Kings' youngsters helped by team's experience, leadership

Kings' youngsters helped by team's experience, leadership
May 27, 2014, 10:15 pm
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Nina Falcone

The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings found themselves in familiar territory, facing off in a Western Conference Final rematch after last year's five-game series. 

Both teams have similar experiences with long playoff runs throughout the last couple seasons, winning the Stanley Cup one right after the other as they each continue to battle for a spot in this year's final.

It's that experience, for both their mental and physical game, that plays such a big role in their success. 

"They remember winning. They remember losing," head coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's the best part of long runs is how good it feels and how bad it feels." 

[MORE: Blackhawks look to top line to ignite comeback]

While both teams returned a majority of their rosters from those last two Stanley Cup-winning seasons, the Kings have included a few more new faces, including Marian Gaborik. And while Gaborik has made a huge impact on his new team, he's not the only one.

The Kings' youngsters have built up quite the reputation this postseason, especially Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson who have joined Jeff Carter on the team's newly-nicknamed "That 70s Line." 

That line has combined for 18 points throughout the first four games of this series. And while Pearson and Toffoli — just 21 and 22 years old, respectively — are rather new to the scene (Toffoli played in 10 games with the Kings throughout 2012-13), they've taken close notes from Carter and have found ways to balance their mental and physical game much like the way the team's veterans have.

"They've been great. Obviously they're a huge part of this team," Carter said of the team's younger guys. "You talk about Tanner and Tyler, (Jake Muzzin) and (Slava Voynov)... they're having fun with (the playoffs). They've worked hard to get here. Hopefully they can keep it going."

[RELATED: Facing elimination, Blackhawks focusing on just Game 5]

Mike Richards believes much of that can be credited to the way the Kings have brought players up through their system the last few years.

"I think it just speaks volumes of kind of how the Kings bring people up. Ever since I've been here, the whole word was you had to go to the minors, put in your time there," he said. "(General manager Dean Lombardi) doesn't rush people into the NHL. I think it's nice for people to get their experience down there and then come up here." 

Toffoli and Pearson most recently got that experience together playing for the AHL's Manchester Monarchs. And once they got to the NHL, they were welcomed into a locker room filled with guys know who know what it's like to go all the way in the playoffs.

That type of leadership from the Kings' veterans both on and off the ice has paid off for the team's youngsters, and the Kings are seeing the results of that as significant contributions are made from throughout all their lines.

"They're just going out and playing," Richards said of the team's rookies. "They're not putting too much pressure on themselves. (Carter) has been good talking to (Pearson and Toffoli), helping them along.

"I think their mentality is to just go out and play. I think right now it's working for them and it's a good mentality to have at this point in the season."