By Rob Ficiur
In 2012 the dominating LA Kings won the Stanley Cup by going up 3-0 in every series and then coasting to victory. No team has ever won the first three games in four consecutive series. The Kings 2014 run to their second championship in three years was the steepest climb any team has made to win an NHL championship.
1. Comeback Kings – After the Kings lost the first three games of Round 1 to the San Jose Sharks, they became only the fourth team in NHL history to make the Impossible comeback and win the next four. (Neither the 1975 Islanders nor the 2010 Flyers went on to win the Stanley Cup) For the Kings losing streaks continued in the next two rounds; three in a row to Anaheim and two in a row to Chicago. Losing streaks usually indicate a team has lost momentum, confidence and the will to go on. Once the Kings fell behind (again and again) they picked up their game and won the series.
2. Game 7 Road Record – The Kings became the first team ever to win three Game 7’s in one playoff year (and all three were on the road). Justin Williams, who has averaged just over half a point a game in his NHL career, has seven goals and seven assists in seven career Game Sevens. (Williams, now the NHL’s career all-time leading scorer in Game 7’s is 7-0 in the deciding games). Other teams mates have a history of coming through in the deciding games; team mates’ Marian Gaborik and Mike Richards perfect 6-0 record in Game 7’s.
3. Two goal down no problem – In the last two rounds of the playoffs, four of the Kings’ eight wins came in games where they were behind by two goals. Down 2-0 in Game #2 against Chicago, the Kings looked like a team out of gas, until they scored six consecutive goals to win Game 2 changing the momentum of that series.
The Kings set a comeback record that no one will want to try to beat. In three consecutive games (Game 7 against Chicago and Games 1 and 2 against the New York Rangers) the Kings were behind by two goals before they came back to tie it and win in overtime. In those three games the Kings lead for exactly zero minutes (another record).
4. After this, his third season as Kings’ coach, Daryl Sutter has won ten playoff series and lost one. His team has played in 64 playoff games in that time; an NHL record. Prior to Sutter coming to LA, the Kings had not won a playoff round in 19 years. What does Sutter do? He implements a system and expects his players to follow it. Even when the team was down to San Jose, the veterans knew if they played the system they would come back and win. We know that all players say they can make these Impossible Comebacks, but watching the Kings come back again and again you could see the players kept to the system and it worked.
5. Defense (at the right time) wins championships. The Kings playoff goals against average of 2.69 which is good, but not great. Seven of the sixteen playoff teams had a goals against average of 2.71 or less. However, the Kings got the defense and goaltending when it mattered most. In their 26 playoff games they outscored their opponents 30-16 in the third period; and outscored them in overtime 5-2.
6. Turn on the Offense – The Kings averaged an NHL leading 3.38 goals in their 26 playoff games. During the regular season (when goals are easier to come by) the Kings averaged 2.42 goals per game – 25th in the 30 team NHL. The Kings averaged one goal more per game in the playoffs playing against elite teams. Marian Gaborik led the playoffs with 14 goals (including three game tying and one over time marker). He had 11 goals in the regular season (tying him for 215th in NHL goal scoring race). Gaborik joins Colorado’s Claude Lemieux (1997) as the only players to score more goals in the Playoffs than regular season (minimum ten goals)
7. Edge of your seat action until the end – During Game #5’s double overtime hockey we saw sports as good as it gets. Unbelievable saves at each end; goal posts here; great shots there; so much end to end action I got tired out watching. You knew it had to end – my nerves hoped it would end soon – but keep the game going.
The 93 playoff games is the most ever in NHL history. Comebacks were so common that two goal leads and two game leads meant nothing. The upsets and the action were top notch in every round. Hockey fans need a few months to rest their nerves (and probably catch up on the neglected household tasks).
Only three months until training camp starts for 2014-2015 NHL season.