The Los Angeles Kings are one of the two "Second Six" teams never to drink out of the Stanley Cup. But after fighting their way through a wild scramble and overcoming a season-long offensive funk, the Kings are poised to end that drought and become 2012 Stanley Cup Champions.
The Big Why: You can't win a championship without goaltending, and the Kings have one of the NHL's best in net.
Jonathan Quick has climbed from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL and morphed into an All-Star and a candidate for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender. Quick leads the NHL with 10 shutouts and has been among the top three in goals-against average and save percentage for most of the season. He's done it all despite playing on a team for which every goal was a cause for celebration, meaning that he's already used to playing in tight, playoff-style contests.
The Big Uh-Oh: Despite his superb stats, Quick has won barely half of his starts -- mostly because his offense has struggled to put the puck in the net. Quick has lost nine games this season when he's allowed one goal or less. Even All-Star goaltenders need some offensive support.
Though Jeff Carter hasn't exactly filled the net since his arrival in a late-February trade with Columbus, the offense has improved since he came to Los Angeles. Still, the Kings are one of the handful of teams that won't break the 200-goal mark, and finishing No. 29 in offense doesn't foreshadow good things to come in the postseason, when the checking gets even tighter.
Final Argument: Top-flight goaltenders steal wins in the Stanley Cup Pplayoffs, and the Kings have one of the NHL's best in Quick. Add in one of the NHL's top young puck-moving defensemen in Drew Doughty, an excellent one-two punch down the middle in Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards, a sniper like Carter and a grinding-style team that's basically been playing playoff-style hockey for months, and it adds up to a team that will bring the Stanley Cup to the City of Angels for the first time since the Kings joined the NHL 45 years ago.
Follow John Kreiser on Twitter: @jkreiser7nhl