LA Kings: Does the LA Kings core have a championship encore?

LA Kings (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images) /
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LA Kings Kurtis MacDermid
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports) /

They say that it is darkest before the dawn, and in the case of the LA Kings, this may very well be true.

After what looked like another subpar season in 2019-20, the team “got off the mat” to end the pandemic shortened season on a seven-game win streak. This was a very pleasant surprise for most Kings fans, except for those that were in the tank for the #1 pick camp. Even more surprising, and better yet, promising, was that it was youngsters like Gabe Vilardi, Martin Frk, and Cal Petersen that led the way.

As of this writing, the Kings have a 4-6-3 record for a total of 11 points, which has them sitting in seventh place in the Honda West Division. While certainly not spectacular, it is well known this is supposed a season of transition for the Kings from the old guard to the new guard. The process has been slow, and with many of the much-ballyhooed prospects still in Ontario, it has been the “old guard” that is still carrying this team.

Anze Kopitar has been his usual stellar, steady self. The 33-year-old leads the team once again in scoring with 17 points so far, and his 13 assists are good for sixth overall in the NHL. The LA Kings captain is still under contract for three more seasons after this one and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Defenseman Drew Doughty is enjoying a comeback season so far. Much has been made of what appeared to be a decline in play over the past two seasons, but he appears determined to put those doubts to rest. His three goals and eight assists place him third overall on the team in scoring, and he has averaged an astounding 26 minutes and 49 seconds of time on ice per game.

This season has presented many challenges for the Kings on defense between injuries and assimilating young players into the lineup. Still, Doughty has been the anchor and leader of the team’s defensive corps.

Dustin Brown and Jeff Carter are similar in the regard they are both 36 and have contracts that are expiring after this season. Both are also skating like they have found the fountain of youth. After battling injuries for the past couple of seasons, Carter is skating as he did during the cup years. He only has two goals on forty shots, so perhaps “puck luck” has not been on his side, but a move to the wing has certainly been beneficial in getting “Carts” back on track.

Brown has been a force for the LA Kings this season, especially on the power play where he has five goals. After starting the season in his usual spot on the top line, the former captain has been moved up and down the lineup in an effort to spread out the team’s offense. No matter what line he has been on, Brown has made his presence felt.

The one member of the LA Kings championship core that is not off to a great start is goaltender Jonathan Quick. When the season started, it was understood that he would be in a timeshare with the “goalie of the future” Calvin Petersen. After thirteen games played, however, it looks like Petersen has taken over as the King’s number one goalie.

Although they both have two wins, Petersens save percentage, and goals-against average have been much better than Quick’s – and as a result, Petersen has now started three straight games. Jonathan Quick is still a valuable part of the team, but his days as the number one goaltender may be drawing to a close.