The Los Angeles Kings are one of the hottest teams in hockey and have a real chance of breaking the franchise record for points in a season.
Their current 12-game point streak is already a franchise record and at 10-0-2 in that stretch, they've been dominant recently.
National media has begun to catch on, with some people starting to view them as a dark horse coming out of the West.
In 2019, when the Jake Muzzin trade kickstarted a full rebuild, I don't think anyone expected the Kings to be possible contenders again by 2023.
But here we are.
The Kings are a top-10 team in most statistical categories.
Sixth in Corsi for and fourth in Fenwick for. Yes, they're a volume shooting team under Todd McLellan, but they've turned those shots into chances.
They're sixth in the league for high-danger chance percentage and eighth in scoring chance percentage.
They've also been stellar defensively, allowing the sixth-fewest high-danger chances against.
The rigid 1-3-1 structure McLellan has developed over the last few seasons is paying off.
It's about more than just structure and systems though. To use an analogy McLellan has pulled out before, "you can't win the derby on a donkey."
Essentially, you need quality players to win in the NHL, and the Kings have them.
Even compared to the roster that suited up for game 83 last season, the Kings have made big improvements.
Andreas Athanasiou was on the first line, Sean Durzi was the top pairing right defensemen and Quinton Byfield and Gabe Vilardi were on the fourth line.
Since then, Byfield's stepped into a top-line role, Vilardi's become one of the team's most prolific goal scorers and Durzi is now a third-pair defenseman.
Factor in an addition like Kevin Fiala and this lineup looks a lot better than it did down the stretch last season.
Looking at the team strictly on paper, they have what you need to win a Cup.
Depth up the middle? Check.
Anze Kopitar is a dominant force once again. Leading the team in goals-above-replacement with 12.6, winning 56.3% of faceoffs, on pace for 29 goals and 74 points. Kopitar is a legit number-one center who can match up with anyone.
Phil Danault is on pace for a career-high 59 points, Blake Lizotte has already established a career-high in points and is on pace for a career-high in goals. And Rasmus Kupari has grown into his role on the fourth line, currently ninth in the league for faceoff percentage in 2023 and a crucial penalty killer.
All four of the Kings centers are winning at least 50% of their faceoffs as well.
You need players who can finish chances. And the Kings have that.
Adrian Kempe is on pace for 40 goals and has established himself as an elite goal scorer in the NHL. After him, the Kings don't have an "elite goal scorer" necessarily. But they get it done through depth.
Excluding Kempe, the Kings have four other players with 20 or more goals and will have five if Danault buries two more in the final nine games.
It's also worth noting that Vilardi's scored at a 30-goal pace over 82 games and won't hit the mark because of injury.
Having six players hit 20-plus goals with one of those players reaching 40, or close to it, is Cup-level production up and down your lineup.
You also need game-breakers to be a Cup contender. Kopitar and Kempe are certainly that up front and there's an argument for Arvidsson as well.
But the addition of Fiala has given the Kings a true game-changer. He's on pace to be the first King to finish a season over a point-per-game since Kopitar in 2017-18 and has brought a new element to the team's offense.
He's electric and can create chances out of nothing. One of the few players who can produce even when he's having an off night.
They also have a nice mix of defensively responsible and physical players rounding out their forward group. Players like Trevor Moore, Alex Iafallo and Carl Grundstrom aren't superstars, but you need them to win a championship.
You also need an elite defenseman you can trust to log heavy minutes in the postseason and the Kings have that in Drew Doughty. Doughty's second in the league for average time-on-ice, logging 26:32 a night.
He's elevated his play recently and the offense is popping for him. With goals in five of his last six, Doughty is turning it on when it matters.
Mikey Anderson has developed into a premier shutdown defenseman in the NHL and gives the Kings a top pair that can match up with anyone.
The addition of Vladislav Gavrikov has been massive, giving the Kings a reliable second pair alongside Matt Roy.
Gavrikov fits the Kings system perfectly and has solidified the left side. Roy's stepped up his offensive game this season, setting a career-high in goals already while remaining the steady Eddie he's always been defensively.
On the third pair, Alex Edler brings experience and a veteran presence next to a rotating carousel of defensemen, Assuming everyone's healthy, it will most often be Sean Durzi next to Edler.
Durzi still has a few too many errors in his game. But his mobility, puck-moving, and ability to quarterback a power play are massive for the Kings.
The power play's also seen a huge improvement.
The Kings haven't had a league-average power play in seven years, let alone one of the best in the NHL.
The Kings' power play currently sits second in the league, yes you read that right. Behind only the Edmonton Oilers.
That ability to punish teams for taking penalties will be massive in the postseason.
The penalty kill still has some work to do, but they've been massively improved recently with the improved goaltending.
This brings us to the one question mark on this Kings team, goaltending.
That feels harsh to say, given how good Joonas Korpisalo's been since coming over and what an impressive season it's been for Pheonix Copley.
But that's the one area the Kings might not be as confident in.
The Kings have to decide who starts game 83 and I'd lean toward Korpisalo.
Copley's been good this season but has zero NHL playoff experience.
Korpisalo on the other hand has nine games under his belt and performed in a big way.
He's posted a .941 save percentage, two shutouts and 7.7 goals saved above expected in those nine games.
I don't think the Kings traded a franchise legend and a first-round pick to have Korpisalo sit on the bench come game one.
If Korpisalo maintains those playoff numbers, the Kings could be favorites coming out of the West.
This isn't a cup-or-bust season for the Kings. But Rob Blake and the front office made it clear at the deadline that they're ready to compete. And the Kings have the tools to do it.
If they stick to their identity they can beat any team over seven games, especially in the western conference. Don't plan the parade quite yet, but don't be surprised if the Kings make a deep run either.