Monday, June 11, 2012

At Last, the Kings are Crowned

Game: 6-1
Set: 4-2
Match: 16-4

At long last, the Los Angeles Kings have won the Stanley Cup. In February of 1966, the Los Angeles Kings were founded. They have been through it all. The ups-such as the historic trade for Wayne Gretzky in 1988. The downs-finishing second to last in their division as recently as the 2005-2006 season. The Kings finally found the winning recipe.

GM Dean Lombardi made some bold moves this past season, from making trades for both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (ex-Philadelphia Flyers teammates) to firing then head coach Terry Murray and bringing in Darryl Sutter. Many (myself included) scoffed at some of these moves and laughed as the team's All Star roster faltered early and often in the season. But suddenly, around the time of the Carter trade, things changed.

The Kings clicked. And everyone's (especially those in the Pacific and the West) worst fears came to life. The Kings started playing like the team they should be. Drew Doughty's holdout on his contract faded from memory. The failed coaching system was forgotten. Carter and Richards were re-united and Dustin Penner stopped throwing out his back eating pancakes long enough to click with the ex-Flyers and lead a team of big names to the playoffs.

In most sports writing, winning a championship is the climax of the story. But for the Kings of 2011-2012, it sure seems that making the postseason was the climax, and the playoffs were the easy-going, laid back falling action. The Kings gave the rest of the hockey world a nice laugh as they dismantled the President's Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks rather easily, winning 3 games in Vancouver and one in LA to move on to the next round. They then swept the defensively sound St. Louis Blues who had so much promise ripped away so quickly. In the Western Conference Finals, what should really be known as this year's Cinderella story came to an end as the Kings again swept the away games and won 1 game at home to send the Phoenix Coyotes packing (literally, they're packing for Hamilton or Kansas City as we speak). The Kings were headed into the Stanley Cup Finals with only 2 ticks under the L column.

Then came the real test, er...quiz maybe. The Kings looked like they were going to make quick work of the Finals as well. They beat the Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils New Jersey. The boys from LA then came home and won Game 3 in fine fashion, with goaltender (and eventual Conn Smythe [playoff MVP] winner) Jonathan Quick shutting the Devils out, leading his team to a 4-0 win. It looked as if the Game 3 final would also be the series final, until the Devils realized they were playing for the Cup. New Jersey won Game 4, then gave their home crowd something to cheer about as they topped the Kings again to win Game 5 and send the series back to Los Angeles at 3-2.

Then Game 6 happened. And this happened
The Kings went on to score 3 power play goals in that 5 minute span. They added 3 more goals later in the game, but they weren't necessary. The Devils would only break Quick one time, which seemed to be the recurring story this postseason. When all was said and done, American Captain Dustin Brown was hositing Lord Stanley's Cup and the Staples Center was competing with the University of Wisconsin for the "wow it's freaking loud in this arena" award.

So, congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings, their staff, and their fans. 45 years later, you built/coached/played for/cheered for a team  that made it happen, a team that finished the dream. Well done. Enjoy the summer, because next October, you'll have 29 teams coming for you.

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