May 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) moves the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the third period of game four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With Slava Voynov, There is No Such Thing as a Sophomore Jinx

A little over a week ago, he was in Coach Sutter’s doghouse. But since then, defenseman Slava Voynovhas picked up his game in a big way. Never mind that it’s been imperative to be better given the injuries the Kings have on the back end but more is expected of Voynov who had one heck of a coming out party last season and was only expected to keep that going this year.

December 13, 2011; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Los Angeles defenseman Slava Voynov (26) clears the puck during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Whatever tactic Darryl Sutter had in sending the message to his young defenseman that his play as of late simply won’t cut it, it worked. In his last four games, Slava Voynov has a goal and six assists. Last Monday, the 23-year-old recorded three assists en route to a convincing 5-1 win against Nashville. After scoring the next night against St. Louis and going pointless on Thursday against Dallas, Voynov returned to his early-week form as he notched another three helpers against Calgary on Saturday night.

When the Los Angeles Kings traded defenseman Jack Johnson last February, the few that were skeptical weren’t cognizant of the impact Slava Voynov had already had on his team despite playing with them for just a few months. While Johnson’s hefty contract was refreshing to part with, the now-former Kings’ D-man was still a fan favourite. So, while the emergence of Voynov gave Los Angeles enough leverage to ship Johnson out of town, it was now a test of whether the Russian blueliner could handle the pressure of replacing one of the faces of the franchise. He could.

In 54 regular season games last year, Voynov scored eight goals and added 12 assists to go along with a staggering +12 rating. In 20 playoff games, Voynov added a goal and two helpers in addition to play a defensively-sound game the whole way through en route to helping the Kings to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

With that, this season brought a lot of promise but few results. Of course in all fairness, most of the Kings had trouble getting anything going early on in this abbreviated season.

In his first 19 games, Slava Voynov had three goals and six assists. While those aren’t necessarily bad numbers, most knew the defenseman was capable of a bit more. Defensively, it took a little while for Voynov to come around but he did. Despite an off-night here and there, fans would safely admit that while they miss both Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, there’s no desperation in rushing them back into the lineup – and Voynov’s efforts are a big reason why.

Now after 23 games, Voynov has four goals and 12 assists. He matched his assists total through the first 19 games in just four (well, technically two). In addition, his presence on the ice is just as vital as it was last season as the Russian is currently boasting a +11 rating.

As we near the halfway point of this shortened season, it’s becoming easier to look at all that has gone right with the reigning champs. They had a slow start but the Los Angeles Kings have turned a corner and while many kudos is deserved for the likes of Carter, Kopitar and even Trevor Lewis, everyone would be remiss if they didn’t mention the solid effort on the blueline, particular from one Slava Voynov who is proving to everyone that there is simply no such thing as a sophomore jinx.

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