The Los Angeles Kings will be forced to rely on defense with leading scorer Anze Kopitar out for the duration of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Luckily for the Kings, their defense is one of the best in the League and will carry them to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
The Big Why: Only the Canucks and Bruins allowed fewer goals than the Kings, who shaved off 21 goals from last season's total that ranked them No. 10. The Kings allow just 27.9 shots per game, first among teams that qualified for the playoffs.
Behind them is Jonathan Quick, who has emerged as one of the top goaltenders in the League. He finished fourth in goals-against average at 2.24 and ranked among the leaders in save percentage (.918) and wins (35).
With everyone buying into coach Terry Murray's system and the team's impressive 21-8-6 record in one-goal games, there's no reason to think the Kings can't carry their defensive success into the postseason.
The Big Uh-Oh: Without Kopitar, offense could be a problem. He not only led the team in points, but was first among forwards in ice time and relied upon as a penalty killer. There will be no replacing him down the middle.
Final Argument: Even without Kopitar, the Kings made a strong push to ensure qualification for the playoffs. Their young core got a taste of what it takes to win in the playoffs last year, and that can only help this time around. With Justin Williams possibly back from injury for the first round and trade-deadline acquisition Dustin Penner in the fold, there is enough talent and experience for the Kings to win their first Stanley Cup.
For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.
— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday