How this Kings team compares to the 2012 championship squad

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On paper, this Los Angeles Kings team is very similar to the one that dominated the 2012 postseason on its way to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup victory. Even so, enough has changed that it’s interesting to study the similarities and differences:

What hasn’t changed

In the grand scheme of things, the Kings’ core players are largely the same. Drew Doughty is their go-to defenseman. Dustin Brown remains their agitating, versatile captain. Anze Kopitar is the outstanding two-way center who probably doesn’t get enough league-wide attention. Jeff Carter continues to surprise people with strong play even though he’s been doing this for years. Darryl Sutter is still a quality coach who produces borderline-comical press conferences.

Much like in 2011-12, the Kings were a strong puck possession team that didn’t score a whole lot of goals during the regular season, yet they seem awfully dangerous now … in part thanks to the addition of a dangerous sniper (Marian Gaborik now, Carter then).

The cast of characters should be mostly familiar, then, although one key player has a ways to go before regaining his previous form.

A different Quick?

Simply put, Jonathan Quick played out of his mind during the 2012 playoffs. His numbers were staggering: 16-4 record, .946 save percentage, 1.41 GAA and three shutouts. Quick provided one of the best postseason runs in recent memory and often made it look easy.

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Depending upon how you look at it, Quick is either “turning it on” when the Kings need it the most this time around or is simply struggling while producing flashes of that 2012 brilliance.

More than a few people wonder if the 28-year-old is an average goalie who really just rode a hot streak or two.

There’s no denying that his overall playoff numbers are down significantly this year. Quick is 12-9 with a mediocre .906 save percentage. It’s easy to forget that the Kings faced the kind of competition that can make any goalie look vulnerable during this postseason, but the bottom line is that his doubters have been emboldened in 2013-14.

Considering the fact that Henrik Lundqvist will be in the Rangers’ net, many will give New York the goaltending edge either way.

Bumpy road

There were a lot of remarkable things about the Kings’ 2012 run, but the most surprising thing might be that the Kings didn’t face elimination a single time. In fact, they only lost four games in that entire postseason. That’s pretty astounding stuff for a team that was the eighth seed in the West.

Meanwhile, this Kings team might be as exhausted as the 2012 version was well-rested heading into the championship series.

They’ve played a maximum 21 games in three rounds. The most exhausting task arguably came when they made a remarkable comeback from down 0-3 in their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks, yet things didn’t slow down from there. After all, they beat the West’s top seed (Anaheim Ducks) and the defending champions (Chicago Blackhawks) in successive seven-game series.

It’s probably never fair to call a postseason run “easy” but the Kings might have set a new bar for degree of difficulty.

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The Kings will probably go into the Stanley Cup Final as favorites, yet this team could be considerably more vulnerable than the 2012 version. Of course, Alec Martinez would likely argue that they’re that much tougher to kill off …

 

Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

“I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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