6 NHL Teams That Could Pull off an LA Kings-Style Cup Run Next Season

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

6 NHL Teams That Could Pull off an LA Kings-Style Cup Run Next Season

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    The run by the the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup championship was notable for two reasons.

    The first is that the Kings shook off an ordinary regular season and made their climb from the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference playoff seeds.

    By the time the playoffs started, they were clearly more than an ordinary team, but their body of regular season work said that's what they were.

    Once the playoffs started, the Kings were a dominant team. Five-game triumphs over the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes surrounding a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues. A 3-0 lead over the New Jersey Devils before closing them out in six games.

    The Kings were dominant in the postseason, and that was probably the most notable aspect of their championship performance.

    If there is a season in 2012-13, here's a look at six teams that have the potential to dominate in the playoffs the way the Kings did last season.

    Other teams could possibly take the league championship, but none of the others could do it in dominating fashion.

Vancouver Canucks

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    It seems as if the window of opportunity may be getting set to close on the Vancouver Canucks.

    They have lost in the last three seasons to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings, the three teams that won the Stanley Cup.

    But while those defeats are painful and have created scars, the Canucks are still a talented and powerful team. They may have the ability to go on a run and dominate through the playoffs like the Kings did last year.

    One thing has to happen to give them that chance. They must complete a trade involving Roberto Luongo. When Luongo moves on, the goaltending chores will belong to Cory Schneider.

    Is he good enough to lead the Canucks on a memorable run? We don't know, but we have learned that Luongo carries too much baggage to get the job done with the Canucks.

    Since the Canucks still have the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows, Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa, that's a core that is strong and explosive.

    A strong start in the playoffs with Schneider in the net could bring the Canucks their long-awaited Stanley Cup triumph.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The Pittsburgh Penguins appeared to be ready to make a run to the Stanley Cup at the end of the regular season.

    Led by leading scorer Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins also got Sidney Crosby back in the lineup. Crosby had battled concussion-related issues for about 15 months and was finally ready to jump back into the battle.

    Throw in James Neal, Kris Letang and a strong supporting cast, and there wasn't a team in the league that didn't recognize the Penguins as a threat.

    It didn't work out that way, as the Philadelphia Flyers blitzed them in the first round of the playoffs, but the Penguins should be set for an explosive, high-octane season.

    If they have momentum as the playoffs get underway, there's no reason the Penguins couldn't go on a dominant run to the Stanley Cup.

St. Louis Blues

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    What the Los Angeles Kings did during the postseason, the St. Louis Blues did during the regular season.

    The Blues were off to a miserable start, and head coach Davis Payne was once again overmatched behind the bench. The Blues fired him and brought in Ken Hitchcock to implement his hard-hitting, physical and defensive style. The Blues took off immediately.

    They challenged for the Presidents' Trophy before finishing second in the Western Conference to the Vancouver Canucks.

    They used the strong goaltending duo of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak as the backbone for their run. They won a first-round playoff matchup with the San Jose Sharks before running into the Los Angeles Kings.

    The Blues have feisty and hard-working players like T.J. Oshie (team high 54 points), David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo to serve as their go-to guys.

    St. Louis should only get better this year, and if it can add a bit more scoring, it has a chance to go on a dominant run and win the franchise's first Stanley Cup.

Boston Bruins

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    A season after their magical Stanley Cup run, the Bruins went quietly in 2012.

    They were eliminated in the first round by the Washington Capitals in overtime of the seventh game.

    A break might have turned changed those results, but the Bruins clearly did not have the same verve they had in 2011.

    They could get it back and rampage through the playoffs in 2013. No team has the hard-hitting and physical defense that the Bruins do. Led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins have the nastiness and edge to shut down any attack.

    The offense is plentiful and it can come in waves. If they can get a full season out of Nathan Horton and he can provide more playoff heroics like he did in 2011, the Bruins have a chance to roll to the title.

    Their biggest question may be in goal. Tim Thomas is on "leave" and Tuukka Rask takes over. Rask has flashed his talent, but is he really good enough to get the Bruins another Cup? He will have to prove it.

Los Angeles Kings

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    There's no reason to think that the Los Angeles Kings are going to be anything but one of the best teams in the NHL this season.

    They rolled to a title last year with Jonathan Quick in the nets, and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner returns at full strength.

    With a mobile and powerful defense, the Kings showed that they had put the offensive problems they had in the regular season behind them. Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter will lead this attack.

    The biggest issue may be head coach Darryl Sutter. A humorless and hard-edged coach in the past, Sutter seemed to lighten up just a tad last year. If he regresses at all, he has the kind of personality that could suck the life out of the defending Stanley Cup champions.

New York Rangers

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    The Rangers had an excellent season and finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference last year.

    They had every reason to think they would get to the Stanley Cup Finals, but their season was cut short by the New Jersey Devils in six games.

    The biggest issue the Rangers had last year was a lack of clutch goal scoring. New York addressed the issue by acquiring high-scoring Rick Nash from Columbus in the offseason.

    With Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Nash leading the way along with a strong supporting cast, the Rangers could fulfill last year's promise and run through the playoffs next year.

    Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist gives them the goaltending, they have a decisive and effective shot-blocking defense and they are hungry. The 2012-13 season could be their year.