2014 Western Conference Final had it all between the @NHLBlackhawks and @LAKings. An easy choice for @NHLdotcom's Playoff Series of the Decade.— NHL (@NHL) January 18, 2020
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Who will make the All-Decade Team? Find out Friday, January 24 at 6:30 ET on @NHLonNBCSports. pic.twitter.com/4Y6uWE5kWV
The world is in lockdown—and if you’re not an essential employee, why aren’t you staying home like the rest of us?—which gives us a lot of time for memories. In this case, they are of the misty water-colored memories of the way we were variety; or should I say the way the Kings were?
Do you remember that mini dynasty the Kings were in the midst of in 2014? All those game seven and overtime wins? I sure do. Five years ago seems like 25, and in other times seems like last week.
With that in mind—and with a bunch of help from NBC Sports re-airing game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals—I needed to see why the National Hockey League named this Kings-Blackhawks series as the best of last decade.
Mood Going into the Game
The Kings held a 3-1 series lead over the Blackhawks, but like everything in the 2014 playoffs, they made it really difficult, allowing Chicago to force a game seven. This prompted the ominous voiceover in the pre-game open for NBC Sports:
“If the Kings are going to win this, they are going to have to do it in three consecutive game sevens...unheard of...”
Los Angeles Kings
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell – Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene
Jonathan Quick (starter)
Martin Jones (backup)
Of the 24 Kings, only six players remain on the current 2019-20 roster.
Bryan Bickell – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad – Andrew Shaw – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith
Brandon Bollig – Michal Handzus – Kris Versteeg
Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford (starter)
Antti Raanta (backup)
Chicago got things going around five minutes in when Brandon Saad—who haunted the Kings all series with chance after chance—took a cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane and found the back of the net from an unmanageable angle after bouncing the puck off Jonathan Quick for a 1-0 lead.
Before the game, Anze Kopitar commented on whether Saad had surprised him:
“No, I don’t think so. He’s been with the team the last couple years, and he’s been playing good for them. I wouldn’t say he took us by surprise. Just means we have to do a better job of limiting his time and space on the ice.”
Hawks 1. Kings 0.
5:06—Brandon Saad (6) from Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw
Just moments later, Mr. Game 7 (and future Conn Smythe winner) Justin Williams was sent to the both on a needless tripping penalty. Can you guess what happened next? Chicago captain Jonathan Toews jumped all over that mistake. That’s why you don’t make dumb mistakes in the deciding game that would potentially send your team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago up, 2-0. But if you remember all of the 2-0 deficits the Kings wiped out in the previous 20 games, you weren’t worried…
Hawks 2. Kings 0.
8:36—Power Play Goal. Jonathan Toews (9) from Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook
OH CAPTAIN! A PP tally for 19 on a rebound, and the #Blackhawks have the 2-0 lead! 11:24 to go in the 1st!— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) June 2, 2014
A game seven hockey eternity passed after the Toews goal, but eight minutes later the Kings created some more game seven magic. Captain Dustin Brown took a beautiful Tyler Toffoli poke pass and led the rush into the offensive zone. The shot was too nasty for Corey Crawford to field cleanly as it bounced up where Jeff Carter was in the perfect spot to knock it down with a potential high stick.
Johnny Oduya showed a crack in the Blackhawks armor breaking his stick over the crossbar. Doesn’t he know that move is reserved for the after you give up the empty netter at the end of the game?
Another eternity passed as the goal went for review. The call on the ice was confirmed and the Kings were back in it.
Hawks 2. Kings 1.
16:31—Jeff Carter (9) from Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli
Brownie Knew it was Good!
Then, less than a minute later, Mr. Game 7 showed why that’s his nickname with his seventh goal in a game seven which tied an NHL record.
Hawks 2. Kings 2.
17:22—Justin Williams (7) from Slava Voynov and Dwight King
Willie Mitchell, on Mr. Game Seven’s success:
“I don’t know. He’s just a big game player. He’s had success on occasions before. I think players that have success in those occasions are comfortable in it. We’re glad to have him. He can speak to that himself, I’m sure.”
But twelve seconds later, Toffoli made a rookie mistake with a blind backhand that Marcus Krüger took out of the air and found Patrick Sharp on the right wing, who bounced a wicked rolling puck over Quick to make it 3-2. Toffoli sure owes us one for that giveaway.
Hawks 3. Kings 2.
17:34—Patrick Sharp (4) from Marcus Kruger
That’s three goals in 64 seconds and five goals on 18 shots against these two stingy defenses.
The Kings were asleep during the first half of the period. I mean like snoozefest level slumber taking nine-and-a-half minutes to get their first shot on goal. Tyler Toffoli decided that it was time to atone for that first period giveaway, tying the game with his seventh goal of the playoffs on deflected bounce into an open net.
NBC Announcer on Toffoli:
“You talk about a great pair of hands.”
Hawks 3. Kings 3.
10:31—Tyler Toffoli (7) from Matt Greene and Dwight King
After Toffloi knotted the game at 3-3, the penalty parade commenced. Mike Richards with a hook on Kane, Willie Mitchell boarded Krüger, and then Drew Doughty cross checked Andew Shaw creating a 5-on-3 just after the half way point of the second. After the Kings killed the Mitchell minor, Chicago capitalized Sharp took advantage of a stickless Quick and banked it off of Jake Muzzin who proved here that he never really got the hang of blocking shots.
Hawks 4. Kings 3.
18:25—Patrick Sharp (5) (Power Play) Assists: Brandon Saad
Time was ticking away. Did the Blackhawks solve the Kings game 7 magic? Would the glass slipper finally come off? Who would step up? Marian Gaborik that’s who! He brought it all even when he scored a split-second a backhander on Crawford’s left side. For the first time since 1994, overtime will decide a conference final. For the Ferrari, his 12th goal of the playoffs meant that Chicago blew three leads in the game (led 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3), something their fans cried about during the intermission.
Hawks 4. Kings 4.
12:43—Marian Gaborik (12) from Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar
Nick Nickson’s Call
Quick with the Game Saver!
Quick, who struggled for the first two periods with bouncing pucks and odd-man chances, stepped up in the third with 13 saves. He ensured the teams stayed tied including this denial of Shaw with 5.3 seconds left to guarantee Game 7 hockey overtime—which hadn’t happened in the conference finals in 20 years.
As we all know, Alec Martinez wound up with the biggest moment of the Western Conference Finals when his wrist shot from the left point line deflected off Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy and went over goalie Corey Crawford’s shoulder dethrone the defending Stanley Cup champion. It was sweet revenge for the Kings who had lost to Chicago as the defending champion in overtime just a year earlier. The organ played at the United Center as the fans filed out and the handshake line commenced. All of this proved that the 2012-2014 Los Angeles Kings were built for the playoffs.
Kings 5. Hawks 4.
5:47 —Alec Martinez (4) Assists: Justin Williams, Matt Greene
The Kings are Headed to the Stanley Cup Final
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!! IT’S OVER!!! THE #LAKINGS ARE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP FINALS!!!— LA Kings (@LAKings) June 2, 2014
The Captain Accepts: Unfinished Work Ahead
LA Kings Insider, Jon Rosen:
“Today’s number: 111.33. It’s the average regular season point total of the three teams that the Los Angeles Kings defeated to reach the Stanley Cup Final, a murderer’s row of juggernaut offensive squads fortified with claims to the throne of varying legitimacy. The Kings may have defeated the Presidents’ Trophy winner and swept the Northwest, Central and Pacific Divisions two years ago, but let’s face it, the Phoenix Coyotes aren’t in anyone’s most obscure hallucination the Chicago Blackhawks.”
”I think the interesting thing about that time, [that] era, was we played a certain way and won, and they played a very different way and won too,” Everyone’s trying to go with trends and speed or skill or big, heavy teams, and they were more of a hybrid, and we were a big, heavy team and played really good [defense]. They were probably more similar to how the teams are playing nowadays, but both teams found a way to win five championships in a matter of six years. And then you get those teams clashing. It was a pretty memorable series start to finish.”
The Kings were down three times in the game, and came back three times and Alec Martinez summed it up this way:
“We’re just a bunch of cockroaches that never go away...I didn’t really see it go in,” Martinez said. “I know it went off a couple bodies. I just tried to get it through and fortunately it went in.”
From the New York Daily News:
“Also a positive sign, despite Quick’s settling down late, is that [Henrik] Lundqvist’s numbers (2.03 goals against average, .928 save percentage.) dwarf the Kings’ goaltender’s stats at the moment (2.86 GAA, 9.06 save).”
Front page if today's Chicago Tribune. Great photo by Nuccio Dinuzzo. pic.twitter.com/Rvf82Tca6f— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) June 2, 2014
“I’m pretty excited. It’s my first chance to win a Stanley Cup, play in the Stanley Cup Finals. The guys in the room are excited. We just want to get it going.”
Coach Darryl Sutter:
“We prefer not to get to Game 7. But when you’re playing the defending champion, there’s a good chance of it. As I said earlier, when it was 3-3, coming into tonight, it could have been the other way, the three wins and the three losses. Game 7 is about winning the game, doing whatever it takes.”
(Courtesy of Crain’s)
Roughly 470,000 tweets relating to the Los Angeles Kings’ overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks were posted between 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. Central time on June 1-2, passing Game 7 of the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins second-round series (335,000 tweets) as the most-tweeted-about NHL playoff game.
Tweets about the Blackhawks-Kings game reached a unique audience of 5.8 million Twitter users during and after the game, more than any other NHL playoff game [in 2014].
In addition, the deciding game averaged more than 4.1 million viewers nationally on NBC Sports Network, making it the most-watched non-Stanley Cup final for an NHL playoff game since 1994 (Nielsen’s earliest ratings records data).
That viewership surpassed the previous high of 4 million viewers for Game 7 of the 1996 Eastern Conference between the Florida Panthers and the Pittsburgh Penguins on ESPN.