- Craig Custance
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Long playoff runs in consecutive postseasons mean there is a lot of mileage on the Los Angeles Kings; that's a concern. Those concerns dissipate when you examine just how expertly built these Kings are.
The improbable return of Willie Mitchell helps ease the pain of losing the valuable Rob Scuderi and gives the Kings one of the deepest and most versatile blue lines in the Western Conference. GM Dean Lombardi said Drew Doughty's game made strides last year because he was asked to do more for the Kings in the face of all the injuries on defense. Doughty was already really good. This is the year he puts it all together during the regular season and wins his first Norris Trophy.
It's also the year more people realize just how gifted and fearless 23-year-old Slava Voynov is. Voynov still hasn't played a full regular season but already has 38 playoff games on his resume. His six postseason goals last spring were tied for the NHL league among defensemen with only Johnny Boychuk matching that number. His 13 playoff points matched the total of Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who had an extra round to work.
Teams around the league have tried to emulate the Kings' big, physical forward group, and for good reason. It's a grind facing this team in the playoffs. They lost Dustin Penner up front but got younger by adding the heavy shot of Matt Frattin in the trade that sent Jonathan Bernier to Toronto and, at some point, Tyler Toffoli will be ready to make an impact.
Oh yeah, they've also got the best playoff goalie in the game right now in Jonathan Quick, who followed up his .946 save percentage during the Kings' Cup run with a save percentage last year of .934.
Yes, we're concerned that this machine might break down at times because of heavy usage the last two years, but come playoff time, they know how to find that extra gear.
7dScott Burnside and Craig Custance