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Kings taking much different path as they close in on same 2012 ending

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

LA is one win from celebrating a Cup title. (Getty Images)
LA is one win from celebrating a Cup title. (Getty Images)

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The 2012 Los Angeles Kings were a historic champion, setting all kinds of first. They were the first eight seed to win the Stanley Cup, and they crushed teams as rarely seen before, going a very tidy 16-4. They won a record 10 straight road games and Jonathan Quick had perhaps the best postseason ever for a goaltender.

Plus, you know, they were the first Kings team to win the Stanley Cup.

The 2014 Kings are just one win away from doubling the franchise's Cup count, but the comparisons between the two teams are more like contrasts.

That's not to say they are completely different. There is a creepy parallel that has emerged in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final connecting this LA run to the one in 2012. That year the Kings won the first two games of the series in overtime and then shut out New Jersey in Game 3. This year's team? Won the first two games in overtime and then shut out New York in Game 3. If the Rangers win the next two games before the Kings close it out in six, then it will near the crazy symmetry the Blues experienced earlier this postseason.

But the similarities don't go a lot further than that, at least when you're talking about how they are playing (and winning). This Kings team is largely unchanged since 2012; there are a few players here or there, but the core of the team is close to the same.

That fact hasn't been lost on Alain Vigneault, whose Canucks team was beaten by those Kings in 2012.

"It's not very different. The core players are basically the same. The performers, the high-end performers, are basically the same," Vigneault said Tuesday. It's a team that's well-built, that is tough to play against."

Close to the same cast of characters but this year's team is proving there is more than one way a team can get it done.

Of all the words used to describe that run in 2012, the most common -- and most fitting -- was buzzsaw. They just ripped their way through everybody, dominating games at times. They were unstoppable. The offense that slumbered all season woke up and averaged 2.9 goals per game even if they didn't need to given Jonathan Quick's unreal performance in net.

This year's team had similar troubles scoring in the regular season before turning it on but they haven't had Quick's best form to back them up, Game 3 of the Cup Final notwithstanding. In fact, they've been scoring more than that dominant team of two years ago, averaging a whopping 3.5 goals per game this postseason. And have they needed it.

Consider this postseason opponents are averaging 2.75 goals against per game while 2012's team gave up just 1.5 goals per game, further underscoring just how awesome Quick was two years ago. They didn't need to score a lot two years ago but still did. This team has needed to and it has.

In fact, just about everything this team has needed to do, it has done. It has been challenged in ways the 2012 team wasn't and yet here they are, about to achieve the same goal.

"We were able to find ways to win games then," Quick said after Game 3 in comparing this team to 2012. "We've been able to do that so far this year. The only difference right now is that team won 16 games, and we haven't won 16 yet, so we're going to keep working."

Certainly the point stands that they did what they needed to do in 2012, but in terms of real hardships, that team didn't face many, their backs weren't ever against the wall. It has been a very different road.

While the 2012 team breezed through the entire tournament with ease, only even going six games once (in the Final) after building a 3-0 lead, this team has fought a lot harder to get here. The last champion was a model of efficiency, playing only 14 games to reach the Stanley Cup Final while this is a model of resiliency, starting with the improbable comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to San Jose to overcoming two-goal leads in the first two games of the Final against New York.

Two different paths but they are close to intersecting in the end as the Kings stand on the precipice with the 3-0 series lead. The Rangers sound like a defeated team already. Honestly, who can blame them. They've played pretty well in the series yet their lot in life is to trail this series. Unlike 2012, it's a bit of a misleading dominance but it's not how you get there, just that in the end you get there.

Given what they have had to do to get here and the historical success of teams up 3-0 in the Final (eight of the past nine have ended in sweeps, only LA's 2012 win didn't) it's interesting that for the first time this postseason, the Kings are looking like that 2012 juggernaut again.

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