CALIFORNIA
Check out the new California section
SportsKings

Kings add up to a title, line by line and pair by pair

Los Angeles KingsNHLSportsIce HockeyStanley Cup PlayoffsNew York RangersDarryl Sutter
Kings Coach Darryl Sutter established strong lines and defense pairs
Acquisition of Marian Gaborik at trade deadline was important
Center Anze Kopitar had 26 postseason points for the Kings

Beyond the overall team chemistry that paced the Kings to the Stanley Cup title, there were complementary divisions of offensive lines and defense pairs that Coach Darryl Sutter established to create a Cup winner. Here is a line-by-line and pair-by-pair look at why these units accomplished all they did.

As NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in presenting the Cup to the Kings after a gripping victory over the New York Rangers, they "marched through California, defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion and beat the Rangers in a spectacular title game."

The Kings' feats included: three Game 7 playoff wins on the road, a 7-0 record in elimination games, a rally from a 3-0 first-round series deficit against the San Jose Sharks, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit to eliminate the Ducks, then ending the title defense of the 2013 champion Chicago Blackhawks before eliminating the Eastern Conference champion Rangers in five games.

First line

Marian Gaborik

Anze Kopitar

Dustin Brown

The trade-deadline addition of Gaborik on March 5 was majestic throughout, from General Manager Dean Lombardi's salary-cap juggling in bringing him from the Columbus Blue Jackets to Sutter's placing him on the first line to the 32-year-old's 14 playoff goals, best in the league.

Kopitar was the engine throughout the season for a team that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL regular season. A finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who demonstrates the most defensive skill, Kopitar scored a point in 13 of the Kings' first 14 playoff games and finished with a team-high 26 postseason points.

Brown, slow to return to form after a 2013 knee injury, labored through a 15-goal regular season before turning it on to produce six goals and eight assists with two game-winning shots.

Second line

Tanner Pearson

Jeff Carter

Tyler Toffoli

Sutter's creation of "That 70s Line" was about more than placing together three guys wearing jerseys 70, 77 and 73. The veteran Carter's move to center just before the postseason made for an electrifying unit that combined for 21 goals and 30 assists in the playoffs.

Carter was joined by two newcomers to the Stanley Cup experience.

Toffoli, 22, scored the winning goals in Games 4 and 5 versus San Jose and had a goal in four games against Chicago before blasting the shot that went off New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist's leg pad and bounced to defenseman Alec Martinez, who hit the Cup winner.

Pearson, 21, has the potential to be a big scorer, given his speed, which set up eight shots on goal in the Stanley Cup Final's Game 4 in New York.

Third line

Dwight King

Jarret Stoll

Justin Williams

This group was in the thick of the biggest moments, especially Conn Smythe Trophy winner (playoff most valuable player) Williams. "Mr. Game 7" has seven goals, seven assists and a 7-0 record in career Game 7s. He had nine goals and 16 assists this postseason.

Stoll's dedication to faceoffs allowed him to win 56.7% of his matchups during the postseason. His grit was consistent with the team's defensive-minded attitude. He was plus-three in goal differential while on the ice in Game 7 at Chicago.

King had eight playoff assists, and one of his three postseason goals launched more interest in video review. King screened, then made contact with Lundqvist in Game 2 as a shot struck him early in the third period before going into the goal to propel a Kings comeback.

Fourth line

Kyle Clifford

Mike Richards

Trevor Lewis

These fourth-line grinders were a combined minus-14 in the playoffs. Yet they also contributed timely production.

Clifford was limited to 10 minutes of ice time during the regular season, even fewer in the playoffs, but he scored a critical Game 1 goal against the Rangers to force overtime and gave an energetic effort in a Game 5 victory that meant he'd be home for Father's Day with the newborn he cradled on the ice after Friday's win.

Richards was demoted off the second line for the playoffs. He scored the clinching third goal in Game 3, however, and finished the postseason with three goals and seven assists.

Lewis was without points in the final 13 games after scoring the game-winning goal in the 2-1 Game 6 victory over the Ducks that set up the Kings' Game 7 rout.

First defense pair

Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin

The Kings' top defensive pair personified the team's identity.

Doughty, who at 24 owns two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals, averaged 28 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time in the playoffs and was in the Conn-Smythe debate with five goals and 13 assists.

The shutdown defenseman had a goal and assist in three of the Chicago games and thrived in hassling some of the opposition's biggest offensive weapons, including San Jose's Joe Thornton, the Ducks' Corey Perry, Chicago's Patrick Kane and New York's Martin St. Louis.

His partner Muzzin, 25, added six playoff goals — including the winner in the big Game 2 rally in Chicago, and a Game 6 goal against the Ducks — and was poised in stopping threats and pushing the puck up to the forwards.

Another new addition since the Kings' 2012 title, Muzzin finished plus-three in the Stanley Cup Final.

Second defense pair

Willie Mitchell

Slava Voynov

Mitchell, 37, suffered a lower-body injury in Game 6 of the San Jose series and missed the entire Anaheim series before returning to finish plus-nine in the remaining 13 games.

The wise veteran, who's been in the league since 1999, had a goal and assist in Game 2 of the Rangers series and logged 34:14 of ice time in the two-overtime affair.

Mitchell's understanding of Sutter's system eased the ongoing transition of sturdy partner Voynov, 24, who played all 82 regular-season games but was less predictable after his six-goal playoff experience in 2013.

The Russian had two goals and seven assists this time and was a combined minus-four as the Kings fell behind San Jose 3-0. Voynov remained a 20-minute player, however, his raw skill and tenacity a key cog in the Kings' persistent nature.

Third defense pair

Alec Martinez

Matt Greene

The Kings eliminated 2013 champion Chicago and then won the Cup on game-winning goals from Martinez, a member of their third defense pair.

He battled to meet Sutter's defensive expectations early but worked diligently.

His character shined when he said it didn't matter that it was him in the amazing final moment, as long as it was someone from his team.

"Every kid that's picked up a hockey stick in their driveway has played in this game.… I couldn't breathe for a while. It's a surreal moment," Martinez said.

Greene was the defenseman opposing teams singled out during his routine 13 minutes a game in the playoffs. He came up big in the Final, enduring a nasty cut near the left eye and getting in front of three shots in Game 3, then delivering 11 hits in the last two games.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
Los Angeles KingsNHLSportsIce HockeyStanley Cup PlayoffsNew York RangersDarryl Sutter
  • Marian Gaborik
    Marian Gaborik

    Kings right wing Marian Gaborik (12), tying Game 5 against the New York Rangers with a goal in the third period, was a trade-deadline acquisition who proved invaluable in the team's run to the Stanley Cup. Gaborik scored an NHL-best 14 goals in the postseason.

  • Kings' Jonathan Quick sets new standard in goal
    Kings' Jonathan Quick sets new standard in goal

    Sure, go to the highlight reel.

Comments
Loading