Los Angeles Kings' Blueprint to a Deep Run in 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Los Angeles Kings are a talented, deep, well-coached group that continues to underperform in the regular season each year.
In the playoffs however, they've played to their potential the past two years. They won the Stanley Cup in 2011-12 and got back to the conference final last year, before being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
With that said, here's the blueprint to a deep run for L.A. in the 2014 playoffs.
When Jonathan Quick is at his best, he's one of the top goaltenders in the world.
When he's average between the pipes, the Kings have a difficult time winning.
The Kings gave up the second-fewest shots in the league this season. So, while Quick may not have to make 35 or 40 saves to win in the playoffs, he will need to make the tough, timely saves. Keeping the Kings in low-scoring games will be key, especially when they face a team with offensive superstars like Anaheim or Dallas.
Not allowing a 1-0 game to become a 2-0 game in the second or third period could be the difference between a first-round exit or a return trip to the conference finals. The Kings aren't going to win by scoring three or four goals per game. Quick knows what's expected of him in the postseason, and he's delivered in each of the past two seasons.
He's won 25 games, allowed fewer than 1.90 goals per game and has a save percentage above .935 in the playoffs during that span.
A similar performance this season should give the Kings a good chance to get back to the conference finals.
Contributions from the Kings' young trio up front—Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli—could make a huge difference, especially in the later rounds.
Toffoli should be in the lineup throughout the postseason, while Vey and Pearson may be forced to sit in the press box at times. However, if a player is injured, these two need to be ready to jump in and play whatever role may be asked of them.
Vey and Pearson have shown they can play mistake-free defensively, but can they produce on offense if needed?
Dale Weise was the unlikely hero for the Montreal Canadiens in overtime on the first day of this year's playoffs. It's stepping up in the moment, taking advantage of a loose puck, or scrum in front that can change the momentum in a series.
And, you don't have to have the skill of Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter to do it.
The Los Angeles Kings are a dominant puck-possession team.
Whether Darryl Sutter calls on the first line or the fourth line, each and every player buys into the system. With a strong forecheck and cycle, organized breakout and accurate passing, the Kings are able to control the tempo.
The Kings must stick to their game plan, regardless of who's hurt or who's hot or cold and win the puck-possession battle. If they do, it will be tough for any team to eliminate them.
Along with being a great puck-possession team, the Kings have established a reputation for being one of the most physical teams in the NHL.
To wear down their opponents—specifically the speedy, skilled forwards on San Jose and Anaheim—the Kings need to hit them every opportunity they get.
L.A. racked up 2,609 hits this season, which had them tied with Columbus for the most in the league.
On the back end,Robyn Regehr, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin must outmuscle the likes of Brent Burns and Logan Couture along the boards. Up front, Dustin Brown must have the same impact he's had in the previous two playoffs and keep an eye out for players carrying the puck up ice with their heads down.
And, it wouldn't hurt for Mike Richards—who hasn't had the physical presence he's had in recent years—to rack up a few hits per game.
Great Special Teams Play
The Kings thrive five-on-five, having ranked third in the NHL with a 1.29 goals for/against ratio.
But, their special teams play must improve in the postseason if they hope to make a deep run.
The Kings ranked 27th in the NHL with a power play that operated at 15.1 percent, while their penalty kill ranked 11th (83.1 percent).
L.A. must work more effectively on the man advantage to create chances. This is especially true for the top unit of Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik, which on paper appear to be one of the most lethal lines in the league.
The penalty-killers must be aggressive, get in the shooting lanes to block shots and take chances offensively if the opportunity arises.
Sound special teams play, along with a consistently strong effort five-on-five, should allow the Kings to go deep in the playoffs.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
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