They might not have been the best NHL team for the entire season, but the Kings played as if they were one of the best teams assembled in NHL history when it mattered most.
After taking a 3-0 series lead on the New Jersey Devils, the Los Angeles Kings looked to be on their way to winning the first Stanley Cup championship since the franchise came into the league in 1967. Even though the Devils stormed back from their slow start, handed the Kings their first consecutive losses since early April and were halfway to becoming the fourth team in NHL history to come back from this seemingly unconquerable deficit, the Kings closed out the Stanley Cup Final in Game 6 as they defeated the Devils 6-1 Monday night.
Everything looked to be going the Kings’ way, especially at the start of the game when they scored three first-period power-play goals. Capitalizing on their power play situations has not been one of the Kings best qualities, so the fact that they did so three – count them, three – times proved to be crucial to their success. This game was practically over before it even began since the Devils would have to play unlike themselves to crawl out of this quick 3-0 hole. They had only averaged 1.4 goals against playoffs MVP Jonathan Quick up to this point in the series – no thanks to his superb play the past few months.
These “Road Kings” never looked back, as they have done since the playoffs began. With this victory, the Kings become the first No. 8 seed to take home the Stanley Cup. Their competition was steep but their determination could not be tamed.
Without a doubt, we are in the era of the “hot team.” Dallas Mavericks. St. Louis Cardinals. New York Giants. All three of these reigning champs paved their path to a championship by sprinting through the competition once the latter part of the season approached. Even though every one of these champs were competitive during the regular season, each team’s play progressively went to an entirely different level. A clutch level. A championship level.
As the Kings played their best hockey of the year from April 11 to June 11, they took down the top three seeds in the Western Conference on their way to the championship and simply found a way to fit into the era each professional sports league just can’t break out of. Being the “favorite” has harmed a team’s chances of going all the way (however, this trend will be over soon once the Oklahoma City Thunder or Miami Heat take home the Larry O’Brien trophy).
In 1988, the esteemed Wayne Gretzky came to L.A. with his Hollywood wife in hopes of bringing Lakertown something else to cheer about than a Lakers’ championship. Many envisioned this move sparking a new hockey dynasty. This didn’t pan out as the they only made it to the Stanley Cup Final once during Gretzy’s eight years with the team.
The Kings didn’t have the big name. The Kings had two different coaches this season. The Kings didn’t look to have what a legitimate contender needs to win a title. They didn’t care. This group of fantastic young hockey players that simply enjoyed playing with each other put together one of the best postseason runs ever with their 16-4 playoff blitz through the competition.
Kings fan had to wait a league record 45 years for this Stanley Cup title, but it has come and it is here. These players and these fans have proven to be a hockey town. Well, this town can now celebrate the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Championship together.
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