Two months ago I visited the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the home of the LA Lakers, the LA Clippers, and the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, the LA Kings. Back in April, when I took the subway to the game, for the Kings final home game in the regular season, never in my wildest dreams, did I think I was watching a team who were about to make history and win their first Stanley Cup.
The night I was there, the Kings hosted their Californian rivals, the San Jose Sharks. It was a fierce encounter, with the scores locked at 5-5 after regulation time, and at the same score after overtime. The Sharks were to win the game on that occasion on penalties. I don't think I've ever experienced such an atmosphere. Such wild emotion, both on and off the ice.The crowd were passionate, screaming, and chants were ongoing throughout the stadium. And on the ice, the players weren't scared of throwing any punches! It was on for young and old. I was just glad that the vast majority of the crowd supported the one team, and there was no such violence in the stands.
The next week was the start of the playoffs, with the Kings ranked 8th in the Western Conference, they went on to defeat the number 1 ranked team, the Vancouver Canucks. They didn't just beat them, they smashed them, 4 games to 1.
Then the Kings went on to sweep the St Louis Blues, 4-0. On to the Western Conference Finals, the Kings knocked over the Phoenix Coyotes, 4 games to 1.
They'd just comprehensively beat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in the conference, and suddenly, after everyone thought the Kings were just making up the numbers, they had made it through to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993, back when the famous Wayne Gretzky was playing for them. But before today, the Kings had never won a Stanley Cup. And today, an amazing thing happened.
The first 2 games, both played in New Jersey, both won 2-1 by the Kings, both in overtime.Game 3, played at the Staples Center, was won 4-0 by the Kings. A dominating performance.
Back to the Staples Center for game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final and the Kings lead the New Jersey Devils 3 games to 0. Can the Kings sweep the Devils? The answer is no. New Jersey win it 3-1.
Game 5, back in New Jersey. New Jersey win 2-1, it's 3 games to 2 in LA's favour. The pressure is now on the Kings as we head back to LA for game 6. No team had won the Stanley Cup after trailing 3-0 since 1942.
Game 6. Monday, June 11. Location is Staples Center, Los Angeles, California. A packed crowd, so loud you can't hear the person next to you speak. Eric Cartman is up on the big screen chanting “GO KINGS GO”.
Opening minutes of the game sees LA defender Rob Scuderi get smashed from behind by New Jersey forward Steve Bernier, and he went flying into the glass board behind the goals and suffered cuts to his face. Bernier took a 5 minute penalty. Which meant the Kings had an extra player on the ice for that amount of time. A 5 minute powerplay! This powerplay ended up being crucial in the outcome of the game and the series.
In the 5 minute powerplay, the Kings scored 3 times. Captain Dustin Brown scored first, followed by Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis. It stayed 3-0 after the 1st period. 1:30 into the 2nd period, Jeff Carter scored his 2nd goal of the game, taking the lead to 4-0. And near the end of the 2nd period, the Devils were able to get one back, through Adam Henrique.
With one period to go, the Kings looked home.
With 4 minutes to go in the match, the Devils took their goalie out to have an extra man forward, but that backfired, and the Kings scored twice in 15 seconds. With the score at 6-1, the last 3 and a half minutes was party time at the Staples Center.
Finally the final siren sounded, the LA Kings took the game 6-1, the series 4-2, and they won their first ever Stanley Cup.
Kings Goalie Jonathon Quick took out the Conn Smythe Trophy, after being ajudacated the player of the series. Quick made some of the most spectacular saves you will ever see.
Records have been broken. The Kings won 10 in a row on the road in the post season. And they are the only team to ever win the first 3 games in every series of the Stanley Cup and the first LA Kings team to make it all the way and win the Stanley Cup.
If you think back 6 months ago when the Kings sacked their previous coach, Terry Murray, you would never have thought they'd even make it to the playoffs, let alone win the Stanley Cup.
The Kings started the season well, winning 5 of their first 7 games, then went on a massive fall, only winning 3 of their next 15, which lead to the demise of Murray. On December 20 last year, Darryl Sutter was named head coach, and the Kings turned things around, scraping into the playoffs with 40 wins, 27 losses and 15 overtime losses. You know what happened from there.
Never give up when your team is down and out mid season, because, as we all know, in any sport, it's a long season, and things can turn around. The Kings have peaked for the playoffs, and have reminded us all why we love sport so much. The town of Los Angeles is always a party town, but tonight they have a special reason to party.
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings. 2011/12 Stanley Cup Champions!
Image courtesy of NHL