The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup Champions.
Take that all in. Absorb it.
They were the Cinderella story of these playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. One by one, they took down the top teams in the conference, and did so in stunning fashion.
Thanks to absolutely phenomenal goaltending from Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick and outstanding performances from captain Dustin Brown and alternate Anze Kopitar, the Kings were a dominant team throughout the playoffs. And in the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils, behind near-hat tricks from Brown, Jeff Carter, and Matt Greene, they outlasted, outworked, and outclassed their cross-country rivals in six games, earning themselves their names on the Stanley Cup and a place in hockey history.
For Kings fans, this is something they’ve dreamed of for years. A whopping 45 years, to be exact. It’s the organization’s first Stanley Cup since their inception in 1967.
As everyone knows, there are a number of former Flyers on the Kings’ roster — Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter. On top of those four, there are also other team personnel who once had ties to the Flyers — assistant general manager Ron Hextall, assistant coach John Stevens, and GM Dean Lombardi (also formerly head coach Terry Murray before he was relieved of his duties). Hence the now-maligned nickname, “Flyers West.”
For some Flyers fans, this Kings victory might leave a bitter taste in their mouths. After all, Richards and Carter were traded away before the start of this past season, and Gagne the summer before, and for the second season in a row, the Flyers fell short in Round 2 of the playoffs and were eliminated. So to see these former Flyers hoist the Cup while wearing Silver & Black as opposed to Orange & Black might sting a little.
But for other Flyers fans – or, at least, fans of those former Flyers — this is a good, albeit possibly bittersweet, thing. No, their Flyers didn’t win the ultimate prize this season, but some of their favorite players did, and that’s pretty damn awesome. Look at Gagne, who spent 10 years of his NHL career with Philadelphia, and was always credited with being an incredibly classy guy on top of being a great player. Or Justin Williams, who became a fan favorite during his four years with the team because he exemplified the hard-working and gritty style of play that define the Flyers Then there is Richards and Carter, the former captain and his alternate, who combined for 736 points over six seasons and were the faces of the Flyers franchise until they were traded.
It’s been a long road for all four of these guys, and it came to a head on Wednesday night, as they all got a chance to lift the Stanley Cup over their heads and celebrate their accomplishments with their teammates.
Was it an easy series? It sure looked that way in the first three games, but the Devils fought back from a 3-0 deficit, and the Kings really had to step up their game to take New Jersey down. But will they sit and mull over the fact that it could’ve been over in four games instead of six? Absolutely not. When the 2012 Kings look back on this season, they will only remember reaching the pinnacle of their hockey careers, not any of the issues that stood in their path along the way.
Congratulations, fellas. You are now a huge part of Kings and NHL history. Enjoy your summer of celebrating, and try not to lose the Cup along the way… yes, Jeff Carter, we’re talking to you.