The Los Angeles Kings will be looking for their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons beginning on Wednesday night when they battle the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
We’ve already detailed five of the key matchups between players and coaches in this series, but what are the overall keys to the Kings winning it all? To break that down, here are our Three Keys to Victory for the Kings as they pursue another title.
Kings Must Win the Depth Battle
The Kings are a team that has arguably the best depth among their forwards in the league, with a multitude of players that can play the center position effectively at its base. Guys like Dwight King and Jarret Stoll are both instrumental in that regard, and they came up with some big plays as the Kings eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.
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With that in mind, the Kings have to use their depth to their advantage against the top-heavy Rangers. New York does have players like Rick Nash and Brad Richards, but outside of those kinds of top-tier guys, they are a team that isn’t exactly the deepest club the Kings have faced. Being able to take advantage of that kind of ability to roll four lines while your opponent is running double-shifts is key to wearing a team down, and that’s something Darryl Sutter has to do.
Quick Must Improve Over Performance in Chicago Series
When the Kings were trailing the San Jose Sharks by a three games to none margin in the first round, Jonathan Quick was one of the primary catalysts for the team as they stormed back and won the series. He gave up just five goals over the final four games of the series while facing 135 shots, and his teammates picked up their scoring pace to gain the victory.
In the second round against the Ducks, Quick once again was key as the Kings came back from a 3-2 deficit. He only allowed three goals in the final two games while facing 49 shots, besting rookie John Gibson and giving the Kings the victory in the first ever Freeway Face-Off.
Against the Blackhawks however, Quick struggled a bit with his rebound control. His positioning was still good, but all too often Blackhawks players like Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell would get inside position on the Kings’ defenders, and when Quick would let loose a rebound, the Hawks’ shooters would pound home second chance opportunities for goals.
Going up against the Rangers, Quick has to be better than he was during large stretches of the third round series with Chicago. He was instrumental in the Kings winning a title in 2012, but he hasn’t been that guy as of late. He will need to really pick up his game and control his rebounds better, but knowing Quick, it’s something he’s definitely capable of doing.
Penalty Killing Must Improve Against Rangers
The Kings’ penalty killing unit was one of the team’s primary strengths against the Sharks in the first round, but starting against the Ducks and continuing on against the Blackhawks, the PK unit began to give up quite a few goals. In the conference final series, the Kings gave up six power play goals to the Blackhawks, who hadn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire in that department during the earlier stages of the postseason.
As for the Rangers, they haven’t been the best on the power play in the playoffs, scoring five goals in six games against the Canadiens in the conference final, but with guys like St. Louis and Nash roaming the ice, the team is not to be taken lightly in that area.
If the Kings are going to find a way to beat the Rangers in this series, they are going to have to get a better effort out of their penalty killers. A lot of that starts with Quick, but guys like Kopitar and Drew Doughty also have to step up their games as well.