When Eric bumped this awful, sappy article from 2012 to the front page before Game 4 (virtually guaranteeing that the Kings would lose that game, of course), he basically assured that I would have to write another awful and sappy article this time around. So I might as well get it all out now, while the feelings are still fresh.
The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions, for the second time in three years. That's one year faster than the only other mini-dynasty of the post-salary cap NHL accomplished it, and this second Cup couldn't have felt more different than the first. Instead of going up 3-0 in all four rounds while feeling like a team that couldn't (and wouldn't) be stopped basically from the moment they took that lead on Vancouver, the Kings of 2014 put us all through hell and back to get here. They fell behind 3-0 in the very first round to San Jose before becoming just the 4th team in league history to rally back from such a deficit and win. They blew a 2-0 lead to a vastly inferior Anaheim team, falling down 3-2 before ultimately dispatching them in a laughably one-sided Game 7 that made the whole series feel like sort of a waste of everyone's time. And they let the defending champions from Chicago rally back from 3-1 to tie the series, needing to go all the way to a double overtime at the United Center before finally dispatching the team that ended their own repeat dreams last season. They were the first team to ever win three straight game 7s, all of them on the road. They overcame more in one playoff run than some teams have in their entire franchise history.
So after all that it took the Kings just to get out of the superior conference, you could perhaps be forgiven for writing off the New York Rangers before the series ever began, as many in the media indeed did. And although the Kings did dominate the Rangers at times in this series- especially in 3rd periods- the Rangers put up a better fight than many gave them credit for. It took two straight overtime victories for the Kings to hold serve on home ice, and a superb performance from Jonathan 'no one will confuse me with the MVP this time' Quick for the Kings to go up 3-0 on the road. The Kings then put on their best performance of the series- and one of the best of their entire playoffs- in Game 4, but ran into the brick wall that was Henrik Lundqvist (with a little help from the Madison Square Garden slush). In Game 5 the Kings looked like they might have run into that same brick wall again, but this time they broke through it in- fittingly enough- double overtime, clinching their second Stanley Cup on home ice once again.
(In the fun facts department, the Kings winning the Cup twice on home ice is even more insane when you realize only two other teams- Carolina in 2006 & Anaheim in 2007- have done that at all since the salary cap came into effect. All of the other championships were won on the road: Detroit in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh in Detroit, Chicago in Philadelphia & Boston, and Boston in Vancouver. The Kings are the only team to have won the Cup in front of their home fans since 2007, and they did it twice. Ridiculous.)
So once again, this is for you, LA Kings fans, wherever you are or however long you may have been a fan. Even I only seriously started watching this team, like in that "watches every single game" sense, at the start of the 2007-08 season- an awful year when the highlights were Anze Kopitar occasionally doing something cool and Jack Johsnon's weird buck-toothed grin- so I can't even compare to some of you. But whether you've been a fan for much longer or much shorter than I have, this is for you. You're an amazing group of fans, and I'm proud and honored to call many of you my friends. You're people who made me laugh constantly, especially when I desperately needed it, and you're people who deal with a seemingly neverending barrage of "bandwagoner" and "LA doesn't even know they have/doesn't deserve to have a hockey team" "jokes". You're fantastic, and you deserve this team.
This is for you, Darryl Sutter. I can't even imagine anyone else coaching this team anymore. Please stay forever. The most amazing thing about you is that even as good of a coach as you are, you're (apparently) an even better human being.
This is for you, Dean Lombardi. You did it again at the deadline, pulling the trigger on a player with some (overwrought) flaws and, in defiance of idiots, it worked out beautifully. Even better, your careful management of the salary cap has assured that the Kings should have a crack at a third Cup.
This is for you, Bob & Jim. You're the best announce team in hockey and really it's not even that close. Literally the only regret I have about this season is that you guys weren't the ones calling all those playoff victories. I can't wait to hear you every game again in October.
This is for you, Kings players. Every time I thought you were done amazing me, you found another gear or made another breathtaking comeback. What you did in these playoffs- not only all that Game 7 stuff but also rallying back from 2-goal deficits like about a million times- will probably never be duplicated. You found a way to win game after game, no matter which way the bounces went or what kind of performance you got in net that night. You're just a fantastic hockey team, even better than that team in 2012 (save for 2012 Quick > 2014 Quick, obviously), and it was an honor and a pleasure just to watch you play. Personally, you brought joy into my life in a year when I desperately, desperately needed it, and I'm sure that I'm not the only one who can say that. Thank you so much.
Let's end this just like last time: I love this team, and I love you all. Congratulations to the 2013-14 Los Angeles Kings, the Stanley Cup Champions! Again!