Heroes For a Day: Your Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings


HARRY HOW / GETTY IMAGES SPORT

There are so many unique and marvelous things about the Kings’ Stanley Cup Championship run. Most of these things have been repeated and dissected ad nauseum – the 10-1 road record, Quick’s record setting goalie stats, the Kings 16-4 overall record, beating the # 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the West, being the first #8 seed to ever win a Cup, winning the decisive game by 5 goals, scoring 3 goals in one PP – but one thing that I have truly loved about this team is that every single regular player has had a special and memorable moment that put his metaphorical fingerprint on the Stanley Cup. Every single player has a highlight that he can show to his kids and grandkids as physical proof of their immense contributions to the 2012 LA Kings. Every player has at least a clip or two that will go certainly be a part of his personal “Best of…” collection.

I want to take a moment to reflect on these moments. These were, for me, the most important and memorable plays for each of our beloved Kings players. If you disagree or think another moment was more deserving, I’d love to hear it from your viewpoint.

Jonathan Quick

Obviously, the Conn Smythe winner had a ton of moments to pick from. His stats are absurd. After posting outstanding statistics during the regular season, it seemed unlikely that he would maintain that pace. And he didn’t. He turned it up even further. 3 playoff shutouts. 7 goals allowed in 6 Stanley Cup Finals games. 1.41 GAA, .946 S% for the playoffs. 16 wins, 4 losses. He frustrated every team with his ability to completely block off the lower part of the net while still maintaining excellent lateral mobility. His good positioning and quick glove made it difficult to even score up high on him as well. It was hard to pick just one moment from Quickie.

Quick’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yv99Z2cEeTw

Why I Love It

I nearly picked the miraculous save he made with his stick-side hand during an all-out scramble in front of the Kings net where he robbed Chipchura of a goal in G1 of the WCF, but this one, to me, is more memorable. For one, the degree of difficulty is ridiculously high, but this is also exactly the kind of save that makes Quick a cut above the rest. He’s got crazy crab legs that just keep moving and he absolutely robs McDonald of several consecutive Grade A chances. But even more importantly, it kept the Kings in the game when they were getting absolutely swarmed by the Blues in the opening minutes of game 1 and allowed the Kings to finally settle down without being down a couple goals.

Anže Kopitar

Even after these playoffs, I still think people will underrate just how ridiculously good Kopitar is. His line absolutely steamrolled everyone in its path (seriously, the possession numbers, especially against Phoenix, are just absurd), and he was always at the center of it (no pun intended). He and his linemates constantly drove play forward and regularly out-possessed, out-shot and out-scored their opponents, despite the fact that shutting him down was the #1 priority of every opposing team. The fact that he does it with such skill and such class is what makes him my favorite player.

Kopitar’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2Qjw8a752M

Why I Love It

I had the hardest time not choosing his Game 1 overtime breakaway goal vs. the Devils, but this one was just too pretty to pass up. The Kings are clinging to a 1-0 lead in Game 2 vs. the Blues when they have to go on the penalty kill. Thankfully, Kopi and Brown eat opposing teams’ power plays for breakfast. Brown’s strong forechecking forces the turnover. He quickly passes to a streaking Kopitar who comes in with an out-of-this-world move to put the Kings up 2-0. That goal truly seemed to demoralize the Blues, as they’d go on to win the game and the series 4-0.

Dustin Brown

Nearly traded at the deadline (allegedly), Brownie truly had a run to remember in these 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If not for Quick, he would likely have been the Conn Smythe trophy winner. He was especially devastating against the Canucks and Blues, but had his moments in every series. Seeing him lift the Cup was just surreal, and I hope this finally shuts up all his critics who said he didn’t deserve the captain’s C on his chest.

Brown’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVSIkLEhYHs

Why I Love It

BOOM! Sedin is still probably having nightmares about this hit. It sent a message and set the tone, which is exactly what a captain is supposed to do. It was a clean and unbelievably violent hit. I thought about picking one of his shorthanded goals, but I liked this one because it was so memorable, it rattled the Canucks’ cages and was quintessential Brownie.

Justin Williams

J-Dub is my pick for most underappreciated King. He’s the yin to Brownie’s yang. If Kopi is the Beast and Brown is the Brawn, then Williams is the Brains. He puts up enough points for the average hockey fan to know he’s good, but not enough for him to get the recognition he deserve. Those who look deeper at his RelCorsi, Rel QualComp and Zone Starts see a bona fide elite player. I know – you have no idea what I just said probably. Here’s what it means. Williams plays against the best players on the other team, he starts most of his shifts in the defensive zone where it’s obviously a lot harder to shoot and score, and yet he STILL out shoots his opponents – and does it by a healthy margin! I think we’re finally starting to see NHL GMs realize the importance of these 3 stats I listed above and how much of a skill it really is to do what Williams does.

Williams’ Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVZ5aOaSacY

Why I Love It

I know this is Kopitar’s big moment, but it doesn’t happen without this marvelous play by Williams. I could have picked any of his goals (especially his gorgeous PP goal in game 3 against the Devils), but none of them felt as important or as brilliant as this split-time decision, pin-point precision, no-look pass to Kopi. It just shows up in the scoresheet as an assist, but it was so much more than that. It was Williams being the Brains, once again.

Jeff Carter

Dean Lombardi should win GM of the year for his Johnson-Carter trade alone. Let’s review, shall we? Here’s a lesson on how to turn your season around in one fell swoop. Trade your most unproductive and most overrated player (Jack Johnson) who plays at your deepest position (defense) for a highly productive, underrated player (Jeff Carter) who has the skills you most desperately need (speed, goal scoring ability) and plays at your weakest position (wing). Then replace that overrated player (Johnson) with a younger, more skilled, more productive version of him (Slava Voynov). Then win the Stanley Freaking Cup. Basically, Johnson was a net negative, while Carter and Voynov were positives. By my math, 1+1-(-1)=+3. Philly fans rag on Jeff Carter for being un-clutch. Ok, well, they USED to rag on him, because after this moment, Carter can tell them where to shove it.

Carter’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfnDT11WudQ

Why I Love It

Amazing that a guy can have a hat trick in the playoffs and that NOT be his moment. Anyway, in this clip, Carter starts this whole thing off by using his blazing speed to come down the wing and fire a puck on net. Then, as the puck is bouncing around the crease, he manages to pick up his own rebound, circle all the way back to the point and fire a no-look, seeing-eye wrister through the defense to win game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals in overtime. This game was the pivotal game of the series in my opinion, and Carter should get immense amounts of credit for the win.

Mike Richards

Mike Richards left Philly with a cloud of questions surrounding him and much to prove. His character off the ice was being questioned, his leadership ability was being questioned, and people were beginning to wonder if his game was starting to tail off. He started off the season hot, but missed a handful of games with a concussion and wasn’t the same after returning. Honestly, he had a rough season. However, if there’s one thing we know about Mike Richards, it’s that he’s a big-game player and you got the feeling he would prove his worth in the playoffs.

Richards’ Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFi-u8x_JQY

Why I Love It

Richards actually did this exact same sneaky move TWICE – once here against Luongo and again in the second round against Elliot. But this one was much more important, as it was the first goal of the playoffs for the Kings, and it gave them some much needed confidence as they were down 1-0 to the Canucks to open the game and the series. The Kings wouldn’t trail the Canucks again at any point until game 4, at which point the series was basically over.

Dustin Penner

Ahhh, Penncakes. The much maligned left winger who toyed with our emotions – who held our hopes and dreams in his hands… or maybe he was holding them in his absurd beard somewhere. I don’t know. What I do know is he was a different guy when Sutter came on board. Then he cranked it up another few notches during the post-season. A cynical person might say “Contract Year!” and say the fat, lazy Penner is the real Penner. A more forgiving (i.e. – gullible) person, like myself, will say that Playoffs Penner is the real Penner, and that his impending divorce from his wife and benchings by Terry Murray truly affected his motivation and his production. Whatever the case, he was a beast in the playoffs, using his size and soft hands around the net to create scoring chances.

Penner’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3anzOtPkJ1I

Why I Love It

Penner, surprisingly, had a ton of moments to choose from, but this HAD to be the pick. Penner creates his own chance here by carrying this puck into the zone, creating some havoc and confusion in the slot, and then being ready for the rebound. He deserved this goal, and what a goal it was. If you had said to your average Kings fan back in February that DUSTIN FREAKING PENNER was going to score the game-winning, Western Conference Finals clinching goal in overtime on the road, that average fan would have had you committed immediately. Nobody made himself more money this playoffs than Dustin Penner. Before the playoffs, he was probably lined up for a 1-year, $1 million contract from some poor sap (cough, Howson, cough) willing to take a flier on him. Now, he’s probably earned himself a 3 year, $8 million contract. 2 months of hard work = $7 million. Wow.

Dwight King

I remember thinking this guy had no real shot of being anything other than a small-time 4th line player, and probably for someone other than the Kings. When he came up and played on Kopitar’s left side for a game or two last season, I saw nothing to change my mind on that. Then he got called up this season and was a different player altogether. King is exactly the kind of guy the Kings front office loves: huge, hard hitting, hard-working, with surprisingly soft hands. Without him, the Kings can’t roll 4 lines effectively. Without him, they also don’t own the Coyotes like they did.

King’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP8E-xvEWkQ

Why I Love It

Let’s just get this straight – King flat out owned the ‘Yotes and I could have picked from any of his goals, but I liked this one for 2 reasons. 1: It was a sniper-ish goal, proving he was more than just a grinder who scored on rebounds and tipped shots. He picked a corner and he nailed it. 2: It was the game winner. That score of 2-1 would stand and the Kings would take a 3-0 lead. Through 3 games, Dwight King had outscored the Coyotes 4-3, all by himself. Amazing.

Jarret Stoll

Stolly had a tough luck season, but proved he was the ultimate team player. Last year, he was the 2nd line center. This year, he was demoted to the 3rd line, what with the arrival of Mike Richards. Frankly, this role suited his skill-set much better, and to his credit, he accepted it willingly and worked hard all year without any complaint. He didn’t have the offensive stats to show for it, but he was a crucial part to the Kings being able to roll 4 lines at any time against any lineup.

Stoll’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Y5gLb0SgQ

Why I Love It

Do I even need to say why? Despite his great work on the PK and his strong forechecking work, this was Stoll’s biggest playoff moment by far. In fact, it was the last goal he’d score in the playoffs. But what a goal! I feel like this needs to be a Dos Equis meme. “I don’t always score playoff goals, but when I do, I eliminate the Vancouver Canucks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Trevor Lewis

I’ll be honest here: I’ve been a big Trevor Lewis critic. Although he’s a pest defensively, I don’t feel like it makes up for what he lacks offensively – and he is definitely lacking offensively. But I was very happy for him when he finally potted two goals in the final game. He had a tough luck miss in game 5 that I know he was beating himself up over, so he was certainly deserving of his 2 goal night in game 6.

Lewis’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0Y5gLb0SgQ

Why I Love It

Does this video look familiar? Did you think I made a mistake by posting Stoll’s game winner twice? It’s not a mistake. Stoll’s game winner was obviously the highlight here, but watch Trevor Lewis from the 3 second mark to the 9 second mark. He scored 3 times during the playoffs, but THIS is where he really generates his value. He is fast, he is a pest and he is a strong forechecker. Stoll doesn’t have this scoring chance if Lewis doesn’t harass Hamuis into a turnover in the neutral zone. Awesome work here by Lewie.

Colin Fraser

What a story Fraser is. He was a throw-in castoff in the Smyth trade debacle during the summer. Lombardi threw a fit because Fraser was injured and the Oilers unloaded him without fully disclosing the nature of the injury. There was much drama around that for months, and poor Fraser was in limbo about whether he was actually still traded or not. When it finally went through, the assumption was the Kings would just send him to Manchesteror cut him, and that would be that. Well, Fraser had other thoughts. He worked his way into a regular, everyday rotation spot as the center for the 4th line, a role the performed admirably.

Fraser’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9nkBkOxJFM

Why I Love It

This is the easiest of all the choices except maybe Stoll’s game winner. Colin Fraser was the first player to score in the Stanley Cup Finals. He probably would have been my last guess for that to be the case. Any time Fraser scores, it’s a minor miracle, so at THAT moment in THAT game, it was simply shocking. Beyond that, it was also hugely important. The team that scored first in the SCF went 6-0. It was Fraser who got the ball rolling for the Kings.

Jordan Nolan

When Jordan Nolan got called up midseason, I wasn’t sure what to expect. He was replacing Ethan Moreau, so I knew there was nowhere to go but up, but exactly how much of an improvement would Nolan be? Answer: immense. Nolan, like King, is the kind of role player the Kings love. He’s tough, he’s big, and he’s a total team player. Simply by not taking idiotic penalties every 2 minutes, he was an improvement over Moreau. But he offered so much more along the boards and on the forecheck as well. See Colin Fraser’s video again for proof of that.

Nolan’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9nkBkOxJFM

Why I Love It

I thought about posting his game 4 goal against the Blues, but much like the Lewis play that set up Stoll’s game winner and Williams’s goal that set up Kopitar’s game winner, Fraser’s goal happened because of Nolan’s extraordinary effort on this play.

Brad Richardson

Brad has a tough role to play on the Kings. He was asked to play all 3 offensive positions at various points. He played at least one game on each of the 4 lines. He was yanked in and out of the lineup. His minutes varied greatly from game to game. And yet he kept a positive attitude about it and always worked hard while on the ice. He was part of a very effective 4th line for the Kings all throughout the playoffs, only to be squeezed out when Gagne returned from injury in game 3 of the SCF.

Richardson’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgCtYk-WIOs

Why I Love It

Game 5, 3rd period, Kings are down 1-0. They needed a goal badly, and Richardson delivers. Everything about this goal is typical of Brad Richardson. It starts with his line forechecking and helping force a turnover in the neutral zone. Then he heads straight to the “dirty area” – the crease – and with 4 Canucks around him, knocks in a brilliant pass from Drew Doughty. Without that goal, there is no overtime, there is no Stoll goal and there is a game 6 back at home, and who knows what happens then?

Drew Doughty

Drew entered the season a divisive figure amongst Kings fans. I was firmly on the side that believed he had every right to negotiate whatever he felt was appropriate compensation for his elite services, but many felt he was being greedy, entitled and unworthy of such a large contract so early in his career. Once the deal was signed, it seemed to weigh on him, as his performance suffered the first few months of the season. When Sutter came on, he seemed to turn a corner, and much like Penner, he took it up yet another notch in the playoffs. Every round he seemed to get better, and was truly a dominant force all throughout the postseason. If I’m ranking Conn Smythe candidates, he would come in 4th, right behind Quick, Kopitar, and Brown.

Doughty’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNmGav-11OQ

Why I Love It

I could have picked the entire playoffs as his moment in the spotlight, but this moment encapsulates what makes Drew so special. He spins away from the defender in the defensive zone, smoothly carries the puck through the neutral zone, evades several defenders at the blue line and, under duress, fires the puck over the shoulder of Brodeur. Unbelievable play.

Slava Voynov

All of us have ideas of how to improve the Kings. We love to throw out trade ideas, postulate who the Kings should sign and for how much, and offer up opinions on which players to draft. Those ideas almost never happen because we’re often unaware of the restrictions facing the front office or have a different philosophy from Dean and his team. So imagine my sheer joy when Dean Lombardi did EXACTLY what I thought was the most logical move to drastically improve the team when he traded Jack Johnson for some offensive talent and promoted the clearly ready-for-prime-time Slava Voynov. Voynov was even better than advertised, and may already be the Kings second best defenseman.

Voynov’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcjXU0kkHVY

Why I Love It

This is maybe my favorite of all these clips, simply because it’s so unique and so memorable. The clip doesn’t do it justice. With every passing second that he played keepaway in the offensive zone against 4 Coyotes players, the crowd got more and more amped up. In our section, by the time he finally skated out of the zone, we were giving him a screaming standing ovation and marveling at what we just saw.

Alec Martinez

After Justin Williams, Martinez is my pick for most underappreciated. Although Sutter shelters him by giving him by giving him a healthy chunk of offensive zone starts against weaker competition, he takes full advantage of it, posting an absurd relative corsi of 16.7 for the season. Like many Kings, he started off slowly and came around towards the end of the season. He looks primed for a bigger role next season.

Martinez’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4v_N5xV7r-Q

Why I Love It

Honestly, while Martinez had a really solid playoffs, he didn’t have too many highlight reel plays. But this hit sure qualifies. It hurts me just watching it, and it was just as awesome in person.

Willie Mitchell

If Justin Williams is Exhibit A for Dean Lombardi’s successful risk-taking on injury prone players, Willie Mitchell is Exhibit A-1. His career almost over thanks to a series of concussions, the Canucks let him walk after the 2009-2010 season. The Kings needed one more solid, veteran stay-at-home defenseman and Mitchell was available at a major discount. Now he’s a cornerstone to the league’s #1 defense, and nobody was more deserving of lifting that Cup.

Mitchell’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB2aP9sAmMQ

 Why I Love It

Game 1, Willie gets to stick it to his old team. Get em Willie!

Rob Scuderi

My buddies and I always say that if you don’t notice the stay-at-home defenseman during the game, he had a good game. This is Scuder in a nutshell. Never one to make a big hit or score a goal, he’s also rarely one to have a brain fart and miss a coverage or put his team in a pinch by being out of position.

Scuderi’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9ydglfO0Mg

Why I Love It

Mostly I love it because he’s not paralyzed or concussed, thank God. But beyond that, Scuder took one for the team here. He bled all over the ice, drew a 5 min power play, and the Kings scored 3 goals in those 5 minutes. Game over, series over, season over. Like most hockey players, he’s a tough dude and came back into the game during the 2nd period – stitches and all.

Matt Greene

When Matt Greene is your weakest defender, you know you have a dynamite defensive corps. Besides being the most physical player on the Kings and being the most willing to sacrifice his body to block a 100 mph puck, Greene also offers so much more than his play on the ice. He’s a funny dude and a great guy to have in the locker room.

Greene’s Moment in the Spotlight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtiOs069iCI

Why I Love It

Game. Set. Match.


And then there’s this…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vps68wr-ez4

After all he’s been through, how can you not be happy for this guy?

I simply loved this team, every one of them, and I’m so glad each player had a moment to remember this playoffs. It was the epitome of a team effort.

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