Jeff Carter’s talents aren’t an eye-opener to anyone who is a fan of the National Hockey League.
The Los Angeles Kings forward has been dominant at times in the NHL since breaking in with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005-06.
Acquired by the Kings during the 2011-12 season, Carter had a significant role in the Kings’ Cup run that spring.
Carter is at it again in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, but the players who have been helping him demonstrate the depth of the Kings and the work of the club’s scouting staff are his linemates.
Tyler Toffoli was a second-round pick in 2010, taken 47th overall in the midst of an excellent junior career with the Ottawa 67’s. Tanner Pearson came two years later, chosen 30th overall with the last pick of the first round in 2012, after two solid seasons with the Barrie Colts. They were seen extensively by Mike Futa, and it’s no coincidence that Futa this month was promoted to the Kings’ vice-president of hockey operations and director of player personnel from co-director of amateur scouting.
Toffoli and Pearson have been stellar with Carter, and the three have proven to be too much for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final. The trio combined for five points in the Kings’ 4-3 victory in Los Angeles on Saturday night.
The thinking was that Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and others might have been a challenge for Chicago in the best-of-seven series, which the Kings now lead 2-1.
The Kings’ depth, however, has been on display, and is the envy of most of the clubs across the league.
If you’re going to start an NHL team from the ground up and have to pick one player as your base, how is it not Jonathan Toews? The Blackhawks captain spoke earlier in the day of the importance of being “pissed off” and certainly brought that attitude from the opening faceoff. Of course, it’s so much more than that with Toews, who is as effective in the offensive zone as he is in the defensive zone. We realize Toews is not perfect — he lost the draw to Jarret Stoll, which led to the Kings’ fourth goal — but it’s awfully hard to argue against him ... When was the last time a player had such an easy time splitting the defencemen as Toffoli did for the Kings’ third goal? Blackhawks blueliners Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya more or less watched Toffoli take the puck and beat goalie Corey Crawford with a forehand move at 14:19 of the second period. It was the sixth goal of the playoffs in 17 games for Toffoli, who has just 14 goals in 72 regular-season games over two seasons for the Kings. There’s no doubting the ability of Toffoli, who had 109 goals in his final two seasons with Ottawa (52 in 2011-12 and 57 in 2010-11) ... Patrick Kane doesn’t have a goal through the first three games of the series, but the tricky Hawks forward had some good looks on Saturday night. Kane had three shots on goal ... Justin Williams isn’t known for defensive brain cramps, but the Kings forward had one on Toews’ first of two goals. Williams hesitated in the neutral zone and Toews picked him clean. Toews then turned on the jets to out-race defenceman Alec Martinez to the Chicago net. A little fake by Toews was bought by netminder Jonathan Quick, who opened up enough for Toews to beat him with a low shot between the legs ... The last thing a referee wants is to become part of the story. When Oduya tried to clear the puck from behind his team’s net, it hit the skate of referee Brad Watson and was gathered by Pearson, who centred to Carter. With a quick snap of his wrists, Carter scored the Kings’ second goal midway through the second period.
FROM THE HASH MARKS
Crawford, who was not good in the third period of Game 2, had a bit of a shaky start when he bobbled a Kopitar attempt in the opening 25 seconds. It was a harbinger of things to come ... At the other end, Quick was confident early, coming two feet past the top of his crease to stop a Hjalmarsson shot from the slot before Toews started to go to work ... The Kings nearly scored a shorthanded goal that would have put them up 2-1, but Carter, despite getting a backhand off, couldn’t completely gain control of the puck as he broke in alone on Crawford ... Toews had a hand, in a sense, in the Kings’ first-period goal, as he screened Crawford. Defenceman Slava Voynov beat Crawford on the short side with Toews in the way, but not enough to block the shot ... Mike Richards doesn’t always have an impact on the scoresheet, but few players remaining in these playoffs are as wily. Richards’ ability to know when to hang back on a rush is just one of many attributes the Kings centre brings every game.