The story of the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings has been well documented. Everyone said that they were one of the best teams heading into the season. Many even picked the Kings as a preseason cup favorite.
Then, all the expectations and positivity surrounding the team evaporated away. After a 5-0-1 start to the season, the Kings began to falter. People began to question if the team was ever as good as they thought.
That Kings team made just enough of a late season push to clinch the eighth and final playoff seed. Instead of a first round exit like most people anticipated, the Kings knocked off the President’s Trophy winning Canucks in the first round. Then they knocked out the Blues, the Coyotes, and finally the Devils to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Speaking of the Blues, how about them so far in 2013? After a hot start, the team has had a hard fall back down to Earth. The Blues are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 12-9-2 record. What’s happening?
[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignright" width="228" caption="Tj Oshie and the Blues are learning how to play with a target on their backs"][/caption]
This Blues team was supposed to waltz away with the Central Division title. This team was supposed to bring St. Louis its first Stanley Cup. This team was supposed to do a lot of things, just like last season’s Kings.
Remember when those Kings steamrolled the Blues in the 2012 playoffs? What was the difference between those two teams during the regular season?
The Blues were a Cinderella story that shocked everyone by winning one of the best divisions in the NHL. The Kings were the opposite. They were expected to win their division and be one of the better teams in the league, but they fell well short of expectations and had to scratch and claw just to snag a playoff spot.
The one thing the Kings did much more frequently than the Blues last season was face adversity. The only real times the Blues faced adversity last season was at the beginning with their 6-7-0 start that got Davis Payne fired, and at the end when the Kings smacked them around in the playoffs.
The Kings faced adversity on almost a daily basis. They had to fight through all the negativity every time they hit the ice. However, that allowed them to bring home a Stanley Cup. If the Blues wish to bring home their first cup, they must learn how to do this as well.
The Blues are not going to catch anyone by surprise this season. Everyone knows that the Blues are one of the best teams in the league. Ken Hitchcock knows that his team has to learn to deal with that reality.
However, this team does not have much more time to learn. The shortened season means that there is a lot less time to make a late season push. The sooner the Blues get their acts together and learn how to be the hunted rather than the hunters, the better their chances of a successful season.
A good shot of adversity is needed for a large dose of success. Sure, watching your team blow three goal leads is no fun for anybody, but fans should not want it any other way.
Think back to last season. The Stanley Cup Finals consisted of the eight seeded Kings from the west and the sixth seeded Devils from the east. No Rangers, Canucks, Blues, Bruins or any other regular season powerhouses.
Regular season success does not translate into a successful postseason. Often times those teams who only squeak into the playoffs are the most battle tested of the bunch. This should be engraved in St. Louis fans after watching the Cardinals the last couple of seasons.
Mental strength is just as important as skill come playoff time. The Blues certainly have the talent, but they are still working on their mental game. As long as they continue to grow mentally, this team could do something really special later on this year.
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