Emerging Storylines for Los Angeles Kings' 2014 Postseason/Offseason
There are a number of hot topics surrounding the team and its players—Dustin Brown's hot streak being one of them.
Find out more as we examine the emerging storylines for the Kings' playoff run and offseason.
Statistics courtesy of NHL.com.
Will Mike Richards Work His Way to the 2nd Line?
Mike Richards has been up and down the lineup this season, his most recent stop being on the fourth line. Centering Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis is not the best use of Richards' skill set.
However, the 29-year-old forward is having one of the worst statistical campaigns of his career, with 11 goals and 30 assists for 41 points.
His biggest slump has taken place in the past few weeks, as he's notched just two points in 12 games.
Richards is at his best when he's playing alongside Jeff Carter—and in the past two years Tyler Toffoli as well. If he can get back to generating offense off the forecheck and setting up players on the rush, Richards should work his way back up the lineup.
Dustin Brown's Hot Streak
Dustin Brown has been under the microscope all season because of his limited offensive production.
However, he's turned things around in recent weeks, looking every bit like the player Kings fans are used to seeing. He's worked hard on the forecheck, had a physical presence at both ends of the rink and, most importantly, generated a lot of offense.
Brown has racked up 10 points and recorded a plus-five rating in a 13-game span. Now the question is whether he can keep producing at that pace in the postseason.
Brown has not been great against the Sharks so far this season. The captain has registered no goals and just a single assist in four games versus the Kings' California rivals.
Flashy 1st Line
The Kings' first line is one of the best in the NHL right now.
The trio of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and newcomer Marian Gaborik has combined for 11 points in the past four games. It took a few games for the chemistry to develop between Kopitar and Gaborik, but it's clear now they have the potential to be one of the most dominant one-two punches in the league.
With this level of production, it takes some pressure off Jeff Carter and the second line—not to mention Dustin Brown and Mike Richards—heading into the playoffs.
The question for the offseason is: Can Dean Lombardi and Gaborik agree to a contract?
CapGeek.com indicates that he's in the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million deal. Depending on his performance in the playoffs, Gaborik could seek around $6 million per year.
Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene
Two of the Kings' veteran blueliners have contracts that will expire after this season. Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene play a similar style, but have had very different roles this season.
Mitchell is still one of the team's top shutdown defensemen at age 36 and has appeared in 71 games thus far. Greene, on the other hand, has been a healthy scratch numerous times this season, playing in just 33 games.
Greene is accepting of his role and continues to handle himself with class, as you'd expect from the veteran leader.
In speaking with Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, Greene explained his mindset. "Just staying ready, just making sure you’re ready so you can help when you get the chance and get the call,” he said.
Should Dean Lombardi bring both, one or neither back next season?
That may depend on the development of prospects like Derek Forbort and the newly acquired Brayden McNabb. In the best-case scenario, the Kings get at least one of the veterans re-signed to maintain some depth and experience on the back end.
Battle of California
The Kings are on a crash course to play the San Jose Sharks in the first round, with the winner likely to face the Anaheim Ducks in the second round.
They have one game left against each team this season and this is what the results look like so far:
Kings vs. Sharks
SJS 3 at LAK 4 OT
LAK 2 at SJS 3 SO
SJS 1 at LAK 4
LAK 1 at SJS 0
Kings vs. Ducks
LAK 3 at ANA 2 SO
LAK 1 at ANA 2
ANA 3 at LAK 0
ANA 2 at LAK 1
There are very few rivalries in the NHL that currently match the fast-paced, physical and high-caliber games between the Kings against their California counterparts.
The Kings and Ducks appear poised to continue to make deep playoff runs in the next five years, while the window may be starting to close on the Sharks before they have to undergo a quick rebuild.