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Through a nail-biting postseason, why the LA Kings are still the favorites

The Los Angeles Kings are headed to the NHL Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row. This journey to the top of the West is a much different climb than the feverish ascension the team made last year en-route to winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
I have spent many nights staying up until the wee hours watching this team attempt to repeat as champions–a special thanks NHL for the 7:30 p.m. start times in the playoffs (sidenote: This is clearly the most mismanaged league of all the major four sports. The NBA understands that TV ratings are what make the league more money so when the Lakers are playing in the playoffs, they bump the start time up to make it slightly more convenient for fans out east. The traffic is a bitch in LA, and natives whine but they are in Staples for the 6 p.m. start. Get with it NHL, for my sake). I must say this is a completely different experience for the LA faithful.
The Kings have to scrap through games and series as a whole. They are losing on the road and flawless at home. For a fan base that watched last year’s pure domination throughout the playoffs, this postseason may be a bit of a nail biter.
Fear not, Kings fans. This team is still in position to challenge to be one of the first repeat Stanley Cup Champions since the Red Wings did it in the late 90’s. Here are the 3 things I’ve seen from the Kings this playoffs that will help lead them to hoisting the cup once again:
1. Jonathan Quick is still the best in the NHL between the pipes

  • Jonny Quick had a rough regular season. The back surgery he had after the playoffs last year slowed him down and not having access to Kings trainers during the lockout certainly did not help either. He played well enough to position the boys in black as a 4 seed this year but did not really hit his stride until April.

We’re back everyone! A hastily-written 2012-13 NHL season preview

So, not so surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat quiet around these parts and though I’d rather not go into it, there was a really good reason why. That said, on Saturday at long last the puck will be dropping on the 2012-13 NHL season and there is just a ton of stuff to get excited about, to say nothing of the premier matchups (Chicago-Los Angeles, Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, New York-Boston) that we get on opening day alone.

However, given the consequences of the NHL’s work stoppage, rather than the full 82-course serving of a standard NHL season, we’ll be seeing a slap-dash truncated 48-game menu this time around. What’s even more wild is that the 48 games each team plays will be played entirely within a span of 99 days, which means less of a developed and cohesive performance all around and more of a frenetic breakneck scramble to make the postseason, which will be played out in full.

If anyone remembers last season’s 66-game NBA slate in which it seemed like the Knicks were playing about five times per week, this will be something like that. No one is entirely sure how different teams will respond to it, and as a result of the condensed schedule certain teams one might have expected to be title contenders (the Rangers, Detroit) might fall victim to exhaustion due to age or an aggressive style of play while teams not quite ready to make the jump (Edmonton, Florida) could take advantage because of their relative youth in the shortened schedule.

The important thing to understand, however, is that with only one other example of this situation to fall back on, no one is really sure how this will shake out, though if it ends the same way, I won’t really be complaining. Either way, it’s going to be kind of hard to predict who to bet on in the horse race, but because we need to fill these column inches, here is who might be Secretariat, and who might be Zippy Chippy.… Read more...

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can go home again

Hockey does not have “bringing my talents to South Beach” free agent bonanzas. Yes, there are teams that win championships as a result of being heavily stocked with talent and depth that rolls them to a Stanley Cup, but often those teams are built as a result of deftly scouted drafts with the occasional smart free agent signing sprinkled in here or there. Look no further than the 2009 Penguins or the 2010 Blackhawks for evidence. While free agency is a large part of hockey, the tendency, often, is for teams to lock up their prized young assets early on, or at least attempt to do so, with a massive contract that gets them paid, but keeps them in the fold through their formative years. Many stars stay with the same organization for the vast majority of their careers and few championship teams are built almost exclusively on big-name free agents. The closest team in recent memory that might fill that description is 2002 Detroit Red Wings, an astonishingly old team which had four Hall-of-Famers (Steve Yzerman, Igor Larianov, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille), six more players that are certain to be inducted at some point (Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek), two more that just might join them (Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom) and two players that had already scored overtime Cup-clinchers for other teams in the previous six years (Hull and Uwe Krupp).

They were an immortal squad built on the backs of veteran acquisition and free agency in a way that is a dramatic outlier from how the NHL, generally speaking, has done business. Even that team, however, was no situation of LeBron James and Chris Bosh signing contracts as the top two free agents with the same team. Seeing the top two names on the market go to the same place is rare. Seeing them go to a small market is rarer still. And yet, on July 4, 2012, while most of us in the U.S. were prepping for our barbecues or traveling to to someone else’s, the Minnesota Wild, they of the one division title in their history, three playoff appearances all time and none since George W. Bush was still in the White House, managed to sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year $98-million contracts that will carry them both from the age of 27 to their post-retirement fishing days near the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Minnesota Wild are not a good team. Despite a surprising first half before a tumbling second in 2011-12, they are an unbalanced mixed of unfulfilled promise (Dany Heatley), inconsistent offense (Devin Setoguchi) and a whole lot of youth. And yet, somehow, some way, they took the two prizes of free agency in this offseason, Suter, the top defenseman on the market, and Parise, the top forward available and given his combination of youth, leadership, offensive production and defensive dedication arguably the most desired free agent in the history of the NHL. While the idea of the Wild attempting to lure Suter and Parise to Minnesota as a package deal had been floated for months due to the fact that both are friends, Parise is a Minnesota native and Suter is from neighboring Wisconsin, the notion had been met by most hockey insiders and fans alike with scoffing and amusement.

As a lifelong Devils fan, I personally felt as if of all the teams in the hunt for Parise, Minnesota was probably the least likely destination. Rumors that the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Blackhawks and Red Wings would all be hot on his trail seemed a far more likely result to anyone paying attention, and despite the rampant assumption that Parise would simp… Read more...

2012 Stanley Cup Preview

The Stanley Cup matchup couldn’t have worked out better for THE GREAT MAMBINO. Our resident NHL expert, Pucklius, will be on the precipice of a heart attack, as he roots for Devils legend Martin Brodeur to hoist the trophy one more time. Que-Ese, TGM’s favorite utilityman and promoter-extraordinaire, is on the other side, cheering for the Kings of the city of angels.

We’ve been giving you previews all along the way as these teams have fought through battle after battle just to have their names etched next to Lord Stanley. But for this final round, I asked Puck and Que one question:

Who has the better playoff atmosphere?

We’ll get to predictions at the very end just to keep things real, but because you guys come here for stuff you can’t find anywhere else, here’s the fan’s perspective on the aforementioned question.

Que-Ese: Better playoff atmosphere? Anywhere but LA.

As far as the Kings are concerned, every game of the Finals should be played in New Jersey. Its not shocking to find out that the Kings have played well on the road in places where hockey really matters (again, anywhere but Los Angeles). For some reason, the boys have responded to playing the role of the underdog spoiler. They have been so successful at feeding off the opposing crowd that they have set a record this postseason for most consecutive playoff road victories (8 and counting!). Jeff Carter put it best after game 2 in Phoenix about the Kings’ road success.

“I think it’s just a mindset. We get away, there’s no distractions. The guys are together. The coaches have us well-prepared. For some reason this team… likes to play on the road.”

That’s not to say it’s easy to play in Los Angeles. Both teams have to play on the worst ice in the NHL, and the Devils will have to deal with our fairly raucous fans. If I was to rank playoff home crowds in LA based on intensity/passion inside the building, I would rank it:

1. Clippers (that hurt to type)
2. Dodgers
3. Kings
4. Lakers

Now that the Kings are trendy, watch for more celebrities in the crowd and a whole lot more of this:

Pucklius: Better playoff atmosphere – Madison Square Garden.

What’s that? The Devils don’t play home games at MSG? That’s funny since they seemed plenty comfortable there last week (Heyooooo).

Seriously though folks, the Prudential Center isn’t exactly known for its wild home fans — the crowds can be extremely sparse when you go to a Tuesday night game in January against Winnipeg. But as a man who has been in the stands for three games at the Rock during this playoff run, I can say that the playoff atmosphere has been right up there with the best of them. It probably hasn’t hurt that New Jersey wound up playing its two biggest rivals in consecutive rounds in Philadelphia and the Rangers, but even in Round 1 against the ambivalence-inducing Florida Panthers the crowd was rocking after each Devils goal.

That said, the constant direction from the P.A. to “Wave your towels!” and “Get on your feet” could basically have said, “We think our fans don’t know how to properly cheer at a game” and had the same impact, but the results are all that matters most of the time, and for New Jersey the results have been there. Much has been made of the Kings and their perfect road record in the postseason — rightfully so — but the Devils’ 6-2 home mark is the best in the postseason, too. And that can’t be taken lightly. Devils fans are there, and the… Read more...

LA Kings Bandwagon Fan Crash Course Educator

As the Lakers unceremoniously went down 3-1 in their eventual loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, I quickly realized that like a lover scorned by a hateful broad, I’d have to find a new steed to hitch my wagons to for a sweet sweet rebound.

Enter YOUR…Los Angeles Kings.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. Los Angeles, like Boston, Philly or Miami, is a frontrunners town. Whichever of our teams that is in the driver’s seat, that’s the one we’ll readily and happily attach our interest to, regardless of whether we’ve watched a game this season, know the best player’s name or hell, even the rules of the sport. This is just how it is. Don’t blame me. I didn’t found the city.

Fellow Lakers fans (and even some of you Clippers refugees that may have found your way over to this glorious stink-free blog), I realize the spot we’re in. You want to keep the adrenaline going by rooting for a team in the playoffs, but yet, you don’t know a damn thing about hockey. Or maybe you know a bit, but you’ve been preoccupied with checking out Kenneth Fareid’s offensive rebound rate and the progress of the Kings wasn’t on the front burner. Look, I get it. That’s why we’re here.

I’ve exchanged a series of e-mails with MAMBINO ace hockey writer Pucklius, asking questions inn order that us bandwagon Kings fans might get a crash course in puck education. Let’s be honest; at the end of this, no one is going to mistake you for a pedigreed NHL fan born in the swamps of Calgary. However, you MIGHT just learn enough to have a passable conversation about possibly the only champions in LA this June. Onward!

For us casual hockey fans, it’s just “pretty damn cool” to see the Los Angeles Kings get so far into the playoffs. But from a hockey-head’s perspective, how unlikely is it that the Kings made it this far?

Well, I think you would definitely call it unlikely for several reasons, most notably that the Kings were the eighth seed and they had to face the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, but an eighth seed doing this well in the playoffs is not entirely unheard of. For one thing, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are a long, exhausting and at times random slog. That means you’re going to see upsets and sometimes the curious bounce of the puck in an overtime game will determine who is moving on and who isn’t. In 2006 the Edmonton Oilers were the 14th of 16 teams in the field and they got to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to Carolina. You also need to take into account who is playing well heading into the postseason. If a team has had a great year and earned a high seed but struggled down the stretch, there’s no guarantee they’re going to play that well when more is on the line. Turning on a switch is difficult.

You also have to account for injuries and matchups. The Kings have gotten lucky with both this season. Vancouver was without Daniel Sedin, which was absolutely debilitating for its offense. That was a team that also, despite winning another Presidents’ Trophy this season, went all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final a year ago. That means the Canucks might have played as many as 20 more games than their opponent in the last calendar year with a far shorter offseason. That kind of exhaustion will have an impact sooner or later. If you look at the Islanders of the early 80s, they won 19 consecutive playoff series, which is patently absurd. They had four Cups in a row, but when they reached the Final in a fifth sea… Read more...

Blood in the Hudson: Rangers vs. Devils

If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area in the 1990s, the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals left a mark on you. It didn’t matter if you liked hockey or if you didn’t, but the Devils were playing the Rangers, 1940 was emblazoned into your psyche and Mark Messier was busy carving out a place there for himself, too. Of course, if you liked hockey, then it was a horse of a different color entirely. The 1994 Eastern Conference Finals in the NHL were a series with drama that was almost unmatched by any other postseason series in the history of sports. Granted, I have a particular soft spot for both hockey and this series in general, but if you look at the facts — and we will do that in a moment — there is no postseason series I have seen in any sport that has proven its equal, though the 2001 World Series comes close.

To wit:

The 1994 season is widely remembered as the campaign in which the Rangers finally broke the curse of 1940, when the team opted to burn its mortgage on Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup in celebration, thereby desecrating a sacred object and sentencing the team to more than half a century without a championship. Or so the theory goes. While the Rangers’ victory over the Devils in that season’s Eastern Conference Finals is not forgotten, people often forget that while the Rangers had the second-best record in the NHL that season, the Devils had the second-best just six points behind them. Add into the mix the natural geographic rivalry of two teams that played across the river from one another, as well as a bitter dynamic for New Jersey in which the Devils played consistent ugly duckling to the big, bad Blueshirts — something that is still the case despite the Devils being the more successful franchise since 1994 by an extremely wide margin — and what lay ahead was a dream set up to a dream series.
So to recap, this is what we were presented with before that series:

— The two best teams in the NHL’s regular season by the most significant empirical metric
— A natural geographic rivalry between two teams and fan bases that hate each other
— A measure of recent history, as the Devils and Rangers had played a bitter seven-game series two years earlier
— A chance for the Devils to finally crawl out from big brother’s shadow
— A chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final, the most that could possibly be at stake between these two teams given the League’s format

This is what we got:

— A Claude Lemieux goal in the final minute of regulation ties the game before Stephane Richer scores the winner for New Jersey in double overtime in Game 1
— A Rangers blowout in Game 2
— Stephane Matteau scoring in double overtime to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead in Game 3
— A 3-1 Devils win in Game 4 to even the series
— A surprisingly convincing win by New Jersey at the Garden in Game 5 to take a 3-2 series lead
— Game 6: Messier guarantees a victory for New York on the road to extend the series, and with the Rangers trailing in the third period Messier himself scores not one, not two, but three goals to rally the Rangers and force a Game 7
— Game 7: New York takes a 1-0 lead into the final moments before New Jersey’s Valeri Zelepukin ties the game with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. At 4:24 of the second overtime, Stephane Matteau beats New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur on a wraparound to end the series and send the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1979 and, eventually, their first championship since 1940.
…

Next Stop to Stanley: Kings vs. Coyotes Preview

(Que-Ese is struggling with computer difficulties, so I’m posting on his behalf. Skynet is taking over)
Well folks, here we are. The Kings are who we thought they are and even better than I thought they could ever be against the Blues. Turning in the most impressive playoff series in franchise history, the Kings are playing the best hockey in the NHL right now.
The Blues were supposed to be a team built similarly to the Kings in every way; Strong defense, stronger goal keeping, and timely scoring. And yet, the surge that is Dustin Brown’s epic playoff physicality once again set the tone of a suddenly confident hockey club.

To put it simply, the Kings got Swag.

Now we turn out attention to Phoenix, a team who arguably is playing the second best hockey during these playoffs (sorry Eastern Conference, I’m a Pacific Division homer). They are doing so largely on the back of their goaltender and solid scoring from players all the way down their bench. Sound familiar? That’s because even though the Kings and Blues were similar on paper, the Kings and Coyotes have gotten to the Western Conference Finals by playing almost identical hockey.
Let’s do a quick comparison for those not watching the last few weeks.
Playoff stats
Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick – 1.55 GAA, .949 Save Percentage, 9 games, 274 Shots
Coyotes Goalie Mike Smith – 1.77 GAA, .948 Save Percentage, 11 games, 400 Shots
15 players with at least one goal for the Kings
13 players with at least one goal for the Coyotes
This is obviously not the most comprehensive comparison but it certainly proves the point that both teams are succeeding under similar formulas. The Kings beat down the Canucks using an aggressive fore-check. The same strategy was employed effectively by the quick Defensemen for the Coyotes against Nashville. 
The Coyotes even have many personal ties to the LA Kings. Their coach, Dave Tippett, was an assistant coach with LA under Andy Murray. The Coyotes backup goalie, Jason LaBarbera, used to don the black and white, and Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall’s son got called up from the AHL to practice with the Coyotes.
Point being, this series is going to be close and its going to ratchet the intensity up a whole lot. My three keys to the upcoming games:


Phoenix has guys like Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle, who Jonathan Quick has called “very skilled defensemen who like jumping up in the rush.” These are the kind of players the Kings have not faced thus far in the playoffs. The Coyotes will rely strongly on Yandle to create from the back, taking advantage any offensive pressure the Kings apply.

That being said, I still think that LA’s defensive group will wind up winning this series. Slava Voynov has been playing well beyond his capabilities and Willie Mitchell is playing about 20 years younger than his birth certificate. That pairing, along with the seasoned playoff experience of Rob Scuderi (2009 Penguins Cup winner) and a rejuvenated Dustin Penner (granted, not a defenseman, but all of a sudden the enforcer we all have been looking for, and a spark on the new second line of Penner-Richards-Carter) point to a slight advantage for the Kings.

2.       THE BIG MO

The Kings have never been here before. This is the farthest a Kings team has been since the days of Gretzky. Yes, that team was in the Stanley Cup Finals, but those same finals used to be the third round. As the rag-tag assortment of youngsters and old farm hands (see Jeff Carter, Willie Mitchell) come off almost a week of rest, can they continue the momentum they gained from a serie

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Late Night With the NHL

If you watch as much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as I do, you have to be prepared for some late nights. After all, the postseason, with its potential for games that theoretically can never end is often full of overtime epics that stretch into the early morning hours, and this season’s rendition has been no exception. In fact, the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs had a record 16 overtime games, with the piece de resistence being between Chicago and Phoenix, a series that saw overtime in the first five games.

So, of course, it’s only fitting that the last game of the round, last night’s Game 7 thriller between New Jersey and Florida, which didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. despite being on the east coast so as not to coincide with the end of Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, needed more than 60 minutes to be decided. After all, Game 6, too needed more than 60 minutes to be figured out, resulting in Ilya Kovalchuk’s beautiful backhand feed after noticing he had lured in both defenders on a 2-on-2, which Travis Zajac took in front of the net and deposited between the legs of Scott Clemmensen to save New Jersey’s season.

But what was surprising about Game 7 between New Jersey and Florida was not that it needed more than 60 minutes to be decided, but that it needed more than 80. Double overtime isn’t something particularly unheard of, but overtimes have ended surprisingly early this postseason. Only three of the 16 overtime games this season reached a second extra period in the first round and the vast majority of games were done within about 10 minutes. This seems to run contrary to the typical postseason overtime trend of “try to end it quickly and if you can’t settle in and lock down the neutral zone and wait for a break,” not because games aren’t ending fast on the whole but because they aren’t ending immediately and still aren’t running on forever.

No need to worry, though. The Devils and Panthers solved that problem for everyone Thursday night by keeping the sportswriters, TV watchers and schedule-makers up deep into the evening in a holding pattern until somebody scored. As someone who is, shall we say, emotionally connected to one of these teams, it was an experience that was euphoric at its end but excrutiating for the rest of the duration. After all, playoff overtime is a precarious tight-rope walk where every slight shift in weight or brief mental mistake — and those are inevitable — could mean the end of a game or a season. The playoffs are stressful. Game 7 doubly so. Game 7 in overtime triply so. A Game 7 in double overtime? You get the idea. And despite nibbling on my fingers for most of the late evening, it was an immediate and explosive relief when Adam Henrique did this.

The game wouldn’t have gone that far, however, were it not for the absolutely stellar play of Martin Brodeur. As we’ve noted here earlier, Marty has struggled for stretches of this season and started to look his age — an age that will reach 40 next weekend — and while the Panthers did manage a furious third-period rally that tied the game with less than four minutes left, both of those goals were the result of an unbelievable amount of pressure and maybe a little too much contact with Brodeur put on by Florida. After all, people will forget that a third Florida goal early in the third period was waived off as a result of goalie interference, but they may not forget that the Panthers peppered Brodeur with an almost absurd 19 shots in the third … Read more...

Next Stop To Stanley: Kings vs. Blues Preview

As we noted before, the Kings are who we thought they are. After destroying the dreams of Vancouver’s children, the boys from LA turn their focus to the St. Louis Blues.

If Vancouver was supposed to be the offensive Goliath of the playoffs, providing a serious threat to the Kings, the Blues are the defensive equivalent. Besides the Blues, there was no other team in hockey that played defense as well as the Kings. Both teams are made up of strong defenseman and Goalies who play with supernatural abilities. Many, including Kings Coach Daryl Sutter, are calling for this series to be one of the lowest-scoring series of all time. 

While I think this certainly will be a series with tight play on the defensive-end, I believe goals will come at a greater clip than expected. The Kings found an offensive rhythm in the Canucks series that should carry over even against the large bodies of the Blues.

Many will point to the Kings 3-1 record against the Blues in the regular season as a sign that this will be a cakewalk. However, the wins earlier this season do not count for squat as the Blues were playing without a healthy Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen. These two players provide a huge offensive kick for the Blues and will change the dynamics/matchups for the series. My predictions will follow below but first the Mambino 3 keys to the Kings-Blues series.

1. Goaltending

Jonathan Quick is the best goalie in hockey. Sure the statistics may say otherwise but no keeper has done more with less than Quick. He played out of his mind this year under two different coaches and singlehandedly kept the playoffs hopes alive for the Kings. He is going to meet his match with the duo of keepers from the Blues.

St. Louis has played with the pair of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak minding the nets. Elliott started the season as the backup for the Blues but wound up having a ridiculous, league leading, 1.56 goals against average. Elliott only played 38 games to Quick’s 69 (Quick managed to be second in the league with an equally ridiculous 1.95 GAA and a league leading 10 shutouts), but still proved his worth throughout the regular season. Halak is nursing a “lower-body injury” (see: sprained ankle) and will likely be ready to return by game 3 at the latest. This means the matchup will likely be Quick-Elliott in St. Louis.

The series outcome will undoubtedly be decided by how well Quick plays. If he continues to stop pucks like the 405 stops traffic nobody can beat the Kings. Read that sentence again. The Kings will stand on Quick’s shoulders as far as he can carry them.

2. Oh Captain, My Captain

Dustin Brown is my captain. He proved in the last series that he is the spark the Kings need to get rolling. With a stat line of 4 goals-1 assist-5 points in 5 games, Brown utterly dismantled the Canucks. He is going to be facing a more formidable Defensive group with the offensive Alex Pietrangelo paired alongside Carlo Colaiacovo.

The Blues, unlike the Kings, received a consistent offensive spark from their defense during the regular season. Though the Kings can look to Drew Doughty as their best offensive threat on defense, the Canucks showed how effectively teams can swarm the wily Doughty. It will again fall upon Brown to help keep the fore-check running strong and create gaps, keeping the pressure on the Blues goaltenders. It was certainly surprising to see the two shorthanded goals Brown scored last series but that type of heads up pressure from the Captain is going to be needed to keep the Kings heading deeper into the playoffs.

3. Staples Center Shittiness 

The Kings have playe

They Are Who We Thought They Were: The LA Kings

Nobody pays any attention to the NHL until the playoffs. There are a whole lot of sports that Americans find more enjoyable…until the playoffs roll around and hockey FORCES you to pay attention. This year’s playoffs are no exception and many across the country are finding out about a secret that some Los Angelenos have known for years; there is a hockey team in LA named the Kings.

Hockey is sort of a big deal in my family (translation: my grandparents are from Canada). My grandfather used to have season tickets to the Kings when they first came to Los Angeles in the Forum. Ultimately, he moved on to being a more American-American and spent his hard earned cash on season tickets with the Dodgers. But this Canadian blood inside me has left me with a passion for the game and the expertise to explain to you, the somewhat playoff hockey fan, who the hell these Kings are, why they are playing out of their mind, and why I think they are going to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup in a few short weeks.

How we got here:

For the last 3 seasons the Kings have languished in the very competitive Pacific Division of the Western Conference. As a result of a long term rebuilding program instituted by General Manager Dean Lombardi, the team is stocked with home-grown draft talent. Heavily investing in tough minded defensemen, Lombardi has assembled a team that runs on a defense-first philosophy. The former coach of the Kings, Terry Murray, fired mid-season this year, fit perfectly into the defensive model set forth by the GM (he was a defensemen during his time as a player in the NHL). Though never a strong scoring team, LA found itself qualifying for the playoffs 2 out of 3 years under Murray by their grit and a handful of timely goals. Having a great base of quality young players that included the likes of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jack Johnson, Wayne Simmonds, Jonathan Quick, and Dustin Brown, The Kings were ready to make a run out of the basement of the West.

Then came 2012. This was finally the season that AEG (Kings owners) would allow Lombardi a little leeway with spending money outside of the draft and bringing free agents that can score onto the squad.

Lombardi tried everything to bring a true scorer to the team. He signed Mike Richards to a long term deal, traded for Dustin Penner, and brought Jeff Carter over this season at the trading deadline to try and spark an offensive outburst. He also fired Coach Murray and replaced him with veteran Stanley Cup-winning coach Daryl Sutter. The cards of the deck were set and yet the Kings still couldn’t score consistently.

Fortunately, the low scoring boys of LA had the best goaltender in the league on their side. Jonathan Quick had more shutouts in 2012 than any other keeper in the NHL and oftentimes found himself winning games that saw little if any offense being provided by his forwards or defensemen. Having Quick behind the goal gave the Kings a chance to make it to the playoffs given a bit of luck and some timely scoring.

Who we thought they were:

Having top line scorers in Carter, Kopitar, and Richards, the Kings should have coasted to a Pacific Division title. We thought the combination of the young core and the newly acquired former all-stars should have pushed them over the top.

Instead, they spurted and stopped in great heaves of offensive production. There appeared to be something missing from the formula and it came in the form of leadership. Dustin Penner is known as a hot head (he had back-spams this season from eating pancakes), Jeff Carter was a renowned drinker during his days with Philadelphia, and Mi