Tag Archives: Drew Doughty

LA Kings Preview 2014-15 NHL Season

LA Kings TicketsThe Los Angeles Kings have become the perennial cup contender their fan base has long dreamed of by winning Lord Stanley’s trophy two of the past three years while having a core of players both in their prime and under contract for the foreseeable future.

General Manager, Dean Lombardi, has created a locker room of talented focused characters surrounded by an organization built on a foundation of accountability. He spoke to the team camaraderie at the victory parade rally this past June:

“The franchise has now evolved to another level.[The fans], myself and my staff are now super-charged by another motivating force. Simply stated, to watch this group of men make a commitment to themselves, as individuals, to be the best they can be, and most importantly, their commitment to each other, that touches all of our souls and transcends their sport.”

Dean has become a cap magician who is now emulated by other franchises. He has an uncanny ability to target players who possess “team first” DNA coupled with on-ice success. Yet, under the new cap of $69 million for the 2014-15 season, Lombardi has put together a complete 23 player roster signed at $68,791,894 1 with other teams like Chicago, mulling over tough decisions in order to balance their budget.

Tickets for la kings gamesThe Kings stand pat with nearly all of their 2013-14 teams returning to defend their title. They have core players such as Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter locked up well through the latter part of the decade and last year’s spring addition of Marian Gaborik, has blossomed in to a 7-year cap friendly $4.875M.

Gaborik could have signed with other teams for bigger money but his chemistry with Anze Kopitar and his belief in the organization’s dedication to each other boasts that the Los Angeles Kings possesses the aptitude for continued success.

Jeff Carter paralleled his homecoming to Gaborik’s:

“You know what? The same thing happened for me when I came here. That’s what these guys do here. They teach you to do the right things, and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

Though the path to Jeff Carter and the LA Kings first Stanley Cup Championship in 2012 had exalted such dominance; the journey of the 2014 Los Angeles Kings was a living testimonial of how perseverance and mental toughness are the bone and marrow of professional sports. Their resiliency forged broken and bruised bones into Stanley Cup silver.

They were the first team in NHL history to win three playoff games 7’s on the road.
They were crowned the ”Kings of California” by resurrection from an 0-3 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks- a fete only done by 3 other teams in NHL history- and by ousting the Anaheim Ducks in a 7-game display of back-and-forth offense.

Despite trailing 3-times, they took their prior playoffs season redemption against the Chicago Blackhawks by beating them in a thrilling overtime game 7.

In the Stanley Cup Final, they closed out 3 of their 4 wins in overtime against, all-world goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers, to again, ascend to their throne.

They were able to muster enough perseverance and resolve to crown their Stanley Cup journey with
another Championship.

So what does that mean for the expectations of the 2014-15 Los Angeles Kings?

The expectation is not a secret. The Kings must defend their crown and become the first team in the cap era to win back-to-back championships. Unless you count them as back to back FULL-season Champions (get your shirt via royalhalf.com).

Joking aside…

There is no doubt that the Kings have proven that they are a franchise built for playoff success.
However, during the regular season, inconsistencies in play and scoring prowess are areas the Kings will want to improve on.

In the past three seasons, the Kings have finished 26th (2013-14), 10th (2013) and 29th (2011-12) in goals-for amongst 30 NHL teams. The re-emergence of Jeff Carter (27G, 23A) and the addition of Marian Gaborik bolster an already fearless offense of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King and their two budding rookies, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

It’s hard to predict that adding a single player will nourish their regular season scoring drought, but despite sparse scoring how do they still manage to make the playoffs and bring two championships to the city of Los Angeles?

What gives, or better yet, what doesn’t give?

Their defense.

The reigning Jennings Trophy winners are a stingy team. Last year they allowed the league’s lowest average of 2.05 goals against per game.

Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr (if healthy) and, Stanley Cup goal clincher, Alec Martinez, account for their defense. The loss of veteran blue-liner, Willie Mitchell, to cap space and ultimately free agency, is a point of interest or concern, depending how you want to interpret it.

Mitchell’s absence may provide the opportunity for young talent like 6’4 Brayden McNabb to crack the roster, or allow the Kings to option other players with more NHL experience such as Jeff Schultz (re-signed) to fill in for Regehr or in back to back game situations.

NHL LA Kings GoalieThe play of goaltender, Jonathan Quick, never ceases to amaze. Though his numbers in 2013-14 (2.07GAA, .915sv %) found him 14th in the league, there is no doubt that the confidence he has in the team in front of him is shared by his teammates. (Reminisce about unbelievable saves from 2013-14 NHL here courtesy of KingsVision).

Martin Jones showed that he is more than capable to back up Jon Quick, with his 7-game winning streak and .934sv% and 1.81 GAA in 19 games played.

Finally, at the helm is head coach Darryl Sutter with returning assistant coaches John Stevens, Davis Payne and goaltending coach, Bill Ranford. Multiple NHL teams inquired about John Stevens for a head coaching position, yet he decided to stay in LA. The belief in the system in place in Los Angeles has everybody drinking the water. It’s not a matter of luck or fortune. It’s about attitude and commitment.

I’m reminded of a quote from Darryl Sutter from 2012 when asked by a reporter whether the LA Kings were a team of ‘destiny’, where he replied, “What’s that?” The coach makes no excuses for what he sees transpire on the ice.

LA Kings NHLIn 2014-15, who knows what records will be broken, which players will become legends or if the Kings will hoist Lord Stanley even that much higher. I do know that with this Kings team, you have to expect the unexpected and that is another piece of their history, their armor.

The Kings season begins October 8, 2014 where they will raise their second banner and simultaneously pour salt in the open wound of the San Jose Sharks.

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Chris M.

What Should the LA Kings Do This Offseason

One of the most memorable postseason runs in recent history gave the Los Angeles Kings their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons. After playing three consecutive seven-game series to reach the NHL finals, the Kings dispatched the New York Rangers in five games for the title. General Manager Dean Lombardi has built an impressive core of talent, one that should contend for the next several years. In the era of the NHL salary cap the Kings will still have some roster decisions to make in the offseason. Their overall depth and stable of young players should offset any major veteran losses.

Here’s a look at what the Kings need to do in the offseason to continue their potential dynasty:
Bring Back Gaborik: The Kings Trade deadline acquisition of Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets turned out to be a masterstroke, especially in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The dynamic forward scored several big postseason goals, forming a winning combination with Anze Kopitar. Gaborik led the NHL in postseason goals with fourteen, winning his first Stanley Cup in the process. He’ll be a coveted free agent but all signs indicate that the Kings have the interest and ability to re-sign the Slovakian forward. This postseason the Kings became a much more dynamic offensive team, and Gaborik’s presence was a big factor in that evolution.

Sign either Willie Mitchell or Matt Greene: Lombardi has done a fantastic job locking up the core of the roster in long-term deals. Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, the team’s top defensive combo, are signed through next season. Two veteran blue-liners, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are unrestricted free agents. Both have battled injuries the past couple of seasons, but are key contributors when healthy, as well as a veteran presence. Mitchell in particular played a massive role this postseason. The Kings don’t need to re-sign both veterans but should look to bring one of them back for the veteran presence and overall depth of the defense.

Continue the youth movement: In the new NHL salary cap era it’s incredible how adeptly Dean Lombardi has built the roster and managed the salary cap. Core players Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Slava Voynov and Mike Richards are all signed for the next five seasons while Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez and Jarett Stoll are all signed through at least next season. The long-term deals have given the Kings stability while their young players have developed. This past postseason the Kings received massive contributions from the exciting young talent of Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Kyle Clifford. All three played big roles and should play even bigger roles next season. The offensive spark provided by the three, along with Gaborik, played a role in the Kings offensive evolution from a defensive and puck possession team to the highest scoring team in the past postseason.

Along with the Chicago Blackhawks the Kings will be the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NHL finals next season. They are a potential dynasty, a franchise built for the long haul. The key now is health and the continued evolution of the young talent the organization has built. In the last twenty seasons dynasties in the NHL have been few and far between. In an era of competitive balance created by the salary cap the Kings have a real opportunity to win consecutive titles.

Stanley Cup game 5

GAME 5 KINGS VS RANGERS STANLEY CUP

Kings Vs Rangers Stanley Cup

FACE OFF LA KINGS VS RANGERS

LA Kings Jonathan Quick

QUICK PASSING THE RANGERS TEAM

Chris M.

LA Kings 2014 Stanley Cup Champions

LA Kings Stanley Cup Champions

KINGS WIN

Two years after winning their first Stanley Cup in forty-five years as a franchise, the Los Angeles Kings won their second title in three seasons, defeating the New York Rangers in double overtime, 3-2. Alec Martinez, who scored the winning overtime goal in game seven of the Western Conference Finals, beat Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to give the Kings another title. Martinez’s goal, at 14:43 of the second overtime, came off of a rebound of a Tyler Toffoli shot. Toffoli’s shot was blocked by the Rangers goaltender, but the veteran Lundqvist gave up an easy rebound and Martinez slotted it into the empty net, setting of a raucous celebration at STAPLES Center.

Like they had so many times in the series the Kings fought back from a deficit to win the game in overtime, their third overtime victory of the series. Justin Williams opened the Kings scoring in the first period, but the Rangers fought back in the second period with a pair of goals, from Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle, to take the lead into the third period. With twelve minutes left in regulation Marian Gaborik notched his fourteenth goal of the playoffs to tie the game at two and set up the eventual overtime period. Gaborik’s goal, on a power play, was assisted by Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty.

Stanley Cup LA Kings

STANLEY CUP

The victory over the Rangers was the Kings twenty-sixth playoff game, an NHL record for most games played in single playoffs. Prior to dispatching the Rangers in five games the Kings went to seven games in their previous three series, versus San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. The Kings have played sixty-four playoff games in the past three seasons, another NHL record. The third overtime victory, which followed an overtime win in game seven of the Western Conference Finals, proved once again that the Kings mettle in deciding games. Unlike the previous three the finals didn’t go seven games, but the Kings and Jonathan Quick stood tall again.

Quick, who went through some stretches of poor play in this year’s playoffs, was superb once again with the game on the line. Quick made 28 saves including several clutch stops in the third period and overtime. The Kings star goalie may have had some rough moments earlier in the finals, but he was perfect in all three overtimes, including a shutout in game three.

2014 LA Kings Stanley Cup

LA KINGS

The Kings title was a complete team effort, with the Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP going to Kings forward Justin Williams who scored several clutch goals in the postseason, including the opener in game five, his ninth of the postseason. Williams finished with 7 points and 5 goals in the finals, and 26 total points in the playoffs. Williams joins Jonathan Quick has a Los Angeles Kings Conn Smythe Award winner. Williams narrowly edged out defenseman Drew Doughty, who played forty-one minutes in the final game. Doughty and center Jeff Carter joined a small group of players who won both an Olympic Gold Medal and Stanley Cup championship in the same season.

Stanley Cup game 5

GAME 5 KINGS VS RANGERS STANLEY CUP

Kings Vs Rangers Stanley Cup

FACE OFF LA KINGS VS RANGERS

LA Kings Jonathan Quick

QUICK PASSING THE RANGERS TEAM

Chris M.

Kings Vs Rangers Stanley Cup Preview

Kings Vs Rangers Tickets

KINGS VS RANGERS

After defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in one of the entertaining Western Conference Finals in years, the Los Angeles Kings have advanced to their second Stanley Cup Finals in three seasons. The Kings will face the New York Rangers, who upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and then defeated Montreal to reach their first Stanley Cup Final in twenty years. By virtue of a better regular season record the Kings will have home ice advantage, hosting the opening game at STAPLES Center on Wednesday night. Here are some key factors to watch in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals:

The Doughty Factor: While Ryan McDonaugh of the Rangers has put himself in the conversation of the top defenders in hockey, the most dominant defenseman in this year’s playoffs is Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. Doughty was the top defenseman in this year’s Sochi Olympic Games, winning a gold medal for Canada, and he’ll have an opportunity to pull off the Gold Medal/Stanley Cup title if the Kings can defeat the Rangers. Doughty is a leading candidate for this year’s Conn Smythe Award as the top playoff performer. A true two-way star, Doughty can dominate a game both offensively and defensively. Like all great players, he’s known for scoring big goals at critical times. In 21 postseason games, Doughty has 16 points. Doughty has formed a winning combination with second-year player Jake Muzzin.

King Henrik: It’s unusual for Jonathan Quick to be seen as the lesser goalie in a playoff series, but that’s the case in this year’s finals. While Quick has played well overall in this year’s playoffs, he’s had his ups and downs at times, including several stretches of rough play versus the Blackhawks. While Quick’s overall numbers don’t compare to his epic stats in the Kings 2012 title run, he’s helped the team go 7-0 in elimination games this playoffs. Quick opposite number, Henrik Lundqvist, has added to his legend with an outstanding playoff performance thus far. In twenty games this postseason Lundqvist has a 2.03 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Like he has his entire career, Lundqvist has been a dominant force in net. The Kings will have the firepower advantage in the series, but Lundqvist can be the great equalizer, with the ability to steal games. If Quick can match the Rangers goalie shot for shot the Kings will be in good shape.

Kings Vs Rangers Tickets

KINGS VS RANGERS

Home Ice Advantage: The Kings will have the rare luxury of home ice advantage versus the Rangers, something they didn’t have during their 2012 run or during this year’s run. While they haven’t been dominant at STAPLES Center at times, witness two losses versus Anaheim in the second round and a loss to Chicago in game six, the Kings will have the advantage of a boisterous home crowd to set the tone. The Kings home ice advantage may offset the additional amount of rest the Rangers have after eliminating Montreal in six games. When New York visits the STAPLES Center on Wednesday they will have had three extra rest. Of course additional rest doesn’t necessarily translate to quick starts. If Los Angeles can start quick and win two at home they’ll be in a good position to shorten the series with a win in New York in game three.

Marian Gaborik: While the rest of the Kings team struggled at times in the opening round versus San Jose and the first few games versus Anaheim, the Kings were receiving a dominant performance from veteran Marian Gaborik who they acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline. Gaborik spent a handful of years in New York as a Ranger before he was dealt to Columbus as part of the Rick Nash trade. The finals will give Gaborik a chance to win his first cup, while exacting some revenge on his former team. Gaborik has formed a dynamic partnership with Anze Kopitar this postseason. Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Gaborik are three of the top four scorers in this years postseason, indicative of just how dominant the Kings offense has been at times.

So who wins? The Kings have shown an extraordinary amount of mental toughness in overcoming deficits to win all three series, with game seven victories on the road in all three games. Offensively they’ve had an extra gear this postseason, becoming a truly dynamic offense. Los Angeles has an advantage over the Rangers in every facet of the game other than goaltending. While Henrik Lundqvist has an advantage in goal, Jonathan Quick can dominate games when playing up to his potential. The Rangers have made a nice run, but it’s been in the weaker Eastern Conference. Their victory over Montreal in the Eastern finals was helped greatly by the Carey Price injury. The Kings are simply the better team.

Kings in 5.

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BY: Chris M.

Kings take game four against Blackhawks

LA Kings Vs Blackhawks

KINGS 5 HAWKS 2

After another dominating victory the Los Angeles Kings are now on the brink of another visit to the Stanley Cup Finals, their second in three seasons. Behind a three-goal first period barrage the Kings jumped on top of the Chicago Blackhawks early and never looked back, winning 5-2. For nearly two seasons the Blackhawks, and goalie Corey Crawford, had the Kings number defensively. In three straight impressive victories the Kings have turned it all around, scoring fifteen goals in the past three games for a commanding lead. With the series returning to Chicago for a game five, the Kings will now have three opportunities to eliminate Chicago.

Monday’s win was another impressive display off both offensive and defensive hockey. The Kings, known for their defense, have become the top scoring team in the playoffs, while still playing efficient and effective defense behind a veteran unit of blue-liners and goaltender Jonathan Quick. Jake Muzzin, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown all scored in a six-minute stretch of the first period, giving Los Angeles a 3-0 lead and eventual victory. Drew Doughty and Tanner Pearson would also add score in the second and third periods as the Kings preserved their three goal lead. After largely getting the balance of their offense from the Kopitar and Gaborik line in the opening round against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings have become a balanced offensive juggernaut versus Chicago, with offense coming from nearly every line and the defense. Los Angeles now has eight players with double figures in points this postseason. Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in the victory.

The Kings offensive barrage is particularly surprising since they were the lowest scoring team to make the postseason. After trailing 2-0 late in game two in Chicago, the Kings have scored 13 goals in just over 100 minutes of hockey, a dominating performance that has the Chicago Blackhawks looking for answers. In accomplishing this offensive outburst the Kings now may have the mental edge on Crawford, a player who’s consistently stymied them in recent seasons. Crawford stopped just sixteen shots in the loss.

Blackhawks Vs LA Kings

CRAWFORD

The Blackhawks will now have to fight their way back from a 3-1 deficit, something they accomplished last season versus the Detroit Red Wings. Coming from behind two games will be a tall task versus a confident Kings team. Last year’s Blackhawks and Red Wings matchup was an opening round one versus eight affair, not a Western Conference Finals. In order to beat the Kings the Blackhawks will need to find some confidence on defense, something that has seemingly evaporated as they’ve been outscored 15-7 over the last three games. Chicago will also need offense from Patrick Kane, who’s managed just one point in the series. Kane’s struggles have been mirrored by Bryan Bickell, a hero in last year’s postseason who had a sub-standard regular season and has struggled this series, with only a goal on Monday night.

Game five is Wednesday night in Chicago at the United Center.

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BY: Chris M.

Kings and Blackhawks on Collision Course?

Los Angeles Kings Tickets

LA KINGS

Combined the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have won three of the last four Stanley Cups. After they both started slow in the opening round of this year’s playoffs, the Blackhawks and Kings have now won a combined 11 straight playoff games. Chicago holds a 2-0 lead on the Minnesota Wild, winning the first two games by a combined 9-3 score. Los Angeles has their hands full versus the top seeded Anaheim Ducks, but after an exciting come from behind victory in the opening game the Kings now have home ice advantage. Both teams are peaking at the right time. Are they on a collision course for the Western Conference finals?

From a Blackhawks standpoint the inevitable answer is yes. Chicago should have no difficulty dispatching the Wild and likely getting several days of rest in the process. Minnesota has a talented core group, but they are severely overmatched at the most important position in professional sports, goaltender. With Corey Crawford in net the Hawks have a massive advantage over Minnesota and Ilya Bryzgalov. After playing without captain Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane at the end of the regular season the Blackhawks are healthy again.

LA Kings Vs Blackhawks

KINGS VS HAWKS

The Los Angeles Kings road to the Western Conference finals won’t be that easy. The Anaheim Ducks have two elite players in Hart Trophy Candidate Ryan Getzlaf and former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry. Anaheim has a deep and talented deep with an ideal combination of youth and experience. Los Angeles came back to win game one at the Honda Center, but the Ducks and Kings series has the feel of a classic NHL postseason matchup, one destined to go seven games. The fact that the two teams are just thirty miles apart adds an extra element to the intensity of the series. Monday’s game is an absolute must-win for the Ducks, who simply cannot afford to fall behind 2-0 versus a team with a goaltender as talented as Jonathan Quick.

If the Kings do advance, and provided Minnesota doesn’t pull a comeback, the Kings and Blackhawks will meet in the Western Conference finals once again. Last season the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings lost a five game series to Chicago, who would go on to beat Boston to win their second cup in four seasons. The Kings offense went stagnant in last year’s matchup, scoring just eleven goals in the five game series. The Kings have bolstered their offense this season, through the evolution of some young players as well as the big acquisition of Marian Gaborik.

LA Kings Blackhawks Tickets

KINGS HAWKS

So who wins? Chicago is playing their best hockey of the season, with a healthy roster and outstanding goaltender play from Corey Crawford. The Kings, after a brutal start to the San Jose series, have been tremendous over the last week and a half. If the two teams do meet the series will come down to the inevitable defense and goaltending, as well as the Kings ability to slow and contain Patrick Kane. The evolution of Drew Doughty has given the Kings offense a new element, as has the acquisition of a healthy Marian Gaborik. The two goals Gaborik scored to win game one versus the Ducks is a prime example of what the former Wild and Rangers superstar gives the Kings that they didn’t have when they met the Blackhawks last season. This year’s Blackhawks team hasn’t been as nearly impressive as last year’s. Chicago has dominated Minnesota on the scoreboard, but the actual games have been much tighter. Sunday’s game was very similar to Friday’s, where Chicago went through long stretches of unimpressive play. In a tight series the team with the best goaltender arguably has the advantage, and Los Angeles has the best goaltender.
Kings prevail.

Los Angeles Kings Tickets

Los Angeles Kings Tickets

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BY: Chris M.

LA Kings Force Game 7 Against Sharks

LA Kings Vs Sharks Tickets

SHARKS VS KINGS

After a third consecutive victory the Los Angeles Kings are on the brink of accomplishing what only eight other NHL teams have done, coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game NHL playoff series. Justin Williams scored twice to propel the Kings to a 4-1 victory over the visiting San Jose Sharks, evening the opening round NHL playoff series at three, and setting up a highly anticipate game seven on Wednesday night. The two teams will play a seventh game in a playoff series for the third time in four seasons in one of the best playoff rivalries in recent history.

SJ Sharks Tickets

SHARKS BENCH

Tied at one heading into the third period Williams scored his second goal of the game at the 11:56 mark. Williams was able to knock home a loose puck that wasn’t quite controlled by Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock, much to the chagrin of Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. The Sharks head coach thought Stalock, making his first start in the series, had sufficiently controlled the puck. In a comment indicative of how desperate things have become for San Jose McLellan said after the game that “We (Sharks) got cheated”. The two teams were deadlocked in a tight 1-1 battle at the time. Replays were inconclusive, but did indicate that the puck wasn’t completely controlled. Trying to corral the puck as it slipped behind Stalock, Sharks defender Matt Irwin may have accidentally knocked it in. The decision to start Stalock was predicated by the poor play of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi. After solid play in the first three games of the season the playoff inconsistency that Niemi has shown in years past, especially against the Kings, returned at the worst time possible. Stalock kept it close, but after the Williams go ahead goal the Kings were able to blow the contest open. As many predicted goaltending is becoming a story in the series. After a slow start in the first three games Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is proving once again that he’s one of the elite netminders in the NHL. Quick has allowed just one goal in the last two games of the series, won by Los Angeles with a combined 7-1 score.

After Williams scored his second goal of the game to give the Kings the lead for good, Anze Kopitar scored two goals in a one minute and fifteen seconds span to put the game away for good. Kopitar notched his second and third goals of the series and has now scored in all six games of the series. Kopitar provided the assist on Williams’ second goal, giving the Kings captain three points. Drew Doughty added two assists for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Kings Tickets

MIKE RICHARDS

The Sharks played without top defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic, out with an upper body injury. Vlasic’s availability will be a big question mark as the two teams head into game seven. Who Todd McLellan plays in net will also be a big factor. Stalock is an unproven playoff performer with just 27 regular season appearances under his belt. The decision to stay with Stalock or go back to Niemi will be a big storyline as the series moves into its final game.

Game seven is Wednesday night at the Shark Tank in San Jose. The winner will move on to the second round to face the Anaheim Ducks.

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BY: Chris M.

LA Kings shortend 2013 season preview

Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings

Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have made their peace, the embarrassing lockout is over and hockey is finally back. The NHL will now squeeze a forty-eight games season and a complete playoffs into the next six months. The Kings, who barely squeaked into the postseason and then went on a dominant run to win their first Stanley Cup are uniquely positioned for a quick start. This truncated season will reward teams that can start quickly. They’ll be no preseason games so teams that return the core of their roster from the previous year should be strongly positioned to get out of the gates quickly.
Of course repeating as Stanley Cup Champion is harder than winning it in the first place, at least in the modern and more parity-filled NHL. The days of the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins winning multiple titles in a row are long gone, with the Detroit Red Wings being the last to repeat nearly fifteen years ago. The Kings will also have the clichéd target on their back as they go from plucky eighth seed getting hot at the right time to defending champion. Still the entire core returns from last season save the retirement of role player Ethan Moreau, so the Kings should be primed for a quick start.

Here’s a rundown of the roster.

Goaltending: In Jonathon Quick the Kings have one of the youngest and most talented netminders in the NHL. The team smartly rewarded last year’s Conn Smythe winner with a ten-year $58 million dollar contract. Quick gives the club great stability and a player who should be a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate. For insurance they have the very talented former first round draft pick Jonathan Bernier to back up Quick. If the team chooses to keep the talented Bernier they have an outstanding backup with a career 2.50 Goals Against. If they choose to trade Bernier they have a tremendous chip to bring instant help in others areas or talented prospects. It’s an excellent position to be in. Considering the quick start to the season and the potential for back to backs due to the shortened schedule the Kings may be smart to hold onto Bernier as an option at the trade deadline.

Defense: Although seen as risky at the time the Jack Johnson trade turned out to be the right move and didn’t have an adverse effect on the club’s defensive core. Drew Doughty started slow following his contract dispute but still played a heavy volume of minutes and had a strong regular season. Doughty’s commanding playoff performance cemented his position as one of the top defensemen in the league and a future perennial Norris Trophy candidate. Rob Scuderi is a capable veteran and a sold partner for Doughty. In Willie Mitchell the Kings have a steady veteran along the lines of Scuderi. Mitchell teamed up well with Slava Voynov last year and they should again be a consistent second unit behind Doughty/Scuderi. With everyone back there’s no reason Quick and the defensive corps shouldn’t continue to lead a club near the top of the NHL in goals against.

Forwards: Make no mistake the defense and goaltending carried the Kings to the 8th playoff spot with the offense kicking in during the playoffs. After a fairly pedestrian regular season the line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams exploded in the postseason with Williams scoring twenty points in twenty games. Due to injury the club will be without Kopitar for three to four weeks to start the season. The more high profile but less productive line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner could be in for a big season. Richards had an up and down regular season but has been a consistent 75 to 80 point scorer during his career. He flourished in tandem with Carter in the playoffs and there’s no reason that can’t continue. For all his talent and sheer size and athleticism Dustin Penner has been an enigma during the regular season. If his strong playoff performance can carry on into the regular season the Richards line has the ability to be elite. The third line Jarrett Stoll, Trevor Lewis and Simon Gagne is a nice mix of young talent and veteran leadership.

Prediction: Typically a championship team with every player back is the bonafide preseason favorite to repeat. So the big question: are the Kings a legitimate power that will continue their ascent or did they capture lightning in a bottle? A lot of things went right for the club in the postseason. Quick is an elite goaltender but it’s hard to imagine him repeating his utter dominance of last season. And can the Kopitar line continue to produce like they did in the playoffs? The rapid fire season will be a test of the Kings depth and resolve. They are equipped for the long haul and should be a contender for a top three spot in the west. Come playoff time, anything can happen.

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The champagne and confetti were shelved at the Staples Center on Sunday

The champagne and confetti were shelved at the Staples Center on Sunday when the LA Kings had their long awaited trip to the Stanley Cup Finals stalled after a 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Kings have so far made only one appearance in the Stanley Cup Championship Series since their debut in 1967. In 1993, Los Angeles, coached by Barry Melrose and led by legendary player Wayne Gretzky, entered the final quest for the Cup against the Montreal Canadiens. The Kings won the first of five games but went on to lose the next four, conceding the Cup to Montreal. They have never won a Stanley Cup in their 41 year history.

Doan had two goals, Mike Smith made 36 saves in his third playoff shutout, and the Coyotes emphatically avoided playoff elimination with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday.

Ray Whitney and Antoine Vermette had assists for the Coyotes, who escaped a series sweep by snapping the eighth-seeded Kings’ eight-game winning streak in front of long-suffering fans denied the chance to celebrate Los Angeles’ first berth in the Stanley Cup finals since 1993.

Phoenix was better from the opening faceoff, dominating an opponent that had been on an 11-1 run through the postseason. Doan scored on a power play in the first period and on a deflected shot in the second, silencing the crowd at the Kings’ first loss since April 18.

Los Angeles, which had a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, began the second period undaunted by its one-goal deficit. Lewis had the first big chance, skating to the front of the net, where his backhand beat Smith but went off the post. Shortly thereafter, Drew Doughty ripped a shot from the point that Smith saved, and then barely got his glove to the rebound before Anze Kopitar could punch in an equalizer.

The third period was more of the same for the Kings, who pulled goaltender Jonathan Quick for an extra attacker in the final minutes but could produce no magic. Quick finished with 19 saves.
Entering the post-season as an eighth seed, the Kings beat the top seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs then the second seeded St Louis Blues in the second then won the first three against the Coyotes. The Kings are 2-for-23 on the power play in the series after Sunday’s 0-for-6 performance.

The Kings are surely the class of the West and the biggest surprise of the playoffs. But let’s not crown them just yet. Assuming they get past Phoenix, they still have to face either New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils – both tough, disciplined and well-coached squads with outstanding goaltending. The over-achieving Kings will meet their match.

Game 5 is is on right now in Phoenix. Los Angeles is 7-0 on the road in the playoffs.