Goaltending One of the benefits of having such good defense is that it makes the job of playing goalie quite a bit easier. That’s not to say that Jonathan Quick isn’t an outstanding goalie, because he is. Two seasons after being the Vezina Trophy runner-up, Quick posted outstanding numbers, limiting opponents to just a 2.07 goals against average and a .915 save percentage. While Quick wasn’t quite as stingy in the playoffs, he was still solid enough to lead the Kings to their second Stanley Cup victory. Quick’s backup will be Martin Jones, a player who filled in admirably while Quick was injured. In 19 games, Jones limited opponents to an anemic 1.81 goals against average while stopping shots at a rate of a .934 save percentage. Jones was so good in relief that he got Calder Trophy consideration despite playing in just 19 games. With Quick as the starter and Jones as the backup, the Kings are in good position to be the premier puck stopping team in the NHL again. Power Play One of the reasons the Kings have struggled to score goals has been a lack of success on the power play. With Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Slava Voynov, and Jake Muzzin, the team doesn’t have a lack of defensemen who are a threat to score from the blue line. The Kings also have plenty of forwards with a track record of scoring, but for some reason, they couldn’t put it all together in five-on-four situations. Overall, the Kings scored on just 15.1 percent of their power plays, ranking 27th in the NHL. The biggest problem in Los Angeles is a tendency for players to hold onto the puck too long, waiting for opportunities that never develop. However, the Kings were much more successful on the power play after acquiring Marian Gaborik. They converted on 23.3 percent of their power plays after adding Gaborik to the roster, and followed that up with a 23.5 success rate in the playoffs. Expect the Kings to have a more effective power play in the 2014-15 season. Penalty Kill While the Kings were a very strong team in terms of goal prevention throughout the season, their penalty killing unit was merely good, but not great. The Kings stopped opponents in 83.1 percent of penalty killing situations, ranking 11th in the NHL in the process. Penalty killing is where big, physical Anze Kopitar defensemen like Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene shine, as they do a great job of both blocking the puck and separating opponents from the puck. PHOTO/NHL/Getty Images Other players who are a staple of Kings penalty killing include Anze Kopitar, who is a master of puck possession and excellent at disrupting passing lanes. Mike Richards loves to fish for shorthanded goal scoring situations while third-line center Jarret Stoll is also a go-to penalty killing option. All of these forwards are strong defensively, and combined, they help give the Kings a strong penalty killing unit. The Kings should be an above-average penalty killing team again this year. Three Questions 1. Can the Kings figure out how to score goals? It seems like the Kings have such a defensive mentality that it hurts their goal scoring abilities at times. At the end of the day, there is far too much talent on the front lines for Los Angeles to perform so poorly in goal scoring again. With Marian Gaborik now on the roster for the long run, the Kings offense should be much more successful this year. 2. What is the impact of losing Willie Mitchell? The Kings’ overall defensive numbers were significantly worse without Mitchell in the 2012-13 season. However, the team now has Robyn Regehr to pair with a healthy Matt Greene. Jonathan Quick is still the goalie and Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin have both improved on the defensive end. The Kings’ ability to prevent goals might slip a bit but they should still be very good at it. 3. Are the Kings the favorite to win the Stanley Cup again? They definitely have to be considered one of the leading favorites. While the Kings are unlikely to repeat their defensive success of last year, they should still be very good on that end of the ice while improving their ability to score goals. At the very least, the Kings should be considered co-favorites along with teams like Chicago and Boston. Prediction With a balanced and talented roster, the Kings should easily make the playoffs and will be a threat to make a deep playoff run again. However, repeating as Stanley Cup champions is a very difficult task. The Kings will go far but fall short in the conference finals.
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