Don't be quick to count out Kings

Updated: April 30, 2013, 12:05 PM ET
By Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

Will the Los Angeles Kings become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to repeat as Stanley Cup champions? It's a daunting task, but it's not impossible.

Here are five reasons it could happen:

1. Not as tired as your normal Cup champs

The Los Angeles Kings
When Cup champions try to explain the inability to repeat, fatigue -- both mental and physical -- is the reason most often mentioned. It's a long grind to win the Cup. Many players have told me that their bodies never feel 100 percent the following season. The Kings should not, in theory, be as tired as other champions thanks to the lockout. Yes, some players played overseas, but generally speaking, the Kings had way more time to rest before the season began in January.

2. Defense has taken shape

Patrick Sharp, Trevor Lewis
With Willie Mitchell never recovering from knee surgery and Matt Greene out most of the season, the Kings feared a blue-line corps that was so dominant last spring wouldn't be able to stabilize the team. But Greene has returned, veteran Robyn Regehr has been a nice fill-in for Mitchell and rookie Jake Muzzin has been a revelation. And with Drew Doughty back in form and Slava Voynov taking another step in his development as a top blueliner, this D is in great shape.

3. Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter
Acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the trade deadline last season, Carter was good for the Kings in the playoffs with eight goals and five assists in 20 games, but not as dominant as you knew he could be. He certainly arrived this season, with a team-leading 26 goals, resembling the dangerous goal scorer of his early years with the Philadelphia Flyers. He's become the offensive weapon the Kings envisioned when they acquired him more than a year ago.

4. Anze Kopitar

Anze Kopitar
If it's even possible, the star center and leading point-getter on the Kings appears to have taken yet another step forward in his impressive career. Maybe it's just me, but I see a player who's more than ever an incredible force at both ends of the ice, a player who deserves more consideration for the Selke Trophy than he gets and who is as dangerous offensively as ever.

5. Jonathan Quick returns to 2012 form

Goaltender Jonathan Quick
Like several other top goaltenders in this lockout-shortened season, Quick had his struggles at times. But it appears he's found his mojo, and that's bad news for every other team in the Western Conference. Last season, Quick led the eighth-seeded Kings to four 2-0 series leads on the road. This season, however, he has played much more consistently at home.