Dominance in the West (2014 Stanley Cup Review)

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The NHL season is officially over with the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs and after an amazing postseason the finals would somewhat disappoint. Coming into the Finals it was widely considered that the two best teams had not necessarily made it. The New York Rangers were not the team that anyone expected to make it and that almost everyone expected to lose in the finals. They had amazing performances from Henrik Lundqvist and an emotional Martin St. Louis but to many, that was not going to be enough to get past anyone out of the west. In the west the Los Angeles Kings had not done what they did two years ago and dominate. Instead they would lose early and have to climb back into every series becoming the most resilient but not the best team in the playoffs. In the end it never really mattered what everyone else though because these two teams were in the finals and at the top of the heap when it was all set and done. There was still some concern about how they got there though as the Kings had played only one more game than the Rangers but the way they got to that amount of games was very different. The Kings had played in extremely emotional series and they had taken every one of the series to game 7 in spectacular fashion. The worry about the Kings was that they might be just too tired and worn out from their emotional playoffs to get that extra gear for the finals. With that the Rangers would take advantage of playing in series that did not have as much back and forth and had the emotional support of Martin St. Louis after his tragedy early in the playoffs. Then again in the matchup the Kings were a more skilled team and one that was relatively seen as the better chance to win the cup while the Rangers were seen as a heavy underdog. The games were very close but the series itself was not as the Kings would take it in five games. The first game saw the Rangers get out early in the first period after two mistakes by the Kings led to a 2-0 lead for the Rangers. The Kings looked completely out of it and the tired theory seemed to be coming true. Then something switched on for the Kings as they began to dominate the game in the second period with Henrik Lundqvist becoming the only thing keeping them from putting the game away. The Kings were dominant but not dominant enough to keep the game from overtime with a 2-2 tie. In a thrilling overtime Justin Williams would continue his reputation of being a clutch player scoring the winner to take a 1-0 series lead. The second game would see a lot of the same as the first as the Rangers got out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The comeback began in the second period for the Kings but the Rangers were not giving up. The game ended in another tie and this time there was no solution early. A second overtime was required but the Kings took advantage again, this tie when captain Dustin Brown put in the overtime winner. Game 3 was the time when the tide truly began to change as the Kings had taken both of their home games but there was still questions about whether the Rangers could come back in their own building. The Kings dominated this game from start to finish with a great performance from Jonathan Quick who earned a shutout. With the Kings up 3-0 in the series it was clear that they were in complete control and that there was very little chance of the Rangers coming back to surprise everyone. They would not go away though as they tried to save face by taking at least something at MSG. They did that when they took Game 4 in a tight game that once again saw Henrik Lundqvist play well enough to keep the Kings out of the net. Facing elimination for the second time I a row the Rangers would look to extend their time in the playoffs as long as they could. The Rangers went out in Game looking to make the Kings work for it and they did. The game would be a battle back and forth between the two teams that would end once again with no winner in regulation. The exhausted teams extended the game to 2 overtimes despite the amount of chances both teams had to end the game. When it came down to it though the Rangers would let the last goal go with Alec Martinez putting the puck in the net to give the Kings their second Stanley Cup.

The win for the Kings is much bigger than most teams as they represent one of the true non-traditional markets in the NHL. Hockey is not supposed to work in a place known for sunshine and beaches far away from ice and snow. Yet the Kings are working and are becoming a very serious power in the NHL, both in business and on the ice. They are doing this in the least complicated, but possibly most difficult, way possible. They are winning and winning will always bring with it a much larger following and a much better tradition. Many of the top teams in the league are either historically great teams or are currently great teams. The Kings can now put their names in that latter group as they have taken two of the last three Stanley Cups. They are in the same conversation as the Chicago Blackhawks for being the team of the decade with both teams taking the last four Stanley Cups. The team themselves will see massive payoff for being one of the most successful teams in the NHL as the fans will continue to make Los Angeles a hockey hotbed in the USA. More than that though the win will grow the sport in a place that the NHL desperately wants to grow it. It is an example of the NHL’s plan to spread the game to the USA working as they went to a non-traditional market and are now seeing plenty of success in that market. It all comes down to winning though and the Kings are one of the best at it despite never being given a lot of focus. They have now won two of three Stanley Cups and yet in both of those years they were not considered favourites to win anything. They are now on the map though and anyone that suspects this run to end in the near future may be very mistaken.

Conn Smythe Trophy

Justin Williams, RW (Los Angeles Kings) 8 G 16 A 24 pts +13

Justin Williams, RW (Los Angeles Kings)
8 G
16 A
24 pts
+13

 

stanley_cup_finals

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