Los Angeles Kings: 4 Keys to Taking Down the NHL Champs This Season
Why NHL!? Why NHLPA!? Why!?
Okay, glad I got that out of the way.
Anyways, as you all know, we are currently under a lockout/work stoppage for the time being, but that doesn't mean we can't still look forward in hopes that something will happen soon.
The L.A. Kings are the Stanley Cup champions, and that means they will have a target on their back.
No team will go into the matchup ill-prepared. It's just something that the Kings will now have to deal with.
Everyone is going to get up to play the Stanley Cup champs.
So as a fan of the Kings, and a hockey analyst/enthusiast, here are a few key elements that teams will be looking to execute if they want to take out the champions.
The Kings are not a fast team. Never really have been, certainly aren't now.
The team has always played a slow, defensive, physical style of game. Outside of your guys like Trevor Lewis, Brad Richardson and Jeff Carter, the Kings really lack an element of speed.
Teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks gave the Kings fits last season by exposing how slow they really are. The Kings, to neutralize that speed, love to play physical and clog the game down in the middle of the ice.
However, the biggest threat I see to the Kings is frequent odd-man rushes up-ice where teams utilize smart pinches and open-ice passes to leave the Kings' D-men and forwards in the dust.
Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi are no blazing skaters, and if they get caught in a foot race with pretty much any forward, they are in deep trouble.
Opposing speed has been a thorn in the side of the Kings for many seasons running now—don't expect that to change.
Catch Them on the Hangover
At this point that Stanley Cup hangover isn't a myth, it's tradition.
It happens without fail to almost every team that wins a cup in May/June.
One thing that will be key in getting some W's against the Kings is catching them early on in the season. Best to get in your good punches early before the team is able to get in a rhythm again.
I can't believe I am saying this, though: If there is a shortened season, it almost certainly helps the Kings to an extent. The team will get more rest than the average Stanley Cup winner normally gets.
Silver lining, I suppose.
It's also important to remember that, with Quick currently recovering from offseason surgery, he may not be sharp early on in the season and we might see Jonathan Bernier for the first few starts.
Shut Down the Top Guys
Now I won't say it was a fluke that the Kings' bottom lines performed so well during the postseason, but it was pretty damn unexpected.
It seems simple and basic, right? Shut down the top line or top two lines and win the game. Well, depth can be a tricky thing. Sometimes, you get those third and fourth lines that are just as good and productive as top lines.
Again, not saying it's a fluke, but the Kings had a problem almost all season, sans the playoffs, with getting production from forwards five through 12 on the depth chart. It really was as simple as shut down Brown and Kopitar and you have won the game.
If I were an opposing coach, I would keep it as simple as that when prepping my players. Work those top guys, shut them down and try and make the bottom forwards beat us.
The Kings have added threats obviously with Penner, Richards and Carter. However, those players proved to be extremely hot and cold throughout the year.
Regardless of postseason performances, I would almost certainly approach the 2012-2013 Stanley Cup champion Kings as you would the 2011-2012 regular season Los Angeles Kings.
Because that is the team that finished eighth, after all, and couldn't score more than two goals a game on a regular basis.
Test Their Discipline
Discipline is one thing that Darryl Sutter really shored up with the Kings.
Still, though, the champs have a mean streak in them and at times got themselves in penalty trouble with ill-disciplined play.
It's hard to score goals when a team is on the penalty kill, right?
San Jose was a perfect example of a team that just constantly got under the Kings' skin and got them off their game.
San Jose was 4-2 against the Kings this season, and pretty much every Kings fan now hates Ryane Clowe.
Being a pest, being nasty and being annoying can be an easy way to agitate a team off its game. The Kings are no different than any other team when it comes to that formula. Maybe putting a little extra oomph into nudging Quick will be all it takes.