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Kings: Dark Horse?

The last time the Los Angeles Kings made it to the playoffs I was in high school. Yikes. Make no mistake, this team is a different team. While they no longer have hockey great Wayne Gretzky on their squad they have plenty of talent spread around.

Not a single player from the 2001-2002 season (or coach for that matter) remain with the Kings now. So what have the Kings been doing in the eight years since their last playoff berth? Rebuilding. With little glitz and no glamour the Kings have escaped much of the media’s spotlight and glare. NBC and Versus regularly pick up the big ticket games, the Capitals, Penguins, Red Wings, and Hawks seem to dominate the national ticket. While most fans have not seen this team play they should not underestimate them.

Gold Medal Worthy Performance
Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty was the youngest player in recent years to wear the Canadian sweater in this past Olympics at age 20. Doughty proved to be pivotal to the Canadians when he went plus-6 in the tournament and plus-3 in the Gold Medal Game alone. In the NHL Doughty is third in scoring amongst defenseman this season, his sophomore season. A feat that is not easy to complete.

Defensive Zone Covered
Besides Doughty, the Kings have more than enough in their zone to keep the Canucks frustrated. Jack Johnson played for Team USA in the past Olympics. While he and teammate Dustin Brown both walked away with Silver medals while Doughty held the Gold their performances were noteworthy. Johnson is not only able to defend his end well but the Kings call on him in shoot outs and to score goals during the power play. Brown had his third consecutive 50 point season with the Kings this year.

Having two strong goaltenders to Vancouver’s one shaky goaltender and one underplayed backup will serve the Kings well. Jonathan Quick is a sophomore that made it to Team USA. While he didn’t get any ice time due to Miller’s incredible performance, being considered is a huge honor. This season he’s played in 72 games, and while he has no previous playoff experience it’s probably not a huge factor. When he gets a bad bounce or break the Kings have no trouble pulling him and putting in Erik Ersberg. Ersberg played in 11 games this season.

Past Experience
Even though the Kings haven’t made it to the playoffs for eight years several of their players have. Sean O’Donnell won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks back in 2007. Rob Scuderi went to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Pittsburgh Penguins both times, coming away with one ring. Justin Williams got his name etched on Stanley in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. He played against now teammates Ryan Smyth, Jarrett Stoll, and Matt Greene then of the Edmonton Oilers. 

A New Era
Gone are the days of Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Tomas Sandstrom, Dave Taylor, Tony Granato, Steve Duchesne, Larry Robinson, andKelly Hrudey. Usher in the news days of the Kings. Gretzky couldn’t bring a cup to Los Angeles, though he is credited with making hockey popular in a rather untraditional market. Can the new Kings reign supreme and accomplish what the Great One never did?

Categories: NHL
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