Kings in six
They’re the easy pick. They’re the safe pick. And barring something extraordinary from Henrik Lundqvist, they’re the right pick.
The reality is the Kings have already beaten better teams than the Rangers, knocking off the Sharks and Blackhawks in the first and third round to survive one of the toughest roads to the finals in NHL’s history.
This is a very good team, one that’s already generating dynasty talk after winning one Cup in 2012 and being favoured for another here. Driving that talk is the fact Los Angeles has an elite centre in his prime (Anze Kopitar), an elite blueliner not even there yet (Drew Doughty) and one of the brightest general managers in the league pulling the strings (Dean Lombardi).
The only concern here is the goals could dry up. The Kings were actually the lowest scoring regular season team to make the playoffs and are now up against a great netminder who has the ability to steal a series.
Find a way to beat Lundqvist and a second Cup is as good as theirs.
Conn Smythe Trophy: Drew Doughty Individual hardware has been a long time coming for Drew Doughty.
Other than a nomination for the Norris in his second season, he hasn’t come close, in large part due to playing for an often low-scoring Kings team.
But he’s produced a pile of points in these playoffs (16 points in 21 games) and including the Olympics has had an MVP-worthy season, which is sure to sway voters.
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Kings in five games
The Kings’ season turned around following the Olympic break, when coach Darryl Sutter shifted Jeff Carter to centre, his natural position. In Carter and Anze Kopitar, the Kings had two centres with size and skill who can push the play.
That move also permitted the Kings to drop a struggling Mike Richards down the depth chart, giving them unprecedented depth down the middle.
Their centres are all excellent in the face-off circle, which has turned them into one of the best possession teams in the NHL.
The ability to run four lines featuring a lot of big-bodied forwards was the primary reason the Kings were able to wear down all three of their previous opponents, even if it took them seven games each time out.
Conn Smythe Trophy: Drew Doughty
Doughty was a viable choice when the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, and he is having another exceptional playoff season.
He is like a latter-day Raymond Bourque, a tireless two-way player who eats up the biggest minutes for the Kings. His ability to play well at both ends of the ice is why the Kings are still alive.