The Los Angeles Kings assembled a large, bulldozing team as last season progressed. Along the way they smashed the Blues and swept them out of the playoffs.
“Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup based on their board play last year,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock observed. “They won the board battles against every team.”
The Kings still play a heavy game, in today’s parlance, but so do the Blues.
“They’ve got a big, strong, physical team,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said Monday after noon after his practiced at Scottrade Center. “Their goalie is playing well. It’s a matter of just focusing on what we need to do and making it difficult for them.”
The Kings’ evolution began last season when powerful young wingers Jordan Nolan and Dwight King graduated from the American Hockey League. Their robust fore-checking helped the Kings tilt the ice against opponents and sustain pressure in the offensive end.
Cornerstone defenseman Drew Doughty played bigger as the stakes grew. Rangy forward Jeff Carter arrived in a late-season trade with Columbus to add offensive punch.
Brown shrugged off trade speculation, picked up his play and helped fuel the surge. Goaltender Jonathan Quick played brilliantly down the stretch and carried that through the postseason.
The Kings gathered steam late, rallying with 13 March victories to reach the playoffs. Then they built momentum round by round while driving all the way to the Stanley Cup.
“It’s an interesting thing when you go through it, because you can feel the momentum,” Brown said. “I think momentum is more important in playoff hockey than the regular season. You can really step on a team’s throat, or vice-versa, in certain situations.”
For more on the Kings, check out my post at STLToday.com.