What a grand season it was for the Kings. From Anze Kopitar's Selke campaign to Marian Gaborik's resurrection to the complete destruction of the Pacific division, it was just a masterful performance by a masterful team. Where to even begin?
Before the season began, pundits had identified either two or three legit contenders in the Pacific. The Kings quickly quieted any talk of the Sharks being a threat by dismantling them on opening night. Shortly after a 12-3 drubbing during which the Sharks managed just 4 shots, dissent in the San Jose locker room reached perilous levels. After the loss, Joe Thornton quietly said, "fuck this game," before cutting his jersey in half with a skate blade. He walked out of Staples Center immediately thereafter and has not been heard from since.
The Sharks attempted to play on for a few games, but with no direction and no one near ready to fill in on the top line, the team picked up their ball and went home.
With the Pacific division down to six teams, the Kings shifted their attention to the Ducks. Years prior, the Kings carefully laid out the groundwork for Bruce Boudreau to take over as head coach of the Ducks. Somehow, despite his complete candor on the subject, the Kings' employment of Boudreau went unnoticed. He adores the Kings. He has never hid it.
Finally, just a season after dispatching Boudreau's team from the playoffs, the Kings called on him to sabotage the Ducks. An easy task, to be honest. Boudreau began by driving a wedge between his team's best players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry:
Hey Ryan, the other day me and Pears was talkin', and he was like, "I think Ryan's head is shaped funny." Can you believe that? He says you has a goofy noggin!
It was all downhill from there. Subtle tactics like underusing Sami Vatanen or overusing Matt Beleskey became unnecessary. As their top-line center's confidence plummeted, so did the Ducks.
After that, the Pacific became an easy task. The Canucks bowed to their new overlords without a fight, and the Kings didn't even bother with the Flames, Coyotes, or Oilers.
While all of this was happening, the Chicago Blackhawks were having similar success in the Central. They didn't resort to any subversive tactics like the Kings, but that was mostly because they deemed it unnecessary. When reached for comment, Joel Quenneville said, "why would we bother with the Blues or Avs? They're trash. The Blues can go fuck themselves. I don't even have time for this Colorado shit. Why did the Kings mess with Anaheim anyway? The Ducks are awful."
The two teams were so clearly poised for another playoff showdown for Western supremacy that league commissioner Gary Bettman made a controversial yet widely accepted change to the playoff format just before they began:
The East playoffs will go on as usual, because we can't figure out who's actually any good over there, but the West will be boiled down to a best of 17 series between the Blackhawks and Kings. After that, we'll hold the Stanley Cup Final kind of like the NFL hosts the Pro Bowl. A pointless addendum to the season. Peace.
Initially approached with trepidation, the series quickly established itself as the proper choice. The other six teams that would've otherwise qualified for the playoffs organized an unofficial tournament between themselves, and it was so bad that it drove some people away from hockey. One unnamed former fan said, "why the hell would I wanna watch this Minnesota/Nashville garbage? That's terrible. The best team was St. Louis, and that's just not right. I'm done." She was indeed literally done. Handed me her Winnipeg Jets jersey and everything.
After each of the first 8 games went into overtime, Los Angeles and Chicago residents were left shells of their former selves. When reached for a quote, Kings fan Will Ferrell said, "we have to do this for, what, like 9 more games? I am literally going to die." And so he did. It was terribly sad. Heart attack during game 10, one of several such in-arena health issues that were a direct result of the incredible tension that comes with watching these two teams square off.
Surly & Scribe, the fucking cockroaches, managed to survive. The world is not fair.
Fans were not the only people affected by the tension. During game 12, high-flying but oft-injued winger Marian Gaborik died on the ice. Just collapsed, right there, center ice. Received a pass from Anze Kopitar and keeled over. Thankfully, Kopitar knew exactly what to do and resuscitated him on the spot. After 15 minutes in the dark room, the NHL medically cleared him to continue playing. When reached for comment, Gary Bettman said, "¯\_(ツ)_/¯."
Gaborik scored the winner in overtime to tie the series at 6 games apiece.
Of course, the series reached his apex during the entirely-expected 17th game. Prior to the game, Drew Doughty was reached for comment:
Whoever wins this game, I think they win the series. That's big. I think after this, if we win, we get to play in the Cup finals. All we need to do then, is win the game. To win the game, we need more goals than the other team. I think the other team is the Hawks. Obviously we need to score more than them. If they score more than us, obviously they win. So if we score more goals than the Hawks, obviously we win the series, because this is game 17, and then--
I had to stop transcribing at that point - something about my ears bleeding? - but he went on like that for awhile.
Game 17 lived up to the hype. In triple overtime of a 6-6 game, Dwight King sealed the deal after a 5-second staring contest with Corey Crawford. Crawford cowered away, leaving an empty net for Dwight to unofficially secure the Stanley Cup.
The final series itself was merely a formality, but it was not a formality devoid of humor. The Blue Jackets scrapped their way through the East and, for the third time in four seasons, handed the Kings the Stanley Cup on a silver platter.
Some Kings managed excellent individual seasons. Anze Kopitar picked up his first Selke. Jon Quick, he of the .887 SV% and 1.46 GAA, netted the Vezina and another Jennings trophy.
After intense and heated exchanges spanning several years, the #fancystatwar hit new heights. The anti-analytics movement got louder and angrier this past season, and settled on a single player to rally behind. While common sense suggests that players like PK Subban, Erik Karlsson, or Drew Doughty deserved the Norris, the dumb majority infesting mainstream media backed itself into a corner.
When asked about his decision to vote for Robyn Regehr, Adrian Dater said, "how can you deny his greatness, he has won a Norris!"
It was another great season for the Los Angeles Kings.