The Sun has set on yet another NHL season. It's a bitter sweet moment for hockey fans: on one hand most are happy for the Stanley Cup Champions but on the other hockey is finished until October, and with the impending lockout who knows how long we could have to wait until hockey is back.
On Monday night the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils 6-1 to become the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Champions. Winning their first Cup in franchise history (44 years) an exciting moment for the Kings and not even an ending Hollywood could have written as they become the first 8th seed to win a Stanley Cup.
It was quite a remarkable Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings jumped out to an early 3-0 strangle hold on the series and proved once again the fourth game was the hardest to win. The Kings had a chance to win game 4 at home in front of their family, friends and faithful fans but were unable to close it out. They then travelled back to New Jersey where they once again had a chance to win the Cup but fell short yet again. They headed back to L.A for game 6 almost a must win for the Kings. The Devils had all the momentum and had they tied the series up at 3 games a piece they would have been in control for game 7.
The Kings came out firing early, you could tell they wanted to win. They showed more effort in the first period than in games 4 and 5 combined! But just like in games 4 and 5 they couldn't find a way to put one past Martin Brodeur early. That was until the Devils Steve Bernier did something incredibly stupid. By hitting Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi from behind which landed Bernier back in the Devils dressing room before the end of the first. Bernier was given a game misconduct, ejected from the game and a 5 minute penalty, which ultimately turned the game around and virtually handed the Kings the Cup.
So what did he do? Bernier attempted to make Scuderi apart of the boards at Staples Centre in LA. Scuderi went back for a puck in his own end and stopped near the boards, Bernier skated full speed at him from around the blue line and cross checked Scuderi into the boards. Scuderi went flying head first into the boards and left the game for repairs and check ups, likely not knowing his own name when he skated off. Bernier made no attempt to ease up on or avoid the hit, which deemed it worthy of 5 minutes plus a game.
The Kings would go on to score 3 goals on the 5 minute power play before the end of the 1st which ultimately put the game out of reach. The Kings charge was led by their captain Dustin Brown who scored the opening goal on a tip in off a Drew Doughty shot. Brown then shot the puck which was tipped by Jeff Carter for the second goal. Trevor Lewis was in the right spot at the right time and potted a lose puck after a phenomenal rush by Dwight King. Just like that the Devils were in a hole down 3-0.
The Kings would go on to score 1 in the second period to extend their lead to 4-1 and scored 2 in 15 seconds in the third period (including an open net) to put the game to bed and solidify their Stanley Cup Championship.
It was a remarkable run for the Kings who just snuck into the playoffs after claiming the 8th seed. They were able to knock off the first seeded Vancouver Canucks in 5 games, the second seeded St. Louis Blues in 4 games and the third seeded Phoenix Coyotes in 5 games. They were the underdogs in each of the first 2 series, until they started getting more and more attention and then became the team to beat going into the Conference Finals and then the Stanley Cup Finals.
With a record of 16-4 in the Playoffs the Kings were able to win the Stanley Cup in just 20 games, and they lost just 1 game on the road truly remarkable. Jonathan Quick was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, he too played remarkable and was a major reason the Kings were hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup on Monday night.
It's just an honour to be on this team, I'm glad to be a part of it" Said Quick after the game Monday night.
Quick was more than just "a part" of this team for the first 3 rounds he was virtually the reason they succeeded. Finishing the playoffs with a 16-4 record and a 1.41 Goals Against Average which is the lowest goals against average in a single playoff year. He also set the record for highest Save Percentage with a .946. Adding to that list Quick set the record for most consecutive road victories in a single playoff year (10), and set a Kings record for most shutouts in a playoff year (3). But perhaps most remarkably Quick let in 2 or fewer goals in 18 of 20 games!
Quick has primed himself to win the Team U.S.A starting goaltending job for the 2014 Olympics making it even harder for Tim Thomas to come back and win the job.
Although the actual Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs (by the New Jersey Devils) the Flyers played a huge role in the Kings winning the Stanley Cup.
Remember Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the two guys who Paul Holmgem didn't feel were the right type of leaders to lead a team to a Stanley Cup? Now they both have won a Stanley Cup and were instrumental in the playoffs. Richards assisted on both of the first 2 goals and racked up 4 goals and 11 assists for 15 points while Carter finished with 8 goals and 5 assists for 13 points including 2 goals to help solidify the win. It was also very fitting that Richards passed the Cup to CarterWhile they weren't the "leaders" of the Kings their veteran presence and production went a long way in the Kings winning the Cup. But the connections to the Flyers don't just stop at Richards and Carter, fellow Kings teammate Simon Gagne who battled all season with concussion symptoms. Also joining the list of players with ties to the Flyers, Colin Fraser (drafted by Flyers in 2003) this was Fraser's second Stanley Cup. Ron Hextall, John Stevens, Dean Lombardi and Justin Williams all have tied to the Flyers organization.
The Los Angeles Kings have two thank you cards to hand out; One to Steve Bernier for giving them a 5 minute power play in which the Kings capitalized 3 times. And the second card to the Flyers for letting go of Richards, Carter and Gagne who played parts in the the Kings win and for letting go of so many players who have made the Kings (and other teams) very successful.
Hats off to the Los Angeles Kings for becoming the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Champions.