LA Kings: 3 Reasons Not to Panic for the 2013 Season
Isn't it in typical Los Angeles King fashion to keep their fans' hearts racing and heads aching? To accompany jubilation with disappointment?
The defending Stanley Cup champions, after one of the most dominant playoff runs in recent history, started off 2013 with an air of complacency and underachievement around the team. They started slow, and before you could even blink we were 10 games deep, and the Kings had a 3-5-2 record. They were in the basement of the Western conference and fans were starting to question everything they thought they knew about the 2012 playoff team.
Fast forwards seven games, and the Kings are up from last in the conference to seventh. Panic is turning into confidence. Coming off a truly dominant and playoff-esque third period against division-leading Anaheim on Monday, the Kings are showing us a few reasons why "panic" shouldn't be a word in their fans' dictionaries.
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Early on in the season questions were raised about the health of Jonathan Quick, and whether or not he would be primed and ready for the season. His shaky performances and a slew of injuries to key defensive players in Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell did nothing to help the Kings dig themselves out of a brutal start.
However, the team has started to come around in regards to its bread and butter. With a little bit of a learning curve needed for the young and inexperienced players like Davis Drewiske and Jake Muzzin, and the acclimation of new addition Keaton Ellerby, the team has shored up defensively.
Also helping is the raised level of play from the goaltending tandem of Quick and Jonathan Bernier. When Quick was down and a touch shaky, former first-rounder Bernier rose to the occasion to help the team out.
The defense/goaltending is back and have allowed just 10 goals over the last seven games. That's a stark contrast to the 30 they allowed over the first 10.
(Finally) a Real Offensive Threat
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How long has it been since the Los Angeles Kings have had a real offensive threat? A sniper? A potential 50-goal scorer?
The answer is, "A long while."
However, this year the Kings have added an offensive element to their team that they have been sorely missing for so many years, and it starts with Jeff Carter.
Carter has easily been the team's most valuable player through 17 games. His 10 goals lead the team and have him sitting at seventh overall in the league. If the season were to be a full 82-game season, Carter would be on pace for just shy of 50 goals.
Another key player in this offensive threat is Anze Kopitar. After a little bit of a slow start—five points in eight games—Kopitar has ignited with 10 points in his last eight games, as well as points in seven of his last eight games. When on his game the Slovenian can truly take over a game.
Also noteworthy are the performances of forwards Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, who, like Kopitar, had slow starts but have started to string together a fine set of games.
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It seemed like every night in the playoffs there was a new hero in Los Angeles. That depth was key in the team's success.
To start the season, it was more of the same frustrating early 2011-12 Kings team where the good performances were few and far between.
The difference this time around, though, is that the good performances have been from unlikely sources. Last year it was the stars who carried the team, and secondary scoring was a question mark. This season the team has been buoyed by performances of Kyle Clifford, Jonathan Bernier and the emerging young star defenseman Slava Voynov.
The team's depth has been one of the few reasons the team kept relatively afloat early on. With Kopitar, Richards, Brown and the regular A-list players out injured or playing below level, a lot of players were asked to step up. A lot of them did.
Now, as the stars return to form and health, the role players and depth players like Jake Muzzin, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis are added offensive threats on top of an already scary group of star players.
If it's all hands on deck for the Kings and everyone is clicking, watch out.