Until the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup Championship DVD comes out, I’ve had to make do with YouTube and NHL.com highlights to relive the glory of this post-season. As I’ve been watching the highlights, one of the things that really stuck out was how almost every player got an opportunity to shine and play the role of hero. This had to be the hardest Conn Smythe vote in years, as 5 Kings were equally deserving of it, and it truly was a whole team effort. This is the refrain you hear over and over from Sutter and the players – each guy is as important as the guy next to him. Here are my favorite moments from each player during this playoff run.
2 – Matt Greene
Greener actually didn’t have any really memorable plays, but for a stay-at-home d-man, that’s probably a good thing. He played really solid hockey stepping in for Robyn Regehr. His possession numbers were very respectable, and besides playing his normal physical game, I thought he did a nice job moving the puck out of his own zone under heavy pressure from some seriously good forechecking teams. But his most memorable moment is pretty typical for him – you know, the guy who blocked a puck with his face and once bled so much from a cut on his foot that it poured out of his boot. Here, he treats a gruesome injury as an annoying roadblock to playing more hockey. Watch out, we got a badass over here!
But seriously, he is a badass.
6 – Jake Muzzin
Very quietly, Jake Muzzin has turned into a fantastic defenseman. He still gets a little flak from Kings fans for his gaffes and brain farts, but his physicality belies his excellent puck moving abilities. His best attribute, perhaps, is an accurate cannon of a shot that has made him such a weapon on the power play, and we saw that over and over again in these playoffs. This goal was a tricky goal from a sharp angle, and it ended up being not only the first lead of the series for the Kings, but also the game winner. (Start clip at 9:29) If you want to talk about a big difference between the 2013 Kings and the 2014 Kings, Muzzin’s emergence as a legitimate top pairing d-man alongside Doughty would be close to the top of the list.
8 – Drew Doughty
Every once in a while, Doughty does something that makes you just laugh with disbelief at his skill. This was one of those moments. When I think of Doughty in this cup run, I’ll think of the 1 billion minutes he played against the league’s hardest competition, and this insane goal. Oh yeah, he’s 24 and under contract for like 5 more years. I love Dean Lombardi.
10 – Mike Richards
Mike Richards is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player. Here’s a stat I bet you didn’t know. Guess who led the playoffs in passes that led directly to scoring opportunities? Yep. Mike Richards. (Don’t ask me to site that statistic – I saw it on Twitter somewhere and, like a responsible person, I’m just going to assume it’s true) If there’s one thing he’s still got for sure, it’s intelligence and a sense of where to place the puck for his teammates. He set up Justin Williams’s Game 1 OT winner, and here, he works hard to recover the puck and centers the puck through a bevy of defenders for Gaborik to swat it home.
11 – Anze Kopitar
Kopitar just had the most Kopitar playoffs possible. Complete domination, yet somehow he goes pretty much unnoticed. He might have just had the most underappreciated point-per-game Stanley Cup winning playoff run ever. Kopi went up against the top lines from every team with world class centers (Thornton, Couture, Getzlaf, Toews, and then the Rick Nash line) and managed to come out ahead in possession. Even on this play, Gaborik will get credit for the goal, but Kopitar does all the heavy lifting. Pressure on the forecheck, steal the puck from one of the top defensemen in the league, thread the needle past The Best Player in the League™ for the perfect redirect opportunity for Gaborik. Ho hum, everyday play for the Kings best player.
12 – Marian Gaborik
Dean-o, Dean-o, Dean-o. Deadline magic once again. Did I mention I love Dean Lombardi. Gaborik was a total godsend to this team and I hope the rumors are true that he’s all but guaranteed to return. For his playoff highlight, I’m going to cheat and pick a 2-for-1 combo here. (Start video at 5:20) Sending the game to OT with 7 seconds left and then scoring the game winner in OT on the road in Game 1 against your most hated rival? Gabby stored up a lifetime of goodwill from Kings fans just in those two plays alone.
It bears mentioning, by the way, that what I find REALLY cool is that I had 14 different Gaborik playoff goals to choose from.
I HAD 14 DIFFERENT GABORIK PLAYOFF GOALS TO CHOOSE FROM. HAHAHAHAHAHA
13 – Kyle Clifford
Kyle got better and better as the playoffs went on. In the final game against the Rangers, he made some moves to get to the net that displayed a finesse/power combo that made me wonder if he and Rick Nash switched uniforms. (When he failed to convert on the chances, I REALLY started to wonder! ZING) One thing you can always say about Kyle is that he puts out max effort, and here he gets rewarded for it. (Start at 2:31) Clifford hounds the first puck carrier into a rushed pass up the ice, which is kept in the zone, resulting in a scoring opportunity. Again the puck is recovered by the Rangers, and this time Clifford’s persistence results in him keeping the puck in himself. It goes to Carter who feeds Clifford for the chip-in.
14 – Justin Williams
As the Patron Saint of Corsi and the man-crush of hockey nerds everywhere, Justin Williams has long been my second favorite player (after Kopitar) and during these playoffs, I was so happy to see him get the recognition he has always so justly deserved. He has so many moments to choose from, but scoring the Game 1 OT winner in the SCF has to be the biggest. Williams is due for an extension soon, and I hope we get to see his consistent, tenacious, and intelligent play for years to come.
22 – Trevor Lewis
Lewis is the Kings’ perennial winner of the "Most Unsung Hero" moniker as decided by the team. It’s fitting since doesn’t rack up a bunch of points, but his breakaway speed, defensive acumen and ability to play center or wing can be valuable. He shot a hilariously bad percentage during the regular season, so it seemed that he was well overdue for some good luck, and he sure got it on this goal. (Start at 2:50) It turned out to be not only the game winner, but also the goal that showed Gibson to be human. It was a harbinger of things to come in Game 7 against the Ducks’ young netminder.
23 – Dustin Brown
Captain Crunch’s nicest goal was his sick triple deke shorty on Lundqvist in Game 4 of the SCF, but this goal was by far the most significant. What has likely already been forgotten about this goal is that Brown was actually the guy to get the whole cycle going. On the forecheck, he steals the puck from McDonagh (no small feat) and gets it to the point to Willie Mitchell. After Kopitar recovers the puck and feeds it to Mitchell again, Brown uses some crazy hand-eye coordination to tip it in the net from 10 feet out. After a poop-sandwich regular season, and a so-so playoffs, Brown stepped up in the Finals. Instead of heading to NY tied 1-1, he’s the reason the Kings go to MSG up 2-0.
26 – Slava Voynov
Slava had his rough patches throughout the playoffs, as he was relied on heavily by the Kings to prop up his less talented defensive partners (ahem, Schultz, ahem, Regehr, ahem, Mitchell). But this play was the difference between talking about our Stanley Cup today and still playing for the Stanley Cup today. 99 out of 100 times, Rick Nash scores on that shot, but Slava says, "I AM THE 1%!" and saves the Kings from having to go back to NY for game 6, setting up the scene for this next guy…
27 – Alec Martinez
For any other player, scoring the game winning goal in overtime of Game 7 on the road to send his team to the Stanley Cup Finals would have been the easy pick. But as all of us at JFTC know, Marty isn’t just any other player. He is a demi-god. Corsi’s sacred son. The love child of Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz. And he one-upped his Game 7 OT winner with a goal that places him in the highest pantheon of Kings lore.
28 – Jarret Stoll
Stoll’s contributions on the stat sheet are usually limited to his sparkling FO%, but in this game he got the Kings comeback started with what had to be the slowest moving goal of the playoffs. (Start at 3:50) Lundqvist went all Jonathan Quick on us and somehow ended up 5 feet outside of his crease, leaving the goal mostly unguarded for Stoll to slide one in.
31 – Martin Jones
Jones didn’t play much during the playoffs (a couple relief appearances in couple Quick stinkers was it), but he had a huge role in getting the Kings to the playoffs, as he stepped in for an injured Jonathan Quick and started off his career by winning his first 8 games. This one was particularly memorable as it was his first NHL game and he stopped all 9 shots in the shootout to get the Kings their only regular season win against the Ducks.
32 – Jonathan Quick
Quick played out of his mind in this game, and had a couple ridiculous paddle saves. The other paddle save kept the score at 2-0, but this one kept the Kings from falling behind 1-0, and gets the edge just based on its importance. Quick had a rough playoffs at times, but as has been said ad nauseum, the bigger the game, the bigger he plays, and he was fantastic in the Finals, especially when the games went to OT.
33 – Willie Mitchell
Willie Mitchell played great in Game 2 of the SCF. I was at this game, and I thought he won the game with ANOTHER blast from the point in overtime (my friend and I looked at each other incredulously that Mitchell had scored again), but it turned out Brown tipped it in. Regardless, a goal and an assist is a great night for Willie, who led the Kings defensemen in GF% (66.7%) during the playoffs. If this was his swan song, he made sure to go out on a high note.
44 – Robyn Regehr
Regehr didn’t have too many memorable plays this postseason, but I think his teammates and Kings fans appreciated him stepping up on behalf of his teammates when the Sharks resorted to buffoonery at the end of Game 4 in the first round. Taking on Brent Burns when you’re 103 years old shows some real courage. His teammates returned the favor by letting him be the first player after Brown to hoist the cup, which was a great gesture and a memorable moment in and of itself.
55 – Jeff Schultz
To the horror of many Kings’ fans, the Kings were forced to play Jeff Schultz meaningful minutes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Mitchell and Regehr both went out with injuries. He was not good, but he wasn’t the abject disaster I thought he was sure to be either. He didn’t have any memorable plays during the Cup run, but good on him for stepping in when called upon. Let’s just hope the Kings don’t find themselves in such desperate straights again.
70 – Tanner Pearson
What a coming out party for this kid, eh? He had several really nice plays to pick from, but this one was easily my favorite. He and Toffoli have such awesome chemistry, and this pass is just so perfectly executed. He got better as the year and the playoffs went on, and at times during the SCF, he looked like the best player on the ice. Remember when he was in Manchester like 3 months ago? Me neither.
71 – Jordan Nolan
For reasons still unclear, Jordan Nolan played 3 games for the Kings in the playoffs. He was a -3 in those 3 games, all Kings losses. He wasn’t much better in the regular season, yet still managed to play 25 minutes of extremely meaningful hockey in the playoffs. This is a celebratory post so I’ll try not to harp on him too much, but it’s not really a surprise that he had no playoff highlights to speak of.
73 – Tyler Toffoli
Toffoli was OH SO CLOSE to being the overtime hero in Game 5 of the SCF, hitting the crossbar in 2OT. Instead, his most memorable and important goal was this nifty little breakaway he scored to give the Kings a lead they would not relinquish. It would have been the game winner had the Blackhawks not scored a meaningless goal with 4 seconds left. Toffoli led all rookies in scoring. Toffoli is only 21. (*pees self*)
74 – Dwight King
Congrats Dwight King. You win the award for most controversial goal of the playoffs. Was it interference? Yeah, almost certainly. Was it a momentum changer? Oh boy, you bet. But Dwight King was doing what Dwight King does – being a huge, annoying presence right in front of the goalie – and it paid off handsomely here. I have come to really appreciate King’s strengths and his role on this team. He would be my vote for this team’s "Unsung Hero."
77 – Jeff Carter
Carter had himself a fantastic playoffs. He did what he is paid big bucks to do – score goals. He centered "That 70s Line" that terrorized the Blackhawks, and was at his best in that series. I could have picked his 1st period buzzer beater in Game 3 of the SCF, or his breakaway goal against the Ducks in Game 7, but this goal was huge, as it sliced the Hawks’ lead in half, gave the Kings confidence going into intermission, and started the comeback for the Kings in Game 7 of the WCF.
Disagree with my choices? Put links to your choices below so I can go waste more time watching videos I've already seen 100 times.