Another night, and another dominant victory by the Los Angeles Kings.
Mike Richards had a Gordie Howe hat trick, and Drew Doughty had a goal and two assists as the Kings defeated a beleaguered St. Louis Blues club, 4-2, in front of a standing room sellout at Staples Center.
For the second time already this postseason the Kings will be taking a 3-0 series lead, and forcing their opponents to beat them four games in a row.
A lot of people are asking themselves, where was this team throughout the season? Was it really just the addition of Carter? Was it all just a matter of time? Is it just a hot streak that will cool off?
In short, yes.
The Kings went into the trade deadline this year 29th in the league in offense. Since the trade deadline, the Kings completely changed and were second in offense.
It wasn't just the addition of Jeff Carter, it was the full-time promotion for Slava Voynov, who has had an outstanding rookie season. It was also the emergence of Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, who were standouts with the AHL Manchester Monarchs.
The new found depth for the Kings fit well with Darryl Sutter, who night in and night out has rolled four lines at every possible juncture.
It's been a bumpy learning season for the team also, who, for maybe the first time in a long time, had to deal with lofty expectations for success. With the addition of Mike Richards, suddenly the Kings became a contender in many eyes.
The cliche "learning to win" is often thrown around by many NHL coaches, and the Kings have spent this entire season learning to win games that they were expected to win.
Down the stretch, the Kings were 9-3-2 in the final 14 games. When the games mattered, the team starting putting it together.
There might be no bigger example of the Kings turn-around then captain Dustin Brown. Who after talk of being traded out of L.A., turned a pace for career lows into an above-average season. The New York native had 15 points in his final 10 games, and 27 points in the final two months of the season.
They are now 7-1 in the playoffs as a No. 8 seed behind leading scorer Brown. They also have one of the stingiest defenses in the league, and one of the hottest goaltenders on the planet.
No doubt the Kings are playing above many expectations, but to a lot of fans who have watched the team all year, it feels like this is the team we were hoping for but never saw.
Confidence breeds confidence. The Kings have learned to win against the best of the best, they are believing in themselves and more importantly they are believing in their system and in each other.
The team is now one win away from a place the franchise hasn't been since 1993, when Gretzky donned the silver and black.
So why do the "underdog" Kings continue to win? Because they believe.
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