PART 3: Who’s Who In The Western Conference: Performers and Pretenders

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Many have argued that the Western Conference is the far superior half of the NHL. Just two weeks into the 2013-14 season, stats are beginning to show it: The current playoff threshold in the West is 109 points; In the Eastern Conference, only 89. With so many teams off to a solid start, Blackhawk Up takes a look at what teams are really there to stay, and who’s just enjoying the moment while it lasts.

For a link to Part One, click here. (opens in a new tab)

For a link to Part Two, click here. (opens in a new tab)

L.A. Kings

Oct 17, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Los Angeles Kings team members celebrate after beating the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. The Kings beat the Predators 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Record: 6-3-0

Season Summary So Far: Ever since their surprising Stanley Cup win in 2012, the Kings have been perennial contenders. The Kings’ hopes for a repeat were derailed in the Western Conference Final last year, and entered the 2013-14 season with hopes of another strong showing. A shaky start slowed the Kings down, sneaking by the Minnesota Wild before dropping two straight decisions to the Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers. The Kings turned it around, winning three straight, before an unexpected blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Kings got back in to the win column on Saturday, with a win against the Dallas Stars. 4 out of the Kings’ 9 games have gone to extra time so far, with Los Angeles winning all of them.

Strengths: Standout goaltender, good combination of size and skill, underrated defencemen, exceptional penalty kill.

Weaknesses: Goals hard to come by (average of 2 a game), underachieving power-play, undisciplined.

The Real Deal?: It would be hard to think of a playoff picture without the Kings, and a little late-season success might be what propels them into a high seed. The San Jose Sharks have taken over as the biggest power in the Pacific Division, but key wins against teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes will set the tone. This team knows how to make it to the playoffs, and how to succeed once they get there. Chemistry on the Kings is among the best in the league, and a team effort is going to be required, as no small group of players will single-handedly power the Kings all season.

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