Amodeo: Kings fourth line a key factor towards playoff success

By: Danny Amodeo, Contributing Writer
@DannyP29

With the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs now in the history books, you could argue it’s been a year of the underdog. Most series have gone to the team least expected to win, and the eighth seed Los Angeles Kings knocking off the first seed Vancouver Canucks is no exception.

The Los Angeles Kings' depth has been a key factor to their success. (Cassie Storring/CM)

There are several factors that lead to the Kings success, both down the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, including the stellar goaltending of Jonathan Quick. Quick went 4-1 in the series, recording a shutout, a .956 save percentage and only giving up eight goals against in five games for a 1.59 GAA.

Quick’s stellar play kept the Canucks from jumping ahead of the Kings on the score sheet, as he always seemed to make the big save when needed for the Kings. An example of this was when Quick stopped Daniel Sedin on a breakaway in the third period of Game 5, which could have gave the Canucks a 2-1 lead.

Another key factor in the Kings ability to beat the Canucks was the play of captain Dustin Brown. Brown was a force throughout the series, notching four goals and adding an assist – not to mention his pesky and physical play (remember his bone-crushing hit on Henrik Sedin?). Brown was a force on the ice, hitting everything that moved to create space for his linemates so they could apply pressure in the offensive zone.

The play of Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown has been well documented in the media and by the fans, but what most people are forgetting to identify as a driving force behind the Kings success this season is their exceptional depth – namely their fourth line.

Consisting of Colin Fraser, Jordan Nolan and Brad Richardson, the fourth line played a huge role for the club in the playoffs and gives Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who is known for relying on rolling four lines, a safe and reliable unit to help eat up minutes and create energy. While many teams in the NHL do not have the confidence to play their fourth lines in key situations (especially in the playoffs), the Kings do not have this problem.

Sutter ran his fourth line throughout each game of the 1st round. Richardson, Nolan and Fraser seemed to be on the ice any time the Kings needed a boost in a game. Their physical play allowed them to have continuous pressure in the Canucks zone each game. Not only did the line create problems for the Canucks when they were on the ice, but they did so from the bench as well.

And it was only in the agitative and physical departments the fourth line thrived – they also played somewhat of a checking role for the Kings. It’s not often that you see a fourth line against another teams first line, however in this series, the Kings where able to stack up Richardson, Nolan and Fraser against the Canucks top line.

By having the confidence to play Nolan, Richardson and Fraser against the Canucks top line, Sutter was able to play his more offensive players against some of the Canucks weaker lines, giving the Kings the edge in the line matching battle.

As the Kings move onto the second round to play against St. Louis, look for Sutter to rely on all 12 forwards and count on the aforementioned fourth line to play a similar role against Ken Hitchcock’s physical Blues. By having Oshie and Backes playing extremely well for St. Louis, Sutter will be able to run his fourth line against them in order to create similar lineup mis-matches in favor of the Kings. If Fraser, Nolan and Richardson continue their strong play, expect them to be among the reasons why the Kings are able to compete against one of the Western Conference’s top teams.

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