Last night, in front of a rabid, sold out crowd at the Staples Center (best arena to watch a game in, as far as I'm concerned), the Los Angeles Kings closed out a remarkable season by eliminating the New York Rangers and winning their second Stanley Cup in three years. As George Takei would say....ohhhhhh myyyyyyyyyy......
What a season. What a playoffs. The Kings showed a resilience that I am not sure I have ever seen before, sending the stats nerds running for their computers. To wit (copied from Eric Duhatschek):
the Kings were: a) only the fourth team in NHL history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games; b) the only team in NHL history to win three consecutive seven-game series; c) the first team in NHL history to win three consecutive playoff games after trailing by two goals; and d) the first team to hold a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup final after not leading in either of the games.
The Kings' run in this year's playoffs wasn't impressive; it was impossible. You cannot come back from a 3-0 deficit against a team like the San Jose Sharks (remember they lost the first two games by a combined score of 13-5!!!!), recover from TWO three-game losing streaks (in seven game series? Think about it), eliminate the defending Champs, a terrific Blackhawks team, in a thrilling seven-game marathon, winning THREE of those games after trailing 2-0, AND still find the energy to outgun the Rangers in five tough games, finishing off the unprecedented feat in a most fitting way: winning the Stanley Cup in the longest game in franchise history. It just can't be done.
But it WAS done; it's the stuff of Hollywood, except that I don't think an audience would find it credible.
This was, no question, the second greatest hockey related moment I have experienced in front of a television set. Second? Well, nothing is likely to ever beat the Bruins crushing the dreams of the hated Canucks in 2011..... that is the stuff of lifetime dreams right there.... but this is close.
But Dean, I thought you were a Flames fan? True, and 1989 will always be special....but I wasn't there to watch it, having a late night shift at Safeway and hearing the result before getting to see it on VHS after midnight. Awesome, but not quite the same. The same can be said for Dallas beating Buffalo (the infamous Brett Hull toe-in-crease game), which I saw on a tiny TV in a casino as I was playing in a poker tournament. I was home when the Kings won just two years ago, and I was very proud of them, but they beat my beloved Devils so it was bittersweet. Same thing when the Devils beat Dallas in 2000.
That just leaves us with the Devils other two wins; both I was there to witness, and both were awesome, but neither finished off as amazing a playoff year as this one. I was in a bar in North Vancouver when the Devils swept Detroit in 1995 to win their first Cup, and although it was exciting to see, there was little drama; the Devils were SO much better than the overmatched Wings that the outcome was never in doubt. Not to mention that it followed a lockout-shortened season that took the wind out of everyone's sails a little bit. I guess third on my list would be 2003 when the Devils beat Anaheim in a thrilling seven game series in which the home team won every game. It was an amazing accomplishment and I felt a sense of pride, but during the "dead puck" era, the hockey itself wasn't that enthralling. The Devils scored just 216 goals that season, and Patrik Elias lead them with just 28 tallies. Three of the games that the Devils won in the Finals were 3-0 shutouts from Martin Brodeur. Not exactly the kind of excitement we got this year.
216 goals in an entire 82 game season from the Stanley Cup champs. It seems like the Kings scored that many goals in the playoffs this season. Ironically, that is still 18 MORE goals than the Kings scored during their offensively-challenged regular season, but the playoffs were a different beast entirely. Kudos to Dean Lombardi for acquiring Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline; what a difference he made to their offense.
For those of you who mock because I have five "favorite teams"; well, I really don't give a flying F**K what you think. And just to be clear, I have ONE "favorite team", and four others that I respect and cheer for to varying degrees. Nothing has (or ever will) change that, and the order rarely changes except in the case of extraordinary circumstances. I wasn't very happy with the Flames when they signed Todd Bertuzzi (having said that, Bertuzzi was a model citizen during his time there), and then there was the Sean Avery era in Dallas, which was so bad I couldn't even watch their games until they finally ran the idiot out of town. All of us, even great organizations, make mistakes; as fans, it should be our jobs to point them out while still supporting the team, not jumping on and off the bandwagon like the fans in a certain city that shall remain nameless but I suspect you all know what I'm talking about.
Kudos to the Los Angeles Kings on an amazing feat, an amazing season, and on handling yourself with grace and class while doing it. Congratulations to the entire organization, but particularly to Robyn Regehr, who was robbed of a Cup in 2004. So very proud to be a fan.