Well, it's all over. The Los Angeles Kings pulled off one the greatest playoff runs in NHL history. An eighth seed who went 16-4 and only lost one game on the road during the two month quest for the Stanley Cup.
Here are some things we learned from watching this club win the 2012 Stanley Cup:
5. Los Angeles Catches Hockey Fever
OK, LA's next-door neighbor Anaheim saw the Ducks take the Stanley Cup in 2007 over the Ottawa Senators, the second year after the lockout. So hockey was slowly getting its carbon footprint back on the United States demographic.
The Los Angeles Kings got lost in the Bermuda Triangle of the league, the sunbelt. In a city that has been dominated by the Lakers and the growing love of "Lob City," the Kings always played a smaller role in the area. Now you can call many in that fanbase "bandwagoners," but every team has them and they came out in full support of the Kings. In a way, it's good for markets like southern California, but consistency in winning will be needed to keep them hooked. You had to feel good for Al Michaels. The man has been going to Kings games since the early days in the old LA Forum. My father thought they still played there.
When it came to celebrities, the Alyssa Milano's and Matthew Perry's couldn't compare to Jack Nicholson and the bigger A list celebs you see at Laker games. But it's a start.
4. Kings 2, Flyers 0
The Philadelphia Flyers made a bold move in the off-season that sent captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and Jeff Carter to Columbus. They acquired younger players and a goaltender in Ilya Bryzgalov to build a team that was expected to have strong odds to win the Stanley Cup. Anything less would be a failure.
The Kings pulled Jeff Carter out of the sink-hole that was Columbus at the request of Richards. The Kings improved under Sutter and only lost 9 games in regulation following the Carter pick-up. Richards, Carter and Gagne, all former Flyers, were hoisting the Cup not in Flyers orange and black, but in LA silver and black. You couldn't help but chuckle when Richards started skating with the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers still have a group that can compete for a Stanley Cup, but the Los Angeles Kings gelled at the right time. That's why they play two months of playoff hockey. Just tell Bryz to focus on the game more and not the universe.
3. Lack of Offense, No Problem
Much like a nerd on prom night, the Kings had trouble scoring. They had the second lowest goals for (194) during the regular season. But when you have a goalie like Johnathon Quick, your lack of offense is not over exposed.
The Kings took advantage of power plays and fast breaks with most of their scoring and finding opportunities in the slot when they got them. They missed the net a lot too with their shots, but the "Quick Factor" is a diversion for the Kings.
Fans of the fast-paced high scoring games were disappointed with the lack of offense in the series. Look at the brighter side. Four of the six games were close up until the end of regulation and the first two went to OT. But yes, a 3-3 tie going into overtime is better than 1-1. Most of the time.
2. USA! USA!
If you paid attention to detail during the Finals, you would have noticed that Johnathon Quick, the Conn Smythe winner and captain Dustin Brown, are both American players. In a country that doesn't embrace the game on a national level like we do with the NFL or NBA, the idea that an American captain lead a team to a championship, a rare event in the NHL, helps the national pride in a regional sport like hockey.
Expect Quick to be a consideration for the starting job in net for the 2014 Olympics in Russia.
1. Numbers Mean Nothing
Eighth seed, second to last in goals for? Didn't mean a thing in the playoffs. The Los Angeles Kings peaked at the right time, sending a message to the league after beating the Stanley Cup favorite Vancouver Canucks in five game in the first round, a sweep of the rising St. Louis Blues, and polishing off the Coyotes in five as well going into the Final. Just shows you that any team can go far, regardless of seed. Anyone remember the seven vs. eight seed of the Flyers and Canadiens from the 2010 Eastern Conference Final?
So for the fans that dwell on the numbers, put down the pen and pad, take your eyes off the computer with the Kings regular season stats, and just enjoy what they did during the postseason.
As I say every year to the winning city. Enjoy the win. Celebrate having the 119 year-old trophy in your city for the summer. You never know when you'll win it again.
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