After roughly four months of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL owners locking them and the other 29 teams out, the Los Angeles Kings are finally going to get the opportunity to raise their championship banner and defend the Stanley Cup that they won in such spectactular fashion last June.
Here is the pertinent information of the first of the Kings’ 48 games:
DAY AND DATE: Saturday, January 19th
TIME: 12 noon
PLACE: Staples Center
OPPONENT: Chicago Blackhawks (incidentally, the 2010 Stanley Cup champs)
As for how I think the Kings will fare and what their chances of repeating are, the Los Angeles Times has picked them to finish third in the Western Conference; except for enforcer Kevin Westgarth, everyone returns from that epic Cup run.
Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell are recovering from knee injuries and won’t play against the Blackhawks, but are expected to return fairly quickly.
I pretty much agree with the Times’ choice of the Kings finishing third in the West. As for whether or not they’ll win their second straight Stanley Cup, there are a couple of things that must be kept in mind:
1. Like Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter said, L.A was the best team for two months, not ten.
In short, they are the epitome of a team that caught the proverbial lightning in a bottle and got white hot at the right time. Although they should be a very good team, one really cannot predict a team getting that hot.
2. The NHL, along with the NBA, is one league where it’s all about what you do in the playoffs; entering as the eighth and last seed last season, the Kings are the definition of that as the adage “The team that plays best in the postseason wins the title” definitely applies here.
Personally, I think that the Kings have a pretty good chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup again in five months, but like this past June, plenty of things must go their way as they won’t be able to sneak up on people.
And they absolutely must stay healthy – they cannot have injuries like Kopitar and Mitchell have – and hungry; the way Sutter coaches, he will see to it that the Kings stay focused.
In any case, I’m very much looking forward to seeing if this hockey team can pull it off and become the first repeat Cup holders since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98.
Let the puck drop!