Tonight the Los Angeles Kings begin their bid to go where no team has since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998. Only the Dallas Stars 2000 and Red Wings in 2008 have even taken their conference the year after winning it all, which is unusual when considering it in the overall historical context of the NHL. It’s just gotten much, much harder to make it back no matter how great or young the roster looks.
The path to repeating as Stanley Cup champions will be a difficult and looks only slightly better than last year when the Kings did it as an eight-seed in the Western Conference. However, a No. 5 seed provides only marginal seeding improvement. Then there’s the decently probable matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks in Round two, a top seed boasting a far better regular season winning percentage than the Kings faced in last year’s run.
But L.A. certainly can’t be looking that far ahead, as the St. Louis Blues (29-17-2) loom in Round one. The Kings (27-16-5) swept the two-seeded Blues in last year’s conference semifinals and did so again in three games this year. This rings truly impressive coming against a team coached by the man who led Dallas to those Stanley Cup final appearances at the turn of the century, Ken Hitchock.
“We know what we’re getting (in St. Louis),” said Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar. “They have some big bodies and they play a heavy game. We have some big bodies, and we’re pretty familiar. We’ve played them enough in past seasons.”