Kings of the Ice

12 06 2012

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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In Case You Missed It… (Second Edition)

23 04 2012

Earlier this year, America experienced consecutive jam-packed days in the world of sports. That world just threw a wild weekend party that would please any type of sports fan. Here is a rundown of what took place:

 

 

NHL

  • Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games by the NHL for launching himself into Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa during their playoff game. Hossa ended up in the hospital, and the punishment was so severe mainly because Torres is a “repeat offender.” The NHL should be this strict with all of their penalties in order to keep this these type of hits out of the game. Even with hockey’s physical play, this isn’t needed on the ice or in any other sport for the matter.
    • The Coyotes holds the 3-2 series lead going into game six on Monday. All five games in this series have gone to overtime as each team easily look like they could come out on top. They both are showing a lot of grit, a quality that is invaluable when it comes to playoff hockey. Whoever wins this series is bound to give their opponent trouble in the second round.
  • The Philadelphia Flyers finished off the Pittsburgh Penguins in game six with a 5-1 victory. Taking the series four games to one, the Flyers capped off a six game bloodbath filled with an abundance of goals. Through the first three games, this series simply seemed like a conduit for two groups of men to beat each other up. While this fighting took place, each group forced the issue on the other team’s goalie. As the Flyers took the 3-0 lead, the two state rivals combined to put in 32 goals. The Penguins won the next two games, looking like the squad that many envisioned winning it all this year. However, Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov put together a phenomenal game six performance as Marc André Fleury allowed four of the Flyers’s five goals. Unfortunately for the Pens, Fleury decided to have his worst playoff performance of his career against their biggest nemesis. The Penguins will have to decide if they want to keep the core of this team or blow it up just as the Flyers did a couple of years ago.
  • The reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins forced a seventh game against the Washington Capitols with Tyler Seguin’s overtime goal in game six. They will now host game seven in their own TD Garden. Taking three of their four series to seven games during last year’s championship run, this team has been exposed to the pressure of a seventh game. If Bruins goalie Tim Thomas plays like he did in game six (36 saves), Boston will move on to the second round.
  • The eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings advanced to the second round for the first time in 11 years as they took down the top seeded Vancouver Canucks in overtime, 2-1, in game five. The Canucks had some odd coaching in this game, only making one lineup change in the entire game. Even though an eighth seeded team has never won the Stanley Cup, with the way the goalie Jonathan Quick and his Kings easily handled the Canucks, this team could be dangerous moving forward.

 

NBA

  • Dwight Howard underwent back surgery to repair his herniated disk, forcing him to miss the playoffs and the London Olympics this summer. Howard’s pains started after the Magic claimed Brendan Haywood struck their big man in the back (with no video evidence) in a game March 30. Even though this injury could not be avoided, this caps of a drama-filled season for the Magic and their celebrity center. If it is possible to find a silver lining with Superman’s situation, Glen Davis has blossomed since Howard’s back pains started, averaging 18.1 points and 10.2 rebounds during April.
  • The Los Angeles Lakers took down the Oklahoma City Thunder, 114-106, in double overtime. This marque matchup provided Staples Center and ABC viewers with one of the best NBA games this season even though Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined to shoot 23-82. The Thunder’s two all-stars could just not find a way to close out this game as Kobe came up big when the spotlight shined brightest. If these two teams meet in the second round of the playoffs, the Lakers have a good chance of taking down the team predicted to win the West since the start of the season.
    • Metta World Peace bringing out his inner Ron Artest for the nation to see as James Harden received a concussion was the low point of the afternoon. Unless there is a new celebration move where a player swings his elbow at the level of his head, this has to be considered as a dirty move by World Peace (sounds weird, right?). What a sad sight for a guy that has stayed away from these types of plays since his name change. “That’s not a basketball play, man,” Kevin Durant said during a halftime interview. World Peace will likely be suspended for multiple games, which will carry over into the playoffs.
  • Thanks to Marvin Williams mistiming his final move, the New York Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 113-112, as they now hold the seventh seed. Carmelo Anthony continued to play the best basketball in the league, putting up 39 points and 10 rebounds. He is averaging an astounding 30.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the month of April. It’s too bad his high level of play won’t matter since he will face the Heat or Bulls in the first round.
  • After being pounded by the Sacramento Kings (yes, that is possible), 114-88, the Charlotte Bobcats are three games away from finishing up one of the worst seasons in NBA history. In fact, if they lose their final three games, that will give them a winning percentage of .106 – the lowest in NBA history. You have to feel for Paul Silas who just doesn’t have any pieces to work with. Hopefully the insertion of Anthony Davis can help this team be somewhat respectable when he joins these ‘Cats.
  • Reggie Evan proved to the nation why players should be fined for excessive flopping during the Los Angeles Clippers 107-98 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. This type of play needs to stop as more and more players (including many Clippers…) are finding ways to make a tick-tack foul look like a Ron Artest elbow to the face. The only way to fix this problem is to start taking money out of these players’ pockets.

 

MLB

  • Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox threw the 21st perfect game in MLB history against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. Humber is now the fourth pitcher in the past four years to throw a perfect game. This was also the first time Humber made it all the way through nine innings in his six year career. His 32 sliders really helped keep the Mariners’ bats off target. Even though this is a great achievement for the young man, this doesn’t represent his level of pitching. It was a great surprise, but it can’t be forgotten that he pulled this feat off against the Mariners.
  • Albert Pujols has had 61 at-bats this season without hitting a home run. Previously, his longest homer-less streak to start a season was 27. (Don’t worry, it’s not like the Angels have agreed to pay him $240 million or anything. Oh, wait.) Sitting last in the American West with a 6-10 record, Pujols’s Angels will need much bigger things from him if they want to make any noise come playoff time.
  • Ever since the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox started off each of their respective seasons with three straight losses, they have headed in different directions. The Yankees (9-6) topped off their recent hot streak Saturday when they strung together back-to-back seven run innings against the abysmal Red Sox (4-10) in their 15-9 victory.
    • General Manager Bobby Valentine has received heat because of his actions and statements during his team’s struggles. In a town used to winning baseball during the past decade, Valentine’s seat should already be considered hot.
  • Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers has been phenomenal with 22 RBIs in the first two weeks of the season. He has been a huge factor towards the Dodgers’ 12-4 start to the season. On the other end of the spectrum, the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team has only managed 29 RBIs since the season began. Luckily for the Pirates, their pitching (2.53 ERA) has kept them at a somewhat respectable 6-9.
  • The Texas Rangers took down the Detroit Tigers, 3-2, Sunday in eleven innings and took the series three games to one. The game didn’t end in on a happy note, though. As Alberto Gonzalez provided the winning run after reaching first base on a squeeze bunt, the replay showed the bunt hit his knee. The umpires let the play go, and the Rangers went on to steal the win.
    • Even with the controversial call, this team has been playing baseball at an entirely different level than the rest of the league. They have the most runs (91), best batting average (.301), second best on-base percentage (.362), best slugging percentage (.508) and best run differential (+52) in the entire league. Along with a lineup that seems to have no weak spots, the five starting pitchers have been playing their part, collecting 10 wins and a single loss. These guys are buying into what Ron Washington is selling and their 13-3 record proves their commitment. If they can play anywhere close to this level of baseball once the playoffs roll around, they will be dangerous for a third straight year.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies just placed Cliff Lee on the 15-day disabled list. This formerly hot-shot team stands at 7-9 with only the Pirates producing fewer runs on the year. Even though this team has great pitching – just as they did last year – they will need to find a way to pick up their hitting, especially with Ryan Howard out until mid-May.

 

NCAABB

  • Larry Brown has been hired as the head basketball coach at SMU as the Mustangs prepare for their transition to the Big East. Brown has a tendency to succeed wherever he goes, except for his last two stops (New York Knicks and Charlotte Bobcats). The last time he coached at the collegiate level was with the Kansas Jayhawks from 1983-1988. He won it all during his last year before moving on to the San Antonio Spurs. It seems like a 71-year-old man should stay retired after 38 years on the job. Right? Wrong. Coaching is in Brown’s blood and it always will be. He will jump back in the game and be the face that this SMU program needs.

 

NFL

  • Most reports indicate that the Indianapolis Colts will use their top draft pick on Andrew Luck. This will inaugurate a new era in Indianapolis as this confident football player seemingly has everything a football team wants and needs in a quarterback. However, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t completely live up to expectations since his expectations have escalated to an almost unattainable level.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers restricted free-agent wide receiver Mike Wallace is pulling a DeSean Jackson as he prepares to sit out drills and possibly training camp in order to get the money he (thinks he) deserves. He wants the Steelers to give him a long-term deal after he caught 72 passes for 1,193 yards last season.
    • When a player on a professional sports team whines about not getting enough money, in some form or fashion, in one of the most lucrative businesses in the nation, he looks like a selfish man that is caught up in his own sports world. Yes, players deserve to “earn their worth,” but that should only go so far when players are getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play a sport.

 

Tennis

  • Rafael Nadal took down Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-1 to win the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the eighth consecutive year. Djokovic clearly wasn’t at his best for this match, lacking the energy and heart he has displayed during the past few years. This commanding victory is a huge statement for Nadal, who had lost his previous seven meetings to the top-ranked player in the world. He entered this tournament coming off of an aggravated knee injury that has constantly hurt him in the past, but he surprised Monte Carlo all the way to the championship. Don’t be surprised if Nadal does extremely well once his favorite Grand Slam tournament rolls around in May.

 

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