Last year when the Los Angeles Kings won it all, they had a lot of things going right for them. They had good goaltending, they were healthy and they were playing some of the best hockey of the season at the right time.
So far, 2013 hasn't exactly had the same feel to it. The team has had notable injuries and up-and-down goaltending, and hasn't seemingly hit its stride to close out the season. It's tough in a 48-game sprint, and this season was always going to feel a little bit off as opposed to others.
Regardless, the Kings are in a great position and can lock up home ice with some favorable results in the final few games. If they do, and if they want to emulate the results of last year, they are going to need a very clear blueprint of how to do it.
Obviously you can't ask the Kings to mimic an amazing 10-1 playoff record on the road like they had last season, but you can certainly ask them to be a tough out in an opposing building.
This season, the team has struggled on the road, and one of the clear plans it should have going into the playoffs is to tighten up and neutralize the fifth man. The Kings were painfully efficient on enemy ice in last season's playoffs, and most times, they took the wind right out of the sails of both the opposing players and the crowd.
It's always a gut shot to lose on home ice, and the Kings were masters of that shot last season. It worked well in 2012; it could work well in 2013.
The Kings got some unbelievable performances from the bottom-line forwards in 2012, including 13 goals of the team's total 45 in the playoffs from forwards.
While 13 doesn't seem like a whole lot, it's balanced scoring and it's an absolute nightmare for other teams to handle. You've shut down the Anze Kopitar line and the Mike Richards line, but the rest are still scoring and your best shut-down units are all tired. It can be devastating, and it was last year.
It's always been said that depth is key in winning in the postseason, and the Kings were a shining example of that theory. The team has received some pretty solid outings this year from Jarrett Stoll, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King and others, but they are going to need them all to shift into high gear once the 2013 dance starts again.
The toll that the Kings laid on opposing teams last season was not only physical but mental.
If one night against a big, bruising, hard-cycling and hard-hitting team wasn't enough, you had to mentally prepare yourself to face them in a possible seven-game series. Other teams, like the Devils and the Blues, tried to play a similar game, but both fell short.
It was a very taxing and trying game for opponents to play against, and looking back, it might have been the No. 1 reason the Kings won it all. Even when the team wasn't scoring, they were grinding you down in the corner or making you pay with big hits from almost every line and every player.
By the ends of Games 3 and 4, opponents were probably ready to be done with the Kings' style of play.
No team has won a Stanley Cup in spite of a goaltender (No, Detroit fans, you didn't win in spite of Chris Osgood).
Jonathan Quick was extraordinary last year, and to ask him to repeat said performance would be a tall order. However, if the team wants to repeat, he's going to have to be much better than his current form.
Quick is a battler, though, and whenever he is down, he seems to pick himself up with even more stalwart performances. When the postseason hits, Quick will have to be on his game—maybe not a 100 percent mimic of last year, but close to it would certainly be nice.