The Defenisve-Minded Kings Get Offensive


Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was adamant in the fact that he wanted his team to become a defensive-minded hockey club. That strategy has helped Los Angeles capture two Stanley Cup Championships in the last three years, but in that time, there was a lot of give-and-take. Having a team so focused on defense was good, but where would the offense come from?

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  • During Lombardi’s time as GM, he has struggled in certain aspects of the job, but excelled in others. During the 2012 Stanley Cup run, the Kings were an eighth place team that destroyed everyone in the playoffs. A lot of that was due to hard-nosed defense which turned into offensive explosions. Both Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown were killer for the Kings as each collected 20 points with the exact same amount of goals and assists (8 and 12). But the Kings could not hold on to that game plan for very long, especially with Brown dipping in production the following year.

    Los Angeles got a taste of reality in the 2013 playoffs when they ran into the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks took out the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in five games behind some pretty dizzying goal-scoring efforts. Whatever defense the Kings had, the Blackhawks had even better offense.

    Jun 8, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Michael Frolik (67) battles for the puck with Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) during the first period in game five of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

    In that series, the Kings seem to only have one offensive weapon in Kopitar. Luckily, albeit a little too late, Los Angeles found that they had some firepower from veteran Jeff Carter when paired with rookie Tyler Toffoli. Carter and Toffoli played on the same line in Game 5 and finally got some production in the offensive zone and even though they could not overcome a tough Chicago team, we saw a glimpse of what was to come for LA. It was a tough pill to swallow exiting the playoffs, but the future was bright. Several things seemed to be in place offensively for the defensive-minded Kings.

    During the 2013–14 season, Lombardi had once again made a brilliant move to strengthen Los Angeles’ cause. The defense was working for them, but when the team is not scoring any goals, it is hard to win games, let alone championships. So what did Lombardi do for the Kings? Adjust.

    Jun 13, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) celebrates after a goal by right wing Marian Gaborik (not pictured) during the third period in game five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Just like the genius move to get Carter, Lombardi had also made a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets to take forward Marian Gaborik off of their hands. Lombardi had also called up Tanner Pearson from the Manchester Monarchs (The Kings AHL affiliate) for his goalscoring services. It also helped that Pearson and Toffoli had been line mates at Manchester, already giving LA some much needed offensive chemistry. The result was a defensive team that was now putting pucks in the net at a high rate behind some speed and youth. Lombardi, you beautiful beast.

    The addition of Gaborik was not only smart, as we see now, but almost clairvoyant. Did Lombardi know Gaborik was capable of doing the things he does? Possibly. Gaborik not only led the Kings in playoff goals last season with 14, but also made history as he became second on the Kings list of playoff goals in a season, one short of “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky.

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    Pearson, like Toffoli who was groomed in the Kings farm system, has also helped out with some much needed offense. Respectively, Toffoli and Pearson had 14 and 12 points in last season’s playoffs. A lot of that had to do with the matching of the now famous “That 70’s Line” that saw the two young Kings playing along side Carter. The result was beautiful hockey that skated circles around their opponents, but it has not stopped there.

    This year it seems like more of the same at an even greater level as the Kings are not only starting this season off hot, but so are their goal scores and point getters. Currently the Kings are second in the Pacific Division with 9 points in this early season. LA dropped their first two games, but are currently on a home stand where they have won four games in a row and winning by an average of 2.25 goals. In each of their four wins, they have only allowed 3 goals as opposed to the 13 they are getting past opposing goalies.

    Oct 11, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Kings left wing Tanner Pearson (70) celebrates with center Tyler Toffoli (73) and center Jeff Carter (77) after scoring a goal in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    And do you know who is leading this offensive charge? Before you say Gaborik, just know that he has only played three games due to an injury, but you can expect him to back in top form when he is completely healthy. Aside from that, the aforementioned “That 70’s Line” is tops in the Kings point column. Toffoli has three goals and four assists for 7 points, Carter has three goals and assists for six points and Pearson is leading all Kings with five goals and is tied with Toffoli for 7 points. Additionally, all three are leading the league in the plus-minus category. ALL THREE! Who does that?

    It is no mistake that LA is as strong or maybe even stronger than their Stanley Cup winning team from last season. Dean Lombardi, though taking grief for many years, has finally got this team where he wants them to be… a bloody force to be reckoned with in the NHL. Go Kings Go!