What We Learned About the Kings from Their Thrilling Victory over Blackhawks

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What We Learned About the Kings from Their Thrilling Victory over Blackhawks
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Kings showed their championship poise and experience in Wednesday night's 5-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

It was an impressive win for the Kings, who erased three one-goal deficits to earn two points and strengthen their chances of making the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The defending Stanley Cup champions were 0-2 versus the Blackhawks entering this matchup and won't play them again this season unless they meet in the playoffs.

Let's look at three things we learned about Los Angeles from its thrilling win in Chicago.

 

Dustin Brown Is Playing Much Better Than He Was at the Start of the Year

Dustin Brown has 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 32 games this season, and nine of those points have come in the month of March (14 games).

As the team captain, Brown leads by example with his physical play, effort and goal scoring. The Kings forward scored the game-winning goal in the third period of Wednesday's victory and had a plus/minus rating of two in 18:09 of ice time. Brown also led all Kings players with six hits and 28 shifts in the Blackhawks game.

The 28-year-old winger struggled in the first half of last season and started to be more productive offensively as the playoff race intensified.

We could see a similar scenario with Brown this year, which would really benefit the Kings because his offense is very important due to the team's lack of scoring depth on the wings.

 

Jonathan Quick's Performance This Season Will Make it Difficult for the Kings to Trade Jonathan Bernier

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Kings couldn't have predicted that Jonathan Quick would be outplayed by 24-year-old backup Jonathan Bernier this season. Quick is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner and came into 2013 as one of the favorites for the Vezina Trophy.

Here is how they compare with two-thirds of this shortened 48-game season completed:

Player W/L/OT GAA SV%
Quick 11-10-2 2.53 .895
Bernier 7-2-0 1.94 .923

This situation has made it difficult for general manager Dean Lombardi to move Bernier before the April 3 trade deadline.

Why would the Kings move Bernier? He's a restricted free agent at the end of the season and with Quick's 10-year, $58 million contract extension starting next year, the Kings cannot afford to have two expensive goaltenders with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million.

Quick allowed four goals in Wednesday's game, and with the Kings facing the possibility of playing the Blackhawks or Ducks in a seven-game playoff series, they will need two quality goaltenders to be successful against these high-powered offenses. Quick has allowed 12 goals in three games against Chicago this season and did not look comfortable in any of those contests.

The best decision for the Kings to make is to keep their goaltending duo intact for the rest of the year, re-sign Bernier in the summer and then shop him on the trade market.

As a talented young goalie who has proven he can be successful on a playoff contender, Lombardi shouldn't have too much trouble finding teams with interest in his backup goalie.

After listening to Lombardi talk about Bernier on Sportsnet's Hockey Central at Noon program last week, it would be surprising if the Kings backup was traded before the deadline.

Quick will likely be the Kings' starting goaltender in the first round of the playoffs, but if he struggles to play at a high level, Los Angeles will need a reliable backup. If Bernier is traded, the Kings' won't have a quality backup because none of the team's goaltenders in the AHL are ready for playoff hockey in the NHL.

 

Tyler Toffoli is Ready to Contribute at the NHL Level

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The Kings are one of the four teams reportedly (via Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos) on Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla's "trade list." Iginla and Kings head coach Darryl Sutter know each other well from their days in Calgary, and Los Angeles is one of the few teams that can give the Flames captain a fantastic opportunity to win the Stanley Cup in 2013.

But even if Lombardi fails to acquire the star winger, it won't be a terrible situation because young prospect Tyler Toffoli is capable of providing Los Angeles with valuable scoring depth for the playoffs.

The 21-year-old forward has spent most of the season with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs, where he has scored 28 goals with 20 assists in 55 games.

Toffoli has played in four games for the Kings in 2013, all of them occurring in March, and the team is 4-0 in those contests.

He was a great goal scorer in the OHL and has brought those same skills with him to the NHL level. Toffoli has scored two goals with one assist and a plus/minus rating of plus-three this season, and he scored a very important goal in the third period of Wednesday's win to tie the game at 4-4.

Toffoli is the Kings' best forward prospect and projects to be a very good top-six center in the NHL. In addition to his goal scoring talent, he brings speed, playmaking, power-play skill and a high compete level to Sutter's lineup.

The former second-round pick is not intimated by the pressure of playing in the NHL, and he will be an important depth forward for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs.

Toffoli's performance this season is an encouraging sign for the Kings and will put less pressure on Lombardi to add an impact forward to his roster before the trade deadline.

 

Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.

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