Let's be honest. The Los Angeles Kings got lucky in 2012.
That's not to say they didn't deserve to win the Stanley Cup. Of course they did. They came into the playoffs white-hot, and they stayed white-hot. Darryl Sutter's system was perfect for them, especially after the Jeff Carter trade completed his lines. Among those lines, Anze Kopitar's was flawless. Behind those lines, Drew Doughty was an incredible engine, and Jonathan Quick established himself as one of the best goalies in the NHL.
But they still got lucky. The Kings barely broke a sweat on their run to the Final, and more importantly, they didn't break a single defenceman. Not once in 20 games did they have to make a change to their defence corps. The NHL postseason is a deleterious grind, especially for the blueliners. Not so for LA's.
It helps that they played so few games, of course. It takes 16 wins to lift the Stanley Cup, the Kings were economical about it, getting there in just 20 contests. You're playing the injury lottery every time you take the ice, and the Kings bought fewer lottery tickets than any team in the twenty-first century.
Things have been different this year, though. Less than halfway through the postseason, the Kings have already dressed two more defencemen than they needed in 2012, thanks to injuries to Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell.
It's factoring into their struggles, and Darryl Sutter didn't shy away from admitting that.
"When you have injuries on your back end, always, because you’re not able to support it as well as you want," he said. "That’s the way it works with every team, but I think that what happens is you play guys up in different situations and, quite honest, we asked them to accept that challenge. I said that before. It’s got nothing to do with the wins and losses. It’s part of the challenge of when you have that on your back end."
It may explain, in part, why the Kings already have two more losses than they suffered over their whole run two years ago.
The Kings dropped their third straight to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night, falling to 3-2 in their second-round series and putting themselves on the brink of elimination. But they're far from out of it. After all, they won the last series after dropping three straight, and they didn't already have two wins to work with.
"We fought from behind tonight, but you’ve got to win the games," Sutter said. "I couldn’t care about what happened before. You look ahead."
But he should care what happened before. While the comeback against the Sharks showed character and will likely give the Kings some confidence heading into Game 6, it wasn't very efficient, and now the Kings are battling the twin-headed monster of injuries and fatigue they didn't have to battle in their Cup season. That's a steep hill.
In other words, the question heading into Game 6 isn't whether the Kings can come from behind to win. We know they can. But after expending all that energy doing it in Round 1, can they do it again?
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