As the regular season came to a close, the Los Angeles Kings found themselves struggling to earn the 8th and final seed in the Western Conference. Now the team has a great opportunity to shine as they are now in the Western Conference Finals for the first time since the 1992-1993 season.
After making the playoffs during the 01-02 season, the Kings failed to keep their grove as they went onto fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs for the next six seasons. The past two seasons the team has been dominated in the first round, being eliminated in both years 4-2. The team knew that in order to be successful that they would have to make some moves in the offseason, and they did just that. They started off the offseason with a bang as they made a blockbuster trade to acquire center and captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Mike Richards. Los Angeles also acquired a young prospect named Rob Bordson. In exchange for these two players, the Kings had to give up Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a 2012 second round draft pick. Despite the fact that they brought in Richards, the team began the season off struggling. After starting off the season with a 13-12-4 record, the Kings pulled the plug on head coach Terry Murray. They would later name Darryl Sutter as their head coach for the rest of the season.
With the team continuously struggling, they went out and traded for former All-Star and former teammate of Richards, Jeff Carter. As the Kings now had to All-Star offensive players to go along with young talent such as Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, the team was poised to make a run, and they did just that. The Kings saw their point total increase as they kept on winning games. Even though the team was much better than they were before the season began, they still had trouble making it into the playoffs. However they were able to obtain the 8th seed in the west.
Going into the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs no one believed that the Kings would make it out of the first round. Many thought they would even be swept, as they had to go up against the Vancouver Canucks who were back to back President Cup Trophy winners. The series kicked off for in Vancouver. With the Canucks being heavily favored, the Kings weren’t expected to do anything in the first two games as they were being played in the hostile environment at the Rogers Arena. However, even though they were the underdogs, Los Angeles refused to go down without a fight. The Kings went onto win both of the first two games of the series. With a lot of attention now turned towards them, they had to prove that they can win at home as the series shifted back to LA. With all the momentum on their side, the Kings won game 3 of the series, giving them a commanding 3-0 series lead against the number one seed in the west. The Canucks went onto to win game four before eventually falling to LA in game five.
People were beginning to take LA a little more seriously as they knocked off the number one seed and defending Western Conference champions. But that was in the past. The Kings now had to turn all of their attention to the number two seed St. Louis Blues. It was deja-vu all over again as LA was the underdogs in the series as they challenged the much stronger, physical, and more athletic Blues. But it was the same story again as they claimed victorious in both of the first two games in the series, which were played in St. Louis. With the confidence of the players through the roof, they went onto win game three and four as well, as they swept the number two seed and put themselves in the Western Conference Finals.
How come the Kings are playing completely different hockey now? Well with the experience that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have, along with the energy from the younger guys, the Kings have an excellent balance of youth and experience. The Kings now have an excellent opportunity to not only advance to the conference finals, but also win the Stanley Cup.
The team is not tired as they only had to play a total of seven games in the past few weeks. The teams that they could be facing in the conference finals are either the Phoenix Coyotes or the Nashville Predators. The Coyotes played a total of six games in the first series alone. Los Angeles clearly has the advantage when it comes to games played as they will come out ready and refreshed for the conference finals. Another reason they have a fantastic shot at winning it all, Jonathan Quick. You can argue that no other goalie in the entire playoffs has played better and more efficient than Jonathan Quick. Since the beginning of the playoffs, Quick has only allowed an incredible 1.55 GAA. To go with that he has an astonishing save percentage of .949. If Quick continues this kind of play, the Kings have a great shot of making some more noise in this year’s playoffs. Let’s not count out the offense. The offense has been playing fantastic as of late. Led by Captain Dustin Brown, the team is continuing to score goals which have given them a great opportunity to be successful.
I myself am on the bandwagon. I am pulling for the Kings to go far. With the young and older talent that they possess, I believe that they have a great shot of winning the cup. The only knock on this team can be the amount of youngsters that they have. Despite the amount of youth on this team, they have quickly become the talk of the NHL, as they are the first team to make it to this year’s final four. The Kings are an exciting young team that has tons of potential. It will be interesting to see what they can do not only for the remainder of this year’s playoffs, but also next year as well.
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