The Quick and the dead: Kings win Cup
Only a few short months ago, the Los Angeles Kings faced an uphill battle to even make the playoffs. They couldn’t score (they finished second to last in goals-scored), and their hope was fading. They traded for Jeff Carter to remedy the problem, but they were still running out of time. They were the last team in, now they are the last team standing.
For the first time in their history, LA is King of the NHL.
The journey was not as easy as they made it look. They knocked off the top three seeds in the Western Conference on their path to Lord Stanley. After finishing up the west, they faced one of the most iconic goaltenders of all-time.
Martin Brodeur was making his fifth trip to the finals. At the ripe old age of forty he was rejuvenated, once again showing the form that has kept him amongst the elite for two decades. Still, as they had in all series prior, the Kings were able to take a three games to none lead in the series.
You see, while many will say the Devils have the best goalie in history; many will also say the Kings have the best goalie of right now. Jonathan Quick more than lives up to his last name, and was almost unbeatable in the first three contests, allowing a grand total of two goals.
This is how the Kings lived. As their goalie went, so too did their fate. It is how they were able to beat their first three opponents in five games or less. It was working through the beginning of this series, allowing the Kings to grow complacent.
In games four and five, the Kings had lost their spark. It was replaced instead by a sense of entitlement. They felt they had the Cup all wrapped up. Hubris is a sin, and the Devils got their due. Brodeur took his game to another level; taking away that certainty. The Cup they had been seeking for the past 45 years was starting to slip away from LA.
One fateful play tightened LA’s grip. The grip that appeared to be lost. In one moment, hope was restored.
They say hockey is not a game, but a battle. It is fitting that the aforementioned moment revolved around the spilling of blood. Defenseman Rob Scuderi was the sacrificial lamb. Checked head-first into the boards by the Devils’ Steve Bernier, Scuderi laid on the ground, scarlet tears falling to the ice. While Scuderi was off to get repairs, Bernier was off to the showers. A game misconduct was Bernier’s penalty. A five minute powerplay was Scuderi’s reward.
Kings’ captain Dustin Brown did what is expected of any leader and rallied the troops. He started a play with a nice pass to the point. The Kings continued to move the puck around the perimeter. When it eventually found its way to the net, Brown was waiting. Brown deflected the shot right between the pads of Brodeur.
As it was a major, the powerplay continued. The team had four minutes to strike again. It didn’t take nearly that long. Dustin Brown emerged from behind the net with the puck, circled into the slot and let go a wrister. Jeff Carter tipped it into a wide open corner.
Before the powerplay was over, the Kings struck one more time. D.J.King went barreling towards the net. The puck came free for an easy tip-in for Trevor Lewis. The Devils never recovered, eventually falling 6-1.
As the seconds ticked down, the Staples Center erupted. The rabid fans were witnessing history. For the first time, they had lived up to the moniker as Kings, reigning over the entire hockey world.
They had succeeded where legends like Blake, Robitaille and Kurri had all come up short. Even “The Great One” wasn’t able to bring the Stanley Cup to LA. All it took was an unbelievably Quick goaltender, a captain willing to do whatever was necessary and some boys from Philly.
General Manager Dean Lombardi had a vision, a vision passed down from his predecessor. Since the days of the Long Beach Coliseum, some believed ice had a place in sunny Los Angeles. Gretzky turned this belief into a dream for many American child. American youngsters Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick decided to forgo the bats of their national past-time, opting instead for hockey sticks. Quick became the third American to win the Conn Smythe. When Brown lifted the first cup in Kings’ history, he became only the second American captain to do so.
Finally, the dreams of so many were realized. For one night in LA, hockey was King. Forgotten was the glitz, glamour and fake plastic trees. The town finally experienced something that many of it’s inhabitants are paid to fake: pure joy. Even Al Michaels could not help but to shed a tear. They say Hollywood is where dreams come true. Yesterday, we all witnessed that statement is not just some old cliche.
Brown, Quick, Richards, Doughty and Carter are among the names to be engraved on the most prestigious trophy in sports. In LA they will be enshrined as heroes. For this moment, they shine brighter then the California sun. Last night, a group of Kings took on a new and unfamiliar title: that of champions.
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