and setting the game seven points record with 14, surely earning a tip of the cap (helmet?) from Glenn Anderson.
- When LA acquired Marian Gaborik from Columbus at the deadline for Matt Frattin and draft picks, the deal was certainly acknowledged by the hockey world but far from accepted. At that moment of his career, Gaborik didn’t really seem worth the risk, mostly because of his vast injury history. Flash forward a few months, and Gaborik signs a 7-year, $34,125,00 contract. So what happened in the span of just a few months? Gaborik led the playoffs in goals with 14 and it really seems as though he was the piece that put the Kings over the top. Tough to picture him as “the guy to put an elite team over the top” a few months ago. But this really happened.
- Gaborik deserves all the credit in the world for stepping up in the playoffs (something I definitely thought I’d never see) but it is borderline impossible to picture him doing what he did without playing with Anze Kopitar. The Slovenian led the playoffs in assists with 21 (and points, with 26), while his linemate was the goal-scoring leader. I sense a correlation.
- A team needs unheralded players to make an impact in order to win the Cup and it was some young up-and-comers in particular who stepped up for the Kings. Up front, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson offered up a preview of what’s in store for the future with 14 and 12 playoff points apiece, while Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, and Alec Martinez really showed why they’ll be part of an elite defense group, headlined by Drew Doughty, for years to come.
- The Kings won the Cup. Let’s not get picky.
PROGNOSIS FOR NEXT SEASON
While in the midst of the playoffs the past three seasons, the Kings have looked like the team to beat at some point during the postseason. Of course, LA went on to win 2 of the 3 past Stanley Cups. It seems as though Los Angeles has as good a chance as it gets to become a dynasty, which is really saying something in the salary cap era. I would argue that LA has the best F-D-G trio in the game in Kopitar-Doughty-Quick (sorry Toews-Keith-Crawford) and as long as they have this group leading the charge, the Kings will always be a contender. When you consider the wealth of supplemental talent and leadership LA has up front (Carter, Gaborik, Brown, Williams, Richards, Stoll) and on defense (Voynov, Muzzin, Martinez, Greene), the Kings have as good a chance as any to be Stanley Cup champions at the end of the 2014-15 season.