After years of patient rebuilding the Kings posted a successful regular season and a return to the playoffs. Although their post-season run ended short, the Kings have a lot to be optimistic about heading into the summer.
From the 08-09 season, the Kings saw a dramatic improvement in points. They jumped from 79 points (14th in the West) to 101 points (6th in the West).
The Kings marked improvements in all major categories from the previous season. They scored 34 more goals, gave up 15 less, and notched 12 more wins.
Los Angeles started off hot and through the first 10 games of the season had one of the deadliest 1st lines in the league with Kopitar, Smyth, and Williams. Kopitar in particular was on fire, leading the league in points for several weeks, which made me look like a genius for taking him in the 13th round of my fantasy draft.
However, that line didn’t last for long as first Ryan Smyth, then Justin Williams were lost for extended stretches to injury. The Kings consistency took a hit as well as the team couldn’t play at a consistent level, and couldn’t win at a consistent clip.
The Kings followed a strong start with a mediocre November, but bounced back with a strong December. It was in the new year that the Kings really caught fire, going 10-4-0 in January including part of a franchise record 9-game win streak that extended into February. That streak included wins over New Jersey, Buffalo, Boston, Anaheim, and 2 wins over Detroit. Many of those wins came on the road.
Los Angeles sizzled their way into the Olympic break and looked to rest up before the stretch run into the playoffs.
Several Kings suited up for Olympic play, with Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick bringing home Silver Medals and Drew Doughty bringing back Gold as the youngest member of Canada’s Olympic roster. Michal Handzus played well for Slovakia, but unfortunately lost in the Bronze Medal contest.
Rested and ready, the Kings geared up to plow into the playoffs. Unfortunately the Kings win streaking days were over and the inconsistency returned. March was rough for Los Angeles, marking the only month with a losing record for the team. Although the Kings collected points in their last 7 games, 3 of them were OT losses.
Jonathan Quick set the record for most wins by a Kings goaltender in a single season, but failed on his last 8 tries to hit 40 wins. Despite that, the Kings could look back proudly at a strong season. Anze Kopitar started to show he is a true #1 center and Drew Doughty emerged as a franchise defenseman and Norris Trophy nominee. Captain Dustin Brown ended the season on a red-hot scoring streak and Wayne Simmonds showed he is ready to score goals and drop the gloves, not to mention his defensive play as he finished tops on the team with a plus-22.
Dean Lombardi successfully compiled a well-rounded team with a strong core of young talented players, seasoned veterans, and role players. Terry Murray’s defensively sound, strong forechecking system meshed well with the squad and bore the fruits of regular season success.
Their success was so great that their pending playoff series against the 3rd seed Vancouver Canucks was the toughest to pick the winner for in a year of extreme parity. Despite Vancouver taking 3 of 4 regular season contests, the Kings won the latest one, torching Roberto Luongo for 8 goals.
However, the playoffs are a different story and the savvy, talented, and playoff experienced Vancouver Canucks showed why they are a team to reckon with. Despite the Kings scoring near 50% on the powerplay in the series, Vancouver’s 5-on-5 play was superior. Neither goaltender played their best, but Gold Medal winner Roberto Luongo won out. The long season and tough post-season grind proved too much for the young Quick in his first full season as a starter. Vancouver took the series 4 games to 2.
The Kings returned to the playoffs after an 8-year absence, but exited all too soon. Yet, the pieces are there for the Kings to tweak and make another run. The years of rebuilding has left the Kings with a strong foundation that should last for years to come. A rejuvenated and enthusiastic fanbase will ride high off of the 2009-2010 season and hope to give their team that extra boost to make it that much further in the season ahead.
I’ll be examining the roster in more depth in the coming weeks, including free-agent decisions to be made as well as a draft preview.
(Interesting to note: My friend Meredith went 3-1 on her predictions of random Kings games toward the end of the season. That in itself is not so amazing, but what is amazing is that in those 3 correct predictions she called the exact score. Wow.)
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney