Can the Kings keep scoring like they did in the playoffs?

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Remember when the Los Angeles Kings didn’t seem capable of regularly scoring more than two goals per game? Probably, because it wasn’t that long ago.

The Kings scored at least three goals in just six of their previous 26 contests when they acquired Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The 32-year-old forward was coming off a rough and injury-riddled stint with Columbus, but he quickly developed on-ice chemistry with Anze Kopitar, which gave the Kings the flexibility to move Jeff Carter to the second line. That proved to be a great shakeup as the Kopitar and Carter lines provided the Kings with an effective one-two punch throughout the playoffs.

Los Angeles averaged 2.32 goals per game prior to the trade, but that jumped to 2.74 for the remainder of the season and 3.38 during the playoffs (up from 2.85 goals per game during the 2012 Cup-winning playoff run). The Kings inked Gaborik to a seven-year extension, but will that be enough to keep their offense dominant or did they simply get hot at the right time?

One thing to keep in mind is that even if you accept the premise that Gaborik was the missing piece of the puzzle the Kings needed to make everything click, then that still wouldn’t make them a safe bet to be prolific scorers going forward. If their offense is really that dependent on Gaborik then they are only as reliable as he is and his long injury history makes it hard to know what to expect from him going into any given year.

That being said, their spark wasn’t just about Gaborik. Rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson also stepped up in the playoffs to give the Kings some much needed scoring depth. Then there was Justin Williams, who always seems to excel when the stakes are high, but was superb even by his high postseason standards as he earned the Conn Smythe Trophy after recording 25 points in 26 playoff games.

There’s also the question of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who had 50 and 41 points in the regular season respectively. As mentioned above, Carter stepped up in the playoffs while Richards did not, but both of them have previously been far more productive than they were in the 2013-14 regular season and remain significant threats going forward.

So the Kings are a team with the tools to be very effective offensively, but one of the things that they have going for them is that they don’t necessarily have to be. This is also a squad that’s capable of winning low-scoring games as it was their defense and goaltending that highlighted their 2012 Stanley Cup championship. If the go cold offensively after their strong showing in the playoffs then that will be a problem, but it won’t necessarily be a crippling one.

More Kings day coverage:

It’s Los Angeles Kings day on PHT

Under Pressure: Mike Richards

It’s Los Angeles Kings day on PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team?  The defending champion Los Angeles Kings.

After decades of NHL existence without managing to win it all, the Los Angeles Kings managed that feat in two of the last three seasons. At this moment, it seems like hockey fans are witnessing a battle for supremacy between the Kings and their conference rivals the Chicago Blackhawks (both locked up with two recent titles).

In stark contrast to the 2012 Stanley Cup run in which they lost four playoff games and never faced elimination, the Kings found themselves fighting for their postseason lives with great frequency. To put it in the simplest terms, Los Angeles went from an 0-3 deficit against the San Jose Sharks to winning the Stanley Cup with a dramatic Alec Martinez overtime goal against the New York Rangers … and it rarely looked easy.

Much like in 2011-12, the Kings didn’t win their division, although qualifying for the postseason was much more comfortable this time around.

Once again, the Kings were a dominant puck possession team that opted to add a significant (if often-criticized) sniper during the trade deadline to put them over the top. Much like Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik really helped to push the Kings over the top, especially when it came to the postseason.

Still, the core players are still what drive this Kings team. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty both made strong cases for Conn Smythe victories and other individual awards. Justin Williams finally received some mainstream attention by winning that playoff MVP. Dustin Brown was his typically cantankerous self. Jonathan Quick’s 2014 postseason was as polarizing as his 2012 work was exalted, yet the bottom line is that the American goalie is already a two-time champion.

Offseason

The scary thing for opponents is that the Kings’ best players remain in their prime years and the team didn’t deal with much in the way of turnover this offseason. In a way, the potential improvement of Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson might seem like an “upgrade” in itself.

(Re-signing Gaborik certainly doesn’t hurt matters, aside from the worries about his fragility.)

The biggest move might have been one that wasn’t made, actually, as GM Dean Lombardi opted against buying out Mike Richards. It will be interesting to see if people look back at that move as one that hinders future Carter/Gaborik-type tweaks or if it was a wise retention of a center who was once deemed elite.

While winning another Stanley Cup deprived them of a high first-rounder, the Kings stockpiled 10 selections in the 2014 NHL Draft, so it was a pretty promising summer overall for L.A.

Report: O’Reilly wants $6.7M deal, Avs counter at $5.5M

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It seemed inevitable that Colorado and Ryan O’Reilly would get to their salary arbitration hearing and, based on a report that surfaced Monday, it now feels like a virtual lock.

O’Reilly is reportedly seeking a $6.75 million deal for next season, per The Hockey News. It’s a big ask from the 23-year-old, as the figure would make O’Reilly the 24th-highest salaried forward in the NHL — on par with the likes of Jeff Carter and Joe Thornton — and give him a bigger cap hit than Colorado’s current highest-paid player, Matt Duchene ($6M per).

The Avs, meanwhile, are countering with a decidedly less expensive number, relatively speaking: $5.525M, which is technically a salary reduction. Per the conditions of Colorado matching Calgary’s offer sheet for O’Reilly two seasons ago, he made $6.5 million in salary last year after netting $3.5 the first (with a $2.5M signing bonus).

So yeah, Colorado’s playing a little hardball.

How this all shakes out remains to be seen. For all the drama surrounding his contractual status over the last two years, O’Reilly is still a quality two-way forward that continues to produce despite the white noise, notching career highs in goals (28) and points (64) last year for the Central Division-winning Avs.

As for those Avs… Colorado will catch some heat for its brazen approach, but remember — the club has been very consistent with the way it’s handled O’Reilly since his entry-level deal expired. The Avs believe they know what O’Reilly’s market value is, and they’re sticking to it.

Hitch says Stastny ‘really fits’ the Blues

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For the St. Louis Blues, signing Paul Stastny was all “about understanding the landscape of the West,” according to head coach Ken Hitchcock.

“The landscape of the West is there are at least eight or 10 teams that are extremely deep and it’s about having enough firepower in your lineup to control the puck,” Hitchcock told NHL.com in a wide-ranging interviewing. “You score more when you control the puck more, so Paul’s patience and the way he plays the game, how responsible he is in both ends of the rink, he really fits our team. He fits the way we already play.”

The so-called “advanced” statistics back up Hitchcock’s claim. Stastny was one of the few positive possession players for Colorado last season, and his departure has many wondering how the Avs will fare without his strong two-way play.

The Blues, meanwhile, were already a good possession team; they just couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. As such, they’re hoping the addition of Stastny can put them over the top in an extremely tough Western Conference — one in which Anaheim has added Ryan Kesler to play behind Ryan Getzlaf, Dallas has added Jason Spezza to go with Tyler Seguin, and Chicago has added Brad Richards to slot in behind Jonathan Toews.

All four of those moves to bring in centers came after the Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years with a top-six forward group that featured Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter playing the middle, and playing it very well.

Related: Lehtera to center Schwartz, Tarasenko; will be ‘contributing factor’ for Blues

Boudreau has ‘never coached a team in the NHL’ with a 2C like Kesler

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“I’ve never coached a team in the NHL that’s had a second-line center that you’re going to have with Ryan Kesler. It’s a great [acquisition], and it gets you excited.”

That was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau (per NHL.com), talking about his team’s big offseason acquisition from Vancouver. A former Selke Trophy winner, Kesler will play behind Anaheim’s top center, Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf, giving the Ducks one of the top 1-2 center combinations in the NHL.

“This makes us a bona fide threat to become an elite team,” said Boudreau.

So, exciting times for Ducks fans, who saw firsthand what the Los Angeles Kings did with a one-two combo of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter in these past playoffs.

But fans of the Washington Capitals may also have perked up at Boudreau’s remarks, given the cavalcade of second-line centers that auditioned in D.C. to play behind Nicklas Backstrom.

From Japers’ Rink:

The last time the Capitals entered an offseason knowing who the second-line center would be for the upcoming season was 2008, and Sergei Fedorov was playing for the Caps. Fedorov retired from the NHL after that 2008-09 season, and in each of the ensuing four and a half seasons the Capitals have had to find a new player to handle the second-line center spot.

The 2C spot is still up for grabs in Washington, with Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Evgeny Kuznetsov expected to compete for the role following the departure of Mikhail Grabovski to Long Island.