Los Angeles Kings: The three things that helped clinch a playoff berth

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 26: Jonathan Quick (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 26: Jonathan Quick (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Kings are ready to chase the team’s third Stanley Cup since 2012 after clinching a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Los Angeles Kings will be making their return to the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs after missing the playoffs last year.  By virtue of a dramatic St. Louis Blues loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings were able to get into the playoffs from their couches.

Despite their recent pedigree as a two-time Stanley Cup champion, the Kings were not expected to be playoff contenders this year. When the Kings fired their coach and general manager, it seemed the front office was in rebuild mode to get back to an elite status.

Few off-season transactions were made except in retaining Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson; captain Anze Kopitar was coming off his worst season since his rookie year. It’s no wonder with the likes of the youthful Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, and the veteran laden San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, few had the Kings succeeding in the tough Pacific Division.

Well, the Kings proved the “experts” wrong. Here are three big reasons why the Kings are back in the playoffs.

“Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss”

When the Kings front office decided that they would jettison coach Darryl Sutter and replace him with assistant coach John Steven, you could forgive some fans for thinking more of the same. But early on in the season the Kings players were already praising the culture of the team locker room as a more welcoming place than when Sutter was in charge.

The results bore out early as the Kings got of to a hot start and were contending for the Pacific division, when the Kings faced adversity with loss of Jeff Carter to injury and poor play Stevens remained a steady hand and guided the Kings back to the playoffs.

“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”

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Anze Kopitar had a tough year in the 2016-17 his first as Kings captain, it was arguably his worst season producing his lowest totals in points, assists, and goals. Rededicating himself to making the team better again, it seems that Kopitar has put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs.

Kopitar has set career highs in goals (35), assists (56), and points (91) and inserted himself in the Hart Trophy conversation as the leagues MVP. Not only has Kopitar elevated his game but he also helped the man he replaced as captain Dustin Brown.

Playing on the first line with Kopitar, Brown has had his most productive season since 2012 and is second among forwards this year behind Kopitar on the team with 24 goals and 57 points. Kopitar and Brown proved effective in picking up the offensive scoring when Jeff Carter was lost for four months early in the season.

“It’s the same old song…”

When John Stevens was hired it was speculated an emphasis on offense would diminish the Los Angeles Kings strength on team defense. That has not been the case, Stevens may have improved the offense the Kings went from 24th in goals scored to a respectable 17th defense has not been sacrificed.

With two games to go and barring a disaster of epic proportions it looks like the Kings will once again lead the league in goals against with ten fewer than the Boston Bruins. The Kings have also been either one or two in the standings for penalty kills. These numbers show that despite improvements on offense the Kings remain one of the better defensive teams in the league.

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Now that they are in the playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings must reset their clocks, every team will be looking for 16 wins but they all start at zero. Regardless of how the postseason goes the Kings should be proud of the effort that got them this far.