With a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils in Game 6, the Los Angeles Kings completed a simply remarkable run through the playoffs to claim to their first Stanley Cup.
As the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Kings tore through the Canucks (4-1), Blues (4-0) and Coyotes (4-1) before dispatching the Devils in six.
Some will say the Game 6 win is somewhat tainted by poor officiating and they’d be right to a point.
Jarret Stoll got away with a hit from behind on Stephen Gionta in the neutral zone about five minutes into the first period. Literally five seconds later, Steve Bernier laid a vicious hit from behind on Rob Scuderi behind the Kings’ net.
Scuderi stayed down on the ice for several moments as blood poured from his nose from the impact with the boards.
Should Stoll have gotten a penalty for his hit on Gionta? Absolutely, but at most it was a two-minute minor.
If you watch the replay of the hit, Stoll commits to the hit, sees his target is in a vulnerable position and pulls up as much as possible. He does not bury Gionta like he certainly could have.
Now, Bernier absolutely deserved a five-minute major and the game misconduct, which he received. He made no attempt to lessen the blow to Scuderi or to change his angle to attack the shoulder for a clean, hard hit.
He had more than ample time to do all of the above and chose not to. Whether he was trying to get payback for the missed call on Stoll or not, he has to know better in that situation. You simply cannot run a guy from behind like that at any time, let alone Game 6 of the Cup Finals with your back against the wall.
Much has been made of the poor officiating in the playoffs and throughout the whole season really. Did it show up again last night? Yes, but it really wasn’t anything new.
The Kings could have cried foul about the amount of interference and pick plays the Devils ran off the faceoffs in the series. They could have complained about the amount of clutching and grabbing going on in the slot in Game 5 in New Jersey and they would have been right to do so.
Through the first three games of the series the Devils had 12 power play chances compared to just five for the Kings. New Jersey failed to score on all 12 of those chances, while the Kings scored two power play goals in that span.
The Devils had their chances in this tight series and just didn’t get the job done. To pin this series loss on one bad call in Game 6 is laughable.
The Kings came out flying in Game 6 and were all over the Devils prior to the Bernier hit. It seemed inevitable that they were going to get pucks behind Brodeur at some point.
New Jersey looked slower, as if they couldn’t reach the emotional level they were at to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5. It’s understandable and commendable that they even forced this series to a sixth game.
However, instead of accepting the bad call and moving forward, the Devils let it get in their heads. All of a sudden, the league’s best penalty killing unit in the regular season allows three goals on the five-minute major.
Regardless of the circumstances, that is completely inexcusable. I can’t even tell you the last time I’ve seen a team rack up three goals in one power play like that.
Then, instead of working to chip away at the lead to try and force a Game 7 back home, the Devils appeared to just accept defeat and resort to message sending tactics.
It was a complete meltdown from almost everyone on the roster. The Devils became more concerned with getting even, while the Kings continued to be more concerned with winning the Stanley Cup.
In the end, this was one game – albeit a big game – but this series could have very easily gone the other way.
The Kings were the superior team in almost every game of the series (Game 4 excluded), they capitalized on mistakes (see Kopitar’s OT winner in Game 1) and prevailed in the end.
As a Penguins fan, I am extremely happy to see Scuderi is going to get his name on the Cup for a second time. It still pains me that he’s no longer patrolling the Penguins’ blue line, but I have nothing but respect for everything he did to help Pittsburgh win in 2009.
He especially deserves it after the beating he took in Game 6 last night. I’m sure the pain subsided rather quick when he got his hands on his old friend Stanley though.
It’s no secret that Jonathan Quick was ultimately the driving force behind the Kings’ success. The guy was a machine all year long and became unconscious when the playoffs started.
Quick finished the playoffs with a 16-4 record to go along with a mind-boggling 1.41 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
To put it in gamer terms, those are video game numbers.
Looking ahead to the 2014 Olympics, this run has got to make American hockey fans a little excited right? Imagine Team USA showing up with Quick in his prime and Ryan Miller? Good times indeed.
Now, before I go and plan my annual Devils Elimination Day party, I need to say a few quick things.
First off, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while or follow me on Twitter, you probably know that as a fan, there is no team I root against more than the Devils – that includes the Flyers.
This mostly stems from my time at Seton Hall University and a few years of work in the northern New Jersey/NYC area. A lot of it is from attending games at the old Continental Airlines Arena and being harassed by fans during the “Dark Ages” for the Penguins.
I’ve also been a long supporter of the “Martin Brodeur has inflated stats because of the trap system” camp.
While I’ve never said he wasn’t a good goaltender, I just don’t think he holds a candle to Patrick Roy, Bernie Parent or some of the other greats. He’s surely a deserving candidate for the Hall of Fame, I just won’t go so far as to label him as the best ever.
That said, Brodeur was lights out in these playoffs for the most part. Sure there were a couple games here and there where he was shaky, but that’s to be expected.
Despite being 40-years-old, he singlehandedly stole Games 4 and 5 against the Kings to keep his team alive.
Should this be the finale to a great career, he can at least walk away with his head held high knowing he did all he could to will his team to victory.
I’m just glad I can enjoy my summer and not have to listen to people call the Devils “defending Stanley Cup champions.”
Now, enjoy your summers everyone. I know I will!
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