NHL season preview series: Los Angeles Kings
LOS ANGELES KINGS SEASON PREVIEW
By DEVILS INSIDERS
How they Finished: 46-28-8 100 points. (Stanley Cup Champion)
D, Willie Mitchell
F, Colin Fraser
Two Stanley Cups in three years; it's been that sort of run for the Kings. After the wild game sevens they played during the playoff run or their domination of the New York Rangers, this team is primed and ready to make yet another run. With basically every starter from last year's team back, there's no reason to think that this team won't be in the mix in the Western Conference.
The mainstays are there. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik have teamed up to form one of the most dynamic duos in the sport. Tyler Toffoli is another year older and with the experience, seems poised to break out. They can score, they can defend, they win faceoffs and they'll grind you to death.
The regular seasons have not been a thing of beauty for the Kings. They won in 2012 as an eight seed and won last year after finishing third in the the Pacific Division. Though this is a dominant team in the respect that their playoff prowess is unrivaled, they're not going to blow anyone away in the regular season. LA seems to get the idea that it's a marathon, not a race. You saw a young team like the Colorado Avalanche go out and notch 116 points in the regular season, only to run out of gas against the Minnesota Wild.
If everything breaks right: We'll be talking about a dynasty by the end of the season. The Kings lost next to no one, they're even more battle tested and their younger players are entering their prime. This team seems on a collision course for a series against the Ducks and perhaps the Blackhawks once again. Considering the way they were able to overcome a 3-0 deficit, fend off Chicago with a 3-1 series lead and then shut the door in overtime against the Rangers, there is nothing that can be thrown at this team that they won't be ready for.
Offensively, a full season of Gaborik should help. The Kings did go through some scoring droughts during the regular season last year, but they should have an easier time putting the biscuit in the basket in 2014-15. Not to be discounted is the faceoff prowess of this team. They finished tied with San Jose for second in team faceoff percentage at 52.8% Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, Jarett Stoll and Jeff Carter, all over 50%. That's a winning formula.
In net, they're in great shape once again. Jonathan Quick, who struggled at times last season while battling injuries, turned it on in the playoffs once again. As long as Quick can stay healthy, he'll be frustrating shooters all season with his strong play.
Defensively, the Kings are anchored by Drew Doughty, but the rest of their blueline also possesses the ability to move the puck and score. They're just that deep.
If it all goes downhill: Expect injuries to be the factor, because that's the only way this team falls off the tracks. On paper and on the ice, this team has been elite. An extended injury to Quick like last year could be tough for them to overcome. Even if they do lose a few key players for some time, this team is deep enough that they won't miss a beat. Unless they're losing 6-7 guys off their opening day roster.
Where the Kings may falter is in the playoffs. Considering that LA might not get the number one seed in the Pacific Division, they may very well have to play another road game seven. Though they've excelled in overcoming those odds, there is going to be a time where they finally get beat. Whether its another team simply being hungrier, or just a bit of puck luck, it's just so, so hard to repeat.
Realistic Expectations: The Kings will be in position to win another Stanley Cup. Though they may not do it, because it takes such a cataclysmic string of events to put together two championships in a row, they're going to be there. Los Angeles will be a playoff team and a dangerous one at that. We know what they can do with a lead, we know what they can do when they're down in a series. No one wants to play them in the playoffs.
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