"It's tough to do," Los Angeles Kings winger Justin Williams said. "There's 30 teams in the league now, there's a salary cap, there's a lot of things that deter teams from becoming dynasties."
While the league might try to deter in the name of competitive balance, there are two dynasties blossoming in the Western Conference. The Kings (2012 and 2014) and Chicago Blackhawks (2010 and 2013) each have two Stanley Cups within a three-year span, the first teams to accomplish that feat since the Edmonton Oilers and Pittsburgh Penguins in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Williams thinks it's too early for the D-word. But in a salary-cap age with so much parity, the Kings and Blackhawks are putting together as close to duelling dynasties as possible.
"The Stanley Cup has seemed to go through either one of us," Williams said. "It's certainly a rivalry that's flourished over the past few years and it's good for hockey."
Playoff hockey success needs good goaltending, health, skill and endurance, but don't forget all the lucky bounces that are needed. After all, the Kings eliminated the Blackhawks in overtime of a Game 7 on a shot that bounced off Nick Leddy's back.
But somehow these two teams have perfected the recipe to win in the playoffs. Williams believes teams don't get through playoff series on fluke bounces alone and that the best team more often than not wins.
There's little arguing that the Kings and Blackhawks have been and are the best teams in hockey.
"Experience plays a big factor," Chicago star Patrick Kane said. "We've had a lot of guys with experience, whether it's been Olympics or world championships, world juniors, where you're playing at the highest level that you kind of learn as you go. I'd say the biggest thing to winning is experience, but also not getting too high or too low no matter what happens in a series."
Again last spring these teams showed they were masters at that. The Kings came back from down 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks, and the Blackhawks erased a 3-1 deficit to get past the St. Louis Blues and almost did the same against Los Angeles.
The Blues have been eliminated by the Kings or Blackhawks the past three playoffs. Forward T.J. Oshie recalls how lopsided the second period of Game 6 was against Chicago last year and how the Blackhawks turned it on, just as the Kings did two times before that.
"I think they, in playoffs, have elevated their game a little bit higher than us in the past three seasons when we've faced them," Oshie said. "It's something that we've got to learn to do, to elevate our game, otherwise we're going to be getting knocked out in the first round more often and it's something that we don't want in St. Louis."
Counting the Blues, the Anaheim Ducks, Sharks and now the Dallas Stars, there's no shortage of challengers to the throne that the Kings and Blackhawks have been trading back and forth with only one interruption in 2011 by the Boston Bruins.
To advance in the West, those teams not only recognize they have to go through the Kings or Blackhawks — or both — but are trying to emulate them.
"You look at teams like that, they all started off with a core that's pretty similar in age, usually their early 20s, strong down the middle, good defencemen, a good goalie, and they built," said Stars centre Tyler Seguin, who was part of the 2011 Bruins team. "They get better from experience, from maturing as players, from being so close as a family brotherhood, I guess you could say, with each other. I think a lot of teams want to identify with that and turn their team somehow into that."
The Kings and Blackhawks have grown into dominant forces in different ways. Chicago had to re-tool after winning in 2010 because of salary-cap problems, and while coach Joel Quenneville and the core of captain Jonathan Toews, Kane and defencemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook remained, general manager Stan Bowman replaced the pieces around them.
In Los Angeles, GM Dean Lombardi managed the cap well enough that no such makeover was necessary. With goaltender Jonathan Quick, defenceman Drew Doughty, centre Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown already in place from the draft, he hired coach Darryl Sutter and made separate trades for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and the rest is history, with those names twice engraved on Lord Stanley's Cup.
"They've built a team, they didn't go out and buy one through free agency," Williams said. "They've made a couple trades to get some players that they thought would fit in perfectly."
Williams, last year's Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, has his name on the trophy three times, the first coming with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. He likened Carolina to 2010 Chicago because the team didn't stay together.
With a few exceptions, the Kings have.
"This core has been together, we've won together," Williams said. "I think that's what makes it special, in a way, knowing that Dean Lombardi, the GM, amongst others, built this team for sustained success and not just a one and done."
The Kings and Blackhawks weren't one and done, and neither team looks like it's even two and done. The road to the Cup final through the West is gruelling and difficult for a reason, Williams said, but Los Angeles and Chicago are veterans of it.
Kane, the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, likes the fresh start the playoffs provide. Williams is proud of how he and his teammates have proven they won't get knocked out easily.
"There's no secret to a Stanley Cup championship team," Williams said. "Going through the playoffs, you don't really think about it. You just go out and play. You know it's going to be hard and you accept that, and you relish the opportunity that you're given."
It's an opportunity the Kings and Blackhawks have seized, forcing the rest of the NHL to look up in awe.
"That's something that's pretty impressive, and that's something that's very rare," Ducks defenceman Cam Fowler said of the multiple Cups for each franchise. "You've got to tip your cap to them for that."
The scary part is the Kings and Blackhawks might just be getting started.
"They're a special team," Kane said of the Kings. " I think they have a lot of respect for us, and we also have a lot of respect for them what they've done in the past few years. ... It's still pretty early and in the beginning of maybe a rivalry."
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