So plenty of people say that the Kings' win in the SCF is bad for hockey. The SCF was boring. And that no one in LA actually cares. But that's their opinion, and their entitled to have it. But I doubt that there is any argument that this has been a great NHL season, and that the playoffs were simply on another level again. Upsets galore, #6 and #8 seeds to the Cup, Coyotes to the WCF, Brodeur to another SCF, and a team going up until their last game on the road undefeated away from home ice.
So, I'm a little biased. I'm a giddy Kings fan, and I've been waiting for this for over a decade. I'm going to go nuts about this for a while, so bear with my cockiness. I thought this was a great year for Hockey. Not just because the Kings won, but it certanly helped. So let the naysayers say that no one cares about the Stanley Cup. (It just so happens to be older than any trophy you have!) Let them say that it was boring. (There were 2 OT games and 1 game where it was even until the last 5 minutes) And let them say that in LA we don't care about hockey. Well, let's not let them say that last one, because the atmosphere that was in LA was electric, and it proved that Kings fans are the real deal, and at least not the rioting ones that you see the Lakers doing after their championships. Kings fans stayed classy.
So, in keeping with tradition, here's my 5 reasons why the LA Kings won the Cup...
1. The hiring and firing of Terry Murray
-Not sure if enough people give this guy credit for what he did. Without Murray, we would have never had the opportunity to have won the Cup. And without him having offensive difficulties, we would have never gotten the right man (Sutter) for the job to lead us to glory. Murray electrified our defense, and made it stingier than any other, made it harder to beat than Ali back in the golden age. The defense wasn't just Quick, even though he was a brick wall all year, the defense came from class acts like Drew Doughty and Matt Greene, great D-men that know what they have to do to keep pucks out of the net, and away from Quickie. Murray taught us the defense, and Sutter used it to make a great forechecking team and light up the offense while still having an aggressive defense. Murray was a key to this Cup, both his hiring and defensive work, AND his firing that brought in Sutter and the best forechecks we saw all year.
2. The brick wall in front of the net
-Yes, it's the same every time. Everyone says that Quick was our reasoning behind winning the Cup. And they're right. Quick already has the makings of a HoF netminder, an Olympic gold medallist, and hopefully a multiple SC/Conn Smythe winner. Quick has the composure to stop shots and hold on to slim leads. Sure, he's a little shaky once he leaves the crease, but he has excellent reflexes and just can't be beaten, especially down low, as NBC told us 50 times per game! He's not perfect yet, but he's broken playoff records again, even surpassing Timmy T from last season, posting a wicked GAA and a ridiculous Save Percentage. It's hard to NOT win the Stanley Cup when you've got Quick in front of the net leading the team. The Kings played plenty of close matches, and their season easily could have ended just under 2 months ago with a less HoF worthy goaltender.
3. Keeping cool, calm and collected.
-There was a lot to celebrate when the Kings won this season, and not even when they won the Stanley Cup. Quick posted 3 shutouts, we won 4 series, our first since 2001, we scored goals, and we dominated on the road. But even then, until the Kings won an entire series, they were entirely composed, and even after winning the Campbell Bowl, they realised that the bigger trophy was waiting, and kept in a good focus. It would have been easy to get complacent, especially the way they started series, but the Kings never celebrated too early, and never underestimated the team until the series was over. Luckily too, as 2 series ended in OT. But you could say that it's easy to stay calm when you're up 3-0, which is another reason why they won the cup. And that was not getting too nervous or down when they lost. Sutter kept this team on an even mind after every game. Dropping 2 in a row to NJ would have been hard, especially as they were so close to winning both times. It would have been too easy to get complacent in the early stages of the rounds, and too easy to lose confidence after being forced to a Game 6 for the first time in the SCF, but the Kings rose to the occasion each time, and found a way to win.
4. The Special Teams.
-Well, especially the PK unit. The Kings were more dangerous on the PK than on the PP for all but Game 6 of the SCF. The Powerplay had been average at best all year, but the Penalty Kill bought back more than enough to give the Kings a Special Teams dominance on the ice. You know you're doing at least something right (but still could be doing something wrong) if you're PK unit has more goals than your PP. That lasted all the way up to Game 6 where a controversial major penalty led to 3 powerplay goals. The Penalty Kill was ruthless and nearly unbeatable, and the Powerplay, while underrated, rose to the occasion when needed. Game 4 against the Devils, the Kings equalised quickly on the man advantage, and in Game 6 against the Devils, the match was basically over early as the Kings capitalised thrice in 5 minutes to avenge Scuderi's hit. The Special Teams is likely a less widely written reason as to why the Kings won, but without it, they'd be nowhere. For about half of the Blues series, the Kings were on the Powerplay, and we were nearly flawless in killing it, while we added in the SH column against the Nucks and Yotes, even equalising in Game 5 against the Yotes on the PK. Perfect timing? Yes.
5. Being unpredictable, underrated, and under the limelight.
-I'm sure the Kings liked being the big dogs in town after the Lakers and Clippers both faded. For once, LA's best shot at a Championship was on the ice. Again at Staples, but for once it was hockey, the sport that apparently LA doesn't like. Sure, there were the moments where the media thought the puck was a ball, and that we had players called Brad Doty and Onjay Kopidor, even getting the logos wrong twice, but all in all, the LA Kings were the media hogs recently, and got some good support. They were the hot ticket, and for once, had bandwagon fans. The Kings were the darling who had never won, the Cinderellas who came from #8 and won over nearly all on the way. Finally ending the 45 year hoodoo, and 19 year curse, it was a great run to watch, and the non-LA hockey fans loved the Kings all the way. Next team? The Blues, the last original expansion team without a cup. (Classy team, I hope them, and even the Sharks nab a title in the near future). So we had the limelight, and didn't waste it. And being a #8 seed makes it hard to get complacent, with everyone predicting you to lose almost every game, and never taking you as the favourable bet. Which made #3 easy, staying calm was easy, as no loss was an upset, and every win was hard to get. And as for being unpredictable, it's true. One minute the Kings are just dumping it down everytime waiting for the mistake to happen, the next minute, we're breaking down the ice and playing with Pittsburgh-like flair. One minute on the PK we're spanking it down the ice for clearance, and the next we're trying to break out and crash the net to score shorthanded. It's enough to confuse a goaltender, and that's a crucial reason as to why they won.
Honourable Mention: The way they handled the Lineup.
-The trades made were great and in retrospect worked out really well. They provided Cup experience and grit to the team, and really added to the team makeup and chemistry, easily mixing in. Sure, we're Flyers West, but who has the Cup? Maybe it's actually Kings East in Phily...Plus our drafted talent has worked like a charm. Kopitar and Brown as 1st rounders have been kept and have been transformed into all-stars, and to the latter, a great leader. Quick, who fought his way up from the ECHL, has turned himself into the most exciting Kings goalie prospect in a LONG time, and I think easily has the potential to be a first ballot HoF if he continues to produce. Brodeur seems to have a lot of respect for the guy, and coming from Brodeur, that's great, beating Marty just proved that he's an excellent keeper. Don't trade this season Kings. Keep your top talent, bring up your draft talent, and become a dynastic team, not a trade happy team (although that did work this season). Draft the young guns and keep them, and the same for your oldies that have been around a while. Handle the lineup, and a few more cups isn't out of the question.
The Burning Question. Who takes the Vezina?
-I'd LOVE to say Quick, but I think it might just go to Lundqvist. It's done solely on Regular Season, and while Quick might be more deserving, based on similar stats and a mediocre offense in the Reg Season...He also has the Conn Smythe, and the Stanley Cup. Does he deserve another cup? Yes. Does he need one? Certainly not. Hank had a great season and also is pretty much just as deserving of the Vezina. Let Hank have it in return, Quick doesn't need it, and Hank was just as good. The Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup are both bigger and better prizes, plus JQ will get another shot at the Vezina in his time. This is how I see it, and wouldn't be surprised if the voters see it like this too.
Why did I bother doing this? Will anyone care or read? Probably not, but why? BECAUSE IT'S THE CUP!
LOS ANGELES KINGS 2012 STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS BABY!