To this writer, this yearâ€™s Stanley Cup Finals were a treat. Not as much of a treat as seeing the Leafs win it of course, but enough of a treat to keep me in (and out of) my seat for most nights.
I couldn’t help but fancy the underdog, even if it meant not getting a chance to see the Cup in a neighboring country (Slovenia). Based on their team depth and level of play this team is capable of, the Kings seemingly had it all.
On the other hand, the Devils had to fight against injuries and featured storylines about a legendary goaltender fighting to improve on his already monumental impact on hockey history and an injured scorer struggling to shoot while leading all players in playoff points (up until game six).
And make no mistake about it, two wins in, the Devils were still the underdog. Through much of both Devil wins the Kings were on the verge of breaking out like this. They controlled the play, controlled the cycle and played better hockey. Created turnovers and not burying them.
During his pre-game interview with Pierre McGuire Anze Kopitar had to answer one question: “How does Darryl Sutter know you guys are ready to play tonight?” Kopitar said: “Oh, he knows, heâ€™s been in the game enough to know”. Seeing how the Kings opened the period, Sutter was right (something rarely said during his GM days).
They broke out in the first period of game 6. Even though Jarret Stoll made a similar hit on Gionta, Bernierâ€™s was harder (as if it should matter), a bigger no-no and drew blood on Rob Scuderi which resulted in a boarding major. Los Angeles took full advantage. A power play that was at 10.6% up to that point in the playoffs (14th out of 16 teams overall) got 3 man advantage goals and basically killed any spirit the Devils had left.
In a relatively short time span Dustin Brown went from a guy made fun of because of his lisp to one of the most respected NHL leaders and only the second American captain to lift the Cup. He was a major factor in the first two goals which set the tone in the first period. A perfect response to the â€œMaybe heâ€™s actually not that big of a factor in the end.â€
If you didnâ€™t already know it was just one of those nights for New Jersey, Pierre Racicot made a pick on Volchenkov just before the fourth Kingsâ€™ goal. It seems that Jeff Carter learned to win after not that long after leaving Philly – go figure. Itâ€™s easy playing general after the battle, which is why Rob Scuderi once again showed his leadership when it mattered most. In the meantime, Peter DeBoer continued to ignore certain feminine attributes.
Drew Doughty? People asked me why I donâ€™t talk about this kid more. Well, his play spoke volumes during the playoffs and Iâ€™ve already said my peace when I said that Yzermanâ€™s decision to pick him for team Canada during the Vancouver Olympics was â€œthe best decision Yzerman made for team Canada.â€ Think that sums up how much I respect the kid?
Was Jonathan Quick vs. Martin Brodeur really a veteran vs. successor kind of thing? Only if Quick suddenly found roots in Quebec and Marty started thinking he was actually born in New Jersey, something which, given the duration of his tenure there, isnâ€™t all that improbable. This battle of goaltending techniques entertained us throughout the series. Brodeur was timely, Quick almost unbeatable at times but both made us watch the games with added suspense. Idol vs. kid? No, that was Mike Richter.
I wonâ€™t hide it, would have loved to have seen this series go to seven games. Why? Because even with 4 goals down, the Devils still continued to battle, even found a way to score – late in the second period – but everyone knew a crowning was to follow. Of course Henrique got it. People who complain about a lack of storylines in this yearâ€™s final/playoffs must have been livid. My second reason? A possible work stoppage.
Be that as it may, we have a new Stanley Cup champion. This year, for the first time in franchise history, the crown deservedly (and somewhat adequately) goes to the Kings. While David Beckham and all the other stars were seen in the building, the first one went to the Conn Smythe winner, Mike Richter lover and the 16th goalie winner of the award in NHL history â€“ Jonathan Quick. Brodeur certainly didn’t want to see six.Â Beckham and co. might have enjoyed it, but the long term LA season ticket holder enjoyed it a whole lot more. The only 8th seed to ever win it, the unsurprising surprise of the season – congratulations, you guys earned it.
Slovenia – here I come, thoroughly entertained and making a date with Stanley.