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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Crown 'em the Kings of Hockey!

Absent a massive comeback the likes of which the world of hockey hasn't seen in exactly 70 years, it looks like the Los Angeles Kings will skate away with the Cup.  If it doesn't happen tonight, surely it will happen within the next week or so.  And if we can assume they win tonight, not a big leap when considering their playoff performance this year, how will they be remembered?  How should they be remembered?

If you'll pardon the obvious pun, this Kings team has all the makings of a dynasty.  And when you have the words "hockey" and dynasty in the same conversation you tend to think of several teams.  The great Montreal Canadiens teams of the 50's and 70's surely come to mind. Surely the New York Islanders four straight Cups in the 80's merit a look.  But for most people's money the ideal hockey dynasty, not to mention the most recent, is the Edmonton Oilers of the mid to late 80's.

Their record speaks for itself--five Cups from 1984 to 1990. That team had it all...with the possible exception of a stingy defense.  Their most dominant year was 1988, where they won the 16 games necessary while losing only twice.  Which brings us back to today.  If the Kings win tonight, they will match that record.

Maybe the Kings don't have those giant names like Gretzky, Fuhr, McSorely, Coffey, and Kurri.  Maybe they don't need them.  Besides, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, and Anze Kopitar are already household names to those of us in the know.  This steamroller of a playoff run has been a perfect showcase for their talents:

Jonathan Quick--lives up to his surname, literally.  Makes all the saves he supposed to make, and just about all the ones he's NOT supposed to make. Master of the toe save.  Stands to finish with the best playoff goals-against average in over 70 years.

Drew Doughty--his end-to-end goal in game 2 of the Final is probably THE defining moment in these playoffs for the Kings.  Pure skill and speed personified.  Looks like he's worth that big contract after all.

Anze Kopitar--the Slovenian sniper has been a "sleeper" pick in lots of fantasy drafts.  Not anymore.  He hasn't failed to score less than 20 goals and 60 points in his six years as an NHLer.  And at 24 his best years are probably still ahead of him.  Scary, eh?

And some slightly lesser lights:

Dustin Brown--Captain and all around force on and off the ice.  Plays on the edge (just ask the Coyotes) and is good at getting under the other team's skin.  His star hasn't shined as bright during this round, but he's set the tone for the Kings in the first three rounds, doing everything it takes to win which is just what a Captain should do.

Jeff Carter--Was probably the "missing piece" the Kings needed as they were goal-starved for most of the year until he arrived.  GM Dean Lombardi took a huge gamble on him and appears to have won the jackpot.  Still struggles with inconsistency at times, but has been there when needed most.

Alec Martinez--Next to Doughty he is probably the best young D-man the Kings have. He's not quite as flashy, but he's extremely reliable and remarkably poised for a young defenseman.  As his confidence grows, so will his ice time.  Best of all. he won't hurt his team in his own end.

Dwight King--Nothing has been handed to him and that's the way he likes it.  Has come up with some clutch performances after he was called up in the season.  Possesses an abundance of determination and grit and has a surprisingly nice scoring touch around the net.  Like Martinez, he's only 22 and only looks to get better.

Dustin Penner--Pancake Man has endured a forgettable season to become a solid playoff performer.  I hope for his sake his soon-to-be ex doesn't try to claim his Stanley Cup ring, however.

There's a pattern to this team--a lot of their players are 24 or younger. Some are just entering their prime, others are having breakout years. And others like Jordan Nolan are getting their first shot and making the most of it.  With the help of veterans like Justin Williams, Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell, and Jarret Stoll rounding things out, it's easy to see why this team had so much promise in previous years.  And in what should sound like a familiar story, they gelled at exactly the right time.

So yes it's early to declare this team a potential dynasty, especially since there hasn't even been a repeat Cup winner since 1998.  But this Kings team has all the makings of a team that should dominate for years to come.  What will be interesting is how the Eastern teams try to come up with something to match them come playoff time.  Not sure how they would do it but it will be fun to watch them try.

One Cup wonder?  We'll find out....if the powers that be are willing.

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