While everybody has their favorite memories of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, after further review, the overall performance and production of "That 70s Line" may just end up being more of a long-term memory instead of a short one.
The chemistry of Jeff Carter (uniform #77), Tyler Toffoli (#73) and Tanner Pearson (#70), which really opened eyes during the epic seven game series with the Chicago Blackhawks last May, was particularly strong at the outset of this 2014-15 regular season.
While Toffoli and Pearson are featured in The Future Is Now article in second issue of Royal Reign magazine, let's focus on the proven veteran of the line, Jeff Carter, now in his 10th NHL season.
Several weeks into 2014-15, NHL TV analyst Pierre McGuire called "That 70s Line" definitely the hottest and the best line in the NHL right now. But McGuire followed by immediately pointing out Carter's pedigree which includes winning World Junior Championship Gold in 2005, winning the Gold Medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and -- of course -- winning two Stanley Cups with the Kings.
Carter, traded to the Kings in February, 2012, was reunited with close friend and former Flyer teammate Mike Richards. “I was excited about the trade to L.A. You felt the potential for something big. It was easy to come in. Especially with the Philly connection it was easy to get comfortable in the room,” said Carter.
“The fans have sold out every game since I've been here. When we got going in the playoffs, the fans were rocking. I feel like I won the lottery when I got traded to the Kings,” Carter continued. “Winning a second Cup is a different feeling. You realize what it actually takes to win.”
En route to that second Cup, Carter and friend Richards (now playing in Manchester/AHL) became the only two players in league history to twice rally from 0-3 deficits as the Kings joined the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers in accomplishing the incredibly difficult task.
Carter's big game experience has really helped Toffoli and Pearson continue their rapid development. All three have the commitment to the system of Head Coach Darryl Sutter along with the speed and size to make it work. Unfortunately Toffoli was recently out due to illness (mono – he missed six games) and Pearson remains sidelined following surgery. He is on crutches right now.
The 6-4, 212 pound Carter, however, provides the big body at center. And speaking of the line's physical style, in Sutter's words, “You've got to pay the price to score goals or get opportunities (to score goals)."
According to Carter, it's the speed of the line when the three of them are together. Plus, it is about their ability to keep things simple that’s a key to their success. “You play with guys long enough, the chemistry's just kind of there.”
With coaches notorious for shaking things up by changing lines, who knows how long it will ultimately work for. But at the start of this year in particular, the Kings -- and our rabid fan base -- cannot get enough of the catchy nickname and the even better production between by three very talented NHL forwards.
ROOKIE ROUNDUP ... As we turned the calendar to 2015, Kings fans have had the chance to check out some of the NHL's top rookies at STAPLES Center.
With the Calgary Flames in town in both December and January, “Johnny Hockey” was on the scene here. Johnny Gaudreau, an undersized (5-9, 160 pound) overachiever and he recorded his first NHL hat trick at STAPLES Center in late December. He won the Hobey Baker Award (for top NCAA player) at Boston College last season and immediately followed with a dominant performance at the World Championships.
In net, the Kings see a lot of Anaheim of course and that now affords the possibilities young John Gibson will be in action. Gibson was just 20 years old when he made his first NHL start by shutting out Vancouver last year. You might also recall Gibson’s playoff debut was a shutout win over the Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference semis last May, which earned him the first star of the game. Gibson (6-3, 215 pounds) also helped the U.S. win Gold at the World Juniors and Bronze at the World Championships.
In Toronto, Stuart Percy, a 2011 first rounder, took advantage of injuries to Maple Leaf veterans to become the first defenseman in franchise history to score a point in each of his first three NHL games. Percy's now former coach, Randy Carlyle, a 17 year NHL defenseman himself, praised Percy for reading the forecheck and making the right pass consistently in all zones.
Filip Forsberg, the 11th choice in the 2012 draft, had the preseason hype of a scoring phenom with Nashville. And the returns here in 2014-15 have him living up to the hype as a member of the Predators top line. Veteran linemate Mike Ribeiro said, “Forsberg has been great. He's a guy who can hold on to the puck. He can make plays and create his own chances too.”
Las Vegas-based Mike “The Professor” Tenay is on twitter @RealMikeTenay. His full-time job has him serving as the TNA/Impact Wrestling announcer which is seen on Destination America. Check out his insight and his ability work-in hockey / LA Kings references on the program!