LA Kings set sights higher after ditching Blues

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm •  Published: May 11, 2013
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the Los Angeles Kings stunned top-seeded Vancouver to win their first-round playoff series a year ago, they had to acknowledge the importance of their long-suffering franchise's first postseason advancement in 11 years.

The Kings' standards for celebration have risen a bit in the past year.

A day after Los Angeles earned its fourth straight one-goal victory to finish off the tough St. Louis Blues on Friday night, the defending Stanley Cup champions barely reacted to an achievement that would have been groundbreaking just a year ago.

The Kings already are imagining another long playoff run built around Jonathan Quick's goaltending, a sturdy defense and four talented lines on a roster stacked with players eager to win multiple rings.

"It seems like there's a sense of comfort when you're within our dressing room and it's just the players in there," Kings forward Justin Williams said Saturday.

"You look around and you know what everyone's capable of, and you know that come crunch time, they're going to get it done for you. I don't have any doubt in my mind that that's the case when other players look around the room as well. That confidence is something that we've earned, and something that we've been through. We're feeling we can beat anybody."

Los Angeles is the first NHL champion to get out of the first round in three years, and the Kings are focused on becoming the NHL's first repeat Stanley Cup winner since 1998.

Postseason consistency is difficult in hockey, with its exhausting seven-game series and remarkably even matchups often ending on a bad bounce or missed save in overtime, but the Kings believe their defense and physical play are a formula for repeat success.

Yet the Kings have plenty to improve on in the next few days. They leaned heavily on Quick and his .944 save percentage against St. Louis after managing just 12 goals in six games, including just one apiece from 2012 playoff scoring co-leaders Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown.

"I think we won the series without playing our best hockey," said Williams, a two-time Stanley Cup winner. "That's obviously a positive, especially beating a great team like St. Louis. I just think there's some things that we can do a lot better.

"I think our top line — myself, Kopi and Brownie — needs to be better moving forward for us to keep advancing in these playoffs. We got by, by playing great defensively and scoring timely goals, but sometimes that can only take you so far. We need everybody on top of their game. That's what we had last year, and that's what we're going to need."