Thursday, June 14, 2012

Los Angeles Kings Crush NHL Finals

"After Monday night, they are not only one of the league's youngest teams, they are the league's best team and will go down as one of the greatest postseason teams in NHL history. Their 16-4 record in the playoffs is second only to the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, and their journey from No. 8 seed to champions is unprecedented in professional sports."
Fox Sports:
The Los Angeles Kings' 45-year quest for an NHL title ended Monday night with an early flurry of power-play goals, followed by two periods of unbearable anticipation - right up to the moment when Dustin Brown snatched the Stanley Cup from Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Brown skated to center ice and thrust the 36-pound silver trophy skyward, the captain never flinching under the weight. Long-suffering L.A. fans, some who have been ringside since the birth of the expansion franchise in 1965, went crazy. The Kings are NHL champions for the first time, and all the men in black played a role in this Tinseltown blockbuster.

Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis scored two goals apiece, playoff MVP Jonathan Quick made 17 saves in his latest stellar performance, and the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game 6 of the finals, becoming the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the league title.

Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy, adding one more dominant game to a run in which he set NHL records for save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.41) among goalies who played at least 15 postseason games.

Brown capped his impressive playoff work by finishing with 20 points, tied for the postseason scoring lead with linemate Anze Kopitar. And Brown, just the second American-born captain to raise the Cup after Dallas' Derian Hatcher, accomplished what even Wayne Gretzky couldn't do in eight years in Los Angeles.

The Kings steamrolled everyone in their path after barely making the playoffs, eliminating the top three seeds in the Western Conference in overwhelming fashion as they matched the second-fastest run to a title in modern NHL history.

The Devils became the third team in NHL history, and the first since 1945, to win twice after falling behind 0-3 in the finals. But the Kings boasted a talented, balanced roster that peaked at the absolute perfect time under midseason coaching hire Darryl Sutter, who replaced the fired Terry Murray shortly before Christmas and turned Los Angeles into a contender by late February.

Greenwich Time:
"I have been able to relax some since my family got back to Connecticut," Jonathan Quick said. "The victory parade in Los Angeles was great. The whole Kings team threw out the first pitch at a Los Angeles Dodgers game. As time has gone on, I understand what a great group accomplishment (winning the Stanley Cup) was."

The Western Conference No. 8 seeded Kings -- who saw Darryl Sutter take over as head coach mid-season on Dec. 20 -- were especially dominant on the road in the playoffs.

They led 3-0 in all four rounds, beating Vancouver 4-1, St. Louis 4-0, Phoenix 4-1 and the New Jersey Devils 4-2 in the Stanley Cup finals.

The Kings trailed for only 184 minutes the entire postseason, and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner was a major reason. He had three shutouts and allowed one goal or less in 10 of Los Angeles' 16 postseason victories, saving 509 out of 538 playoff shots that came in his direction.

The 26-year-old Quick capped one of the greatest seasons by a goaltender in the history of the NHL. In 69 regular-season games, he went 35-21-13 -- a mark that would've been far more impressive if the Kings hadn't been the worst offensive team in the NHL for about four months -- with a 1.95 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

"For me personally, a lot of things fell into place," Quick continued. "It was my third full season starting for the Kings. I had maturity and experience. Goaltender coach Bill Ranford was a big help. But the team made my job easy."

Quick was rewarded with a 10-year, $58 million dollar contract extension this month. However, the pact starts in the 2013-14 NHL season. Quick will make $1.8 million in 2012-13.

The contract extension protects Quick if current negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players Association on a new collective bargaining agreement result in another lockout.

More information:
» NHL: Stanley Cup Final Coverage
» ESPN: Kings' First Cup Long Time Coming
» SI: The Kings' Road to the Stanley Cup

"Los Angeles was well represented [at the ESPY Awards], with the Kings winning for best upset after their run to the NHL championship as an eighth seed, and Kings goalie Jonathan Quick winning best NHL player after helping the franchise win its first Stanley Cup title. Galaxy star David Beckham earned best MLS player honors."

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