Hours after the Kings won their 16th game of these playoffs, forward Anze Kopitar, in the midst of the euphoria, tweeted: “Top of the world!!!!!”
With each passing goal in a decisive 6-1 victory over the Devils in Game 6, it became more and more evident that it was happening – the Kings were going to win their first Stanley Cup.
They started with a bang, scoring three times on a boarding major assessed to New Jersey’s Steve Bernier. As electrifying as Staples Center was in the first period, it was pure pandemonium as the final minutes, seconds ticked down.
Jonathan Quick, the deserved Conn Smythe Trophy recipient, threw his stick up in the air. His teammates joyously joined him. Dustin Brown then collected hockey’s ultimate prize at center ice, setting off a celebration Los Angeles has never seen for its Kings in the franchise’s 45-year history.
The dominance the Kings displayed throughout the last two months was as magnificent as it was surprising.
Before the season commenced, this was a team that many experts picked to not only win the Pacific Division but the Western Conference and Stanley Cup as well. By mid-December, GM Dean Lombardi had fired head coach Terry Murray, appointed John Stevens the interim, then hired Darryl Sutter to take over.
The switch to Sutter didn’t pay immediate dividends. From Dec. 22 through the end of the regular season, the Kings went 25-13-11 to recover from an early-season slump and sneak into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Aside from a six-game win streak in March, they never truly caught fire until the playoffs.
From there on, the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup was stunningly flawless.
They breezed through the Western Conference’s trio of division winners. It only took them five games, against Vancouver, to become the 10th No. 8 seed in history to knock off a No. 1 seed in the first round. In a series that was supposed to go the distance, the Kings swept mirror-image St. Louis in Round 2. Phoenix put up a fight in the conference final, but Sutter’s gang advanced after five contests.
It wasn’t easy against New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Final. The first two wins came in overtime. After a 4-0 Kings win in Game 3, the Devils showed signs of life with back-to-back wins to force a Game 6. The Kings quickly nullified all talk of a comeback with their blowout victory to close out the series and their first title.
When you put the Kings’ postseason run in perspective, it’s quite amazing what they accomplished.
Before this spring, no other team had ever won their first 10 road games of a postseason. The Kings lost just once away from home (Game 5 in New Jersey), going 10-1 overall, and took a 2-0 series lead on the road to start every one of their four series. Amazing.
Before this spring, no other No. 8 seed had won the Cup. In fact, the Kings became just the second to make the Cup Final. Edmonton came close to winning the Cup in 2006 before falling Carolina in Game 7. Only the record books will show the Kings were a No. 8 seed, because they sure didn’t look like it.
Quick played every second of the postseason and posted a 1.41 goals-against average with a .946 save percentage in 20 games. He was the clear-cut MVP of the Kings’ Cup run and one-upped Tim Thomas’ miraculous postseason from a year ago. And like Thomas, Quick could win the Cup, Conn Smythe and Vezina in the same season.
The Kings, who were at one point the league's lowest-scoring team, justified the popular sentiment that all you have to do is get in to the playoffs and anything can happen thereafter. They clinched their playoff berth on Apr. 5 – two days before the regular season ended, two weeks after Vancouver clinched. And yet, the Kings were the ones that looked like the Presidents’ Trophy winner when it mattered most.
This team had unsung heroes throughout the lineup, but the stars shined the brightest in the big moments. Quick made one clutch save after another. Brown, the captain and unquestioned leader, set the tone night after night. Kopitar showed why he’s not just a great player, but an elite player. Drew Doughty was undoubtedly the top defenseman of the playoffs.
Even with this Stanley Cup victory so fresh, you can’t help but gaze at a future that is awfully promising in Los Angeles. The entire core is 27 years old or younger. They are all experienced, especially after this Cup run. Dynasties no longer exist in sports, but these Kings could easily win one or two more titles if this core remains intact.
But for the rest of this summer (and perhaps longer), they are going to enjoy what they just accomplished. The Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in sports, and the Kings won it in a fashion that we may not see for a long, long time.
Until this fall, the Kings are on top of the world. The view must be pretty sweet.
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