The Los Angeles Kings have defied the odds and reached their second Stanley Cup Finals as the No. 8 seed. For the first time since The Great One wore a black and silver sweater, the Kings are on the brink of bringing the cup to Los Angeles.
The Kings have shown how strong defensive play will put you in position to win a championship. This season, Los Angeles was second in the league with a 2.1 goals against average. With an increase in offense in the postseason and the continued success in their own end, the Kings are ready to make Southern California care about the NHL.
To win this series, Los Angeles will have to win on the road, a task they have completed in each attempt this postseason. This time, the Kings will travel to New Jersey to face the Eastern Conference champion Devils.
To beat New Jersey, it will take some spectacular individual efforts from the Kings' stars. These players will need to have their best games of the year to bring the hardware to Hollywood:
Kings captain Dustin Brown has been lights out this postseason. The seven-year veteran leads the team in playoff points, goals and assists. We've seen him throw his body around and make key plays through the first three series.
Against New Jersey, Brown will need to continue to lead by example for the younger players. Brown wears the 'C' on his jersey for a reason. He makes everyone around him better and is someone for the entire team to look up to.
In the playoffs, goaltender Jonathan Quick has been spectacular, averaging only 1.54 goals per game. The Game 5 series-clinching win against Phoenix was only the second time this playoffs that an opponent scored more than two goals on the Kings goalie.
New Jersey has already faced, and defeated, quality goaltending in the form of Hart Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist. The Devils also have their own world-class goalie in Martin Brodeur. Quick will need to play his best hockey and continue his hot streak to outplay the future Hall of Famer.
Jeff Carter's arrival in Los Angeles at the trade deadline was the catalyst to starting Los Angeles' playoff run. Carter may have been the piece missing from the Kings that prevented them from taking off early in the season. In the playoffs, Carter has nine points, including four goals.
More importantly, Carter has helped take the pressure off other offensive players—such as Brown—and opened up the ice for the Kings in the offensive zone. The Kings' front office brought him to Los Angeles to win, and he will need to play his best for that to happen.
Who is the most important player for the Kings?
Drew Doughty will be the most important player for Los Angeles against the Devils. He is an incredible asset to this team both in skill and experience.
Against New Jersey, Doughty will be crucial in stopping one of the most dangerous players in the NHL—Ilya Kovalchuk. The Devils forward leads the team in points this postseason and was able to make the New York defense look feeble in the Eastern Conference finals.
Doughty's effort in stopping Kovalchuk and the Devils' top lines will go a long way in deciding this series. If he can force Kovalchuk to take tough shots and get in his way entering their zone, Los Angeles will be that much closer to hoisting the cup.