The Los Angeles Kings scored an impressive 2.85 goals per game in the 2012 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup, but that’s been dwarfed by their current average of 3.48.
Over the last four years, only two teams have finished their runs with a higher offensive average than that — the 2012 Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, which played in a first round series that was devoid of defense or goaltending.
It’s hard to see the Kings maintaining their current pace, especially when you consider that they ranked 26th offensively (2.42) in the regular season, but then again, this isn’t exactly the same team.
The Kings seem to find their missing link when they acquired Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline. After struggling to get anything going in Columbus, Gaborik has recorded 19 points in the playoffs, including a league-high 12 goals. His presence has pushed Anze Kopitar to another level and gave them the luxury of moving Jeff Carter off the top line.
Carter has instead played regularly with 22-year-old Tyler Toffoli and 21-year-old Tanner Pearson and helped the youngsters shine in the playoffs. Throw in Justin Williams, Dustin Brown, and factor in the possibility that Mike Richards might still step up and it suddenly doesn’t sound so unreasonable to say that the Kings can maintain this level of production.
Unless their success has been based on misleading circumstances. The Kings haven’t faced the best goaltending in the playoffs, from San Jose’s Antti Niemi, who had been inconsistent all season, to the Anaheim Ducks’ messy situation that culminated in 20-year-old rookie goalie John Gibson opposing them, to Chicago’s good, but not elite goaltending from Corey Crawford.
New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist will be by far their biggest test yet. He’s one of the best players of this generation and has allowed more than two goals in just five of his 20 playoff starts. He’ll enter this series with a 2.03 GAA and .928 save percentage.
As good as the Kings’ offense has been, they might have finally met their match.