EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In some ways, the Los Angeles Kings are very similar to the Stanley Cup champions from the past six years. In other ways, they’re quite different.
Nobody knows better than the handful of L.A. players who have won a Stanley Cup title since the 2004-05 lockout season.
Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi, who won a championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, said both teams seemed to regroup after in-season coaching changes and then caught fire down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The Penguins made their coaching change in mid-February, when they were five points out of the final playoff spot, then went 18-3-4 to finish fourth in the East. The Kings made their switch two months earlier and took two months longer to catch fire, finishing 13-5-3 to take the final playoff spot in the West.
The year before Scuderi’s Cup win, the Penguins reached the finals but lost to the Detroit Red Wings in six games. Heading into that postseason, Pittsburgh had not won a playoff series since 2001.
Coming into this postseason, the Kings had not won a series since 2001.
“When you win one round, you feel pretty good, like you really accomplished something, and then you win two rounds and you feel real good,” Scuderi said following practice Wednesday at Toyota Sports Center. “You still realize that, when you really step back, you’re only halfway there. … But it is fun, it’s OK to be excited, it’s OK to have fun with it, but you have to realize it’s not our end goal.”
As far as player personnel, Scuderi said there are clear similarities between the top forwards on the 2009 Penguins and the current Kings.
“Some of our best offensive players are some of our best defensive players,” he said.
Kings left wing Dustin Penner sees a similar mindset between his current team and the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, who went on to beat the Ottawa Senators in the Stanley Cup finals.
“Both teams were really physical and had great leadership, great goaltending and guys stepping up at key and timely moments during each game,” he said.
Fourth-line center Colin Fraser won the Cup as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He said the Kings are a lot more physical and highly skilled. As prime examples, he points to players such as left wing Dustin Brown and defenseman Willie Mitchell.
“They’re not just out there taking the body, they’re making plays and they’re really hard to play against,” Fraser said. “In Chicago, the top-end guys were super-skilled guys.”
Unlike the Kings, the Blackhawks didn’t face much inner turmoil that season. Even after switching coaches, the Kings remained at the bottom of the league in scoring before a big push over the final 21 games of the regular season, barely slipping into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed.
“Adversity is not always a bad thing,” Fraser said. “We faced it a few times this year, with struggling through the mid-part of the year and coming down to the wire trying to make the playoffs. … That just makes you better as a team.”