Five reasons the Kings are champions
LOS ANGELES -- It took three tries, but the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup on Monday night and are champions of the NHL for the first time in the 45-year history of the franchise.
The Kings began the postseason as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, but rolled past the top three seeds en route to the Stanley Cup Final with only two losses. New Jersey proved a stiffer test, doubling L.A.'s loss total in the postseason, but the Kings still managed a sparkling 16-4 record en route to claiming the Cup.
Here's a look at five of the reasons why the Kings have been crowned after an amazing postseason run:
1. Historic work in net: Jonathan Quick was an easy choice as the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, and he authored one of the best postseasons by a goaltender in the League's history. Quick finished with a .946 save percentage and a 1.41 goals against average, which are the best totals for goaltenders who played at least 10 games in a postseason. He was even better in the Final against the Devils, yielding only seven goals in the six games and stopping 125 of the 132 shots he faced. Quick was the biggest reason the Kings made the playoffs, carrying an offensively-challenged team until general manager Dean Lombardi provided some reinforcements, and he is the biggest reason they are champions.
2. Road warriors: Quick's numbers are remarkable, but the Kings' prowess away from Staples Center is something that may never be duplicated. Los Angeles went 10-1 on the road in the playoffs, winning the first 10 before dropping Game 5 at Prudential Center and setting a postseason record for most consecutive road wins in one spring. Four times the Kings began a series away from home, and four times they came to Los Angeles with a 2-0 lead. They took control of the Final with a pair of overtime victories at The Rock, with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter providing the winning goals.
3. The best line in the postseason: Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams were productive and consistent through the entire postseason. Brown led the line early in the playoffs, then Kopitar in the middle and even Williams had a couple of games in the Final where he took the lead. Brown and Kopitar tied the League lead with eight goals and 20 points each, while Williams chipped in four goals and 15 points.
The next closest trio that played together some at even strength was New Jersey's Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk, who combined for 23 goals and 48 points, though they produced very little in the Final. Kopitar, Brown and Williams were also stout at their own end of the ice, and combined to finish the postseason as a plus-40. Kopitar in particular earned praise for his two-way play.
4. Killer instinct: The Devils were the top penalty-killing team in the NHL in the regular season, but the Kings claimed that title as well in the postseason. Los Angeles erased 70 of 76 power plays (92.1 percent) in the 20 postseason games, and the Kings scored five times while shorthanded. To put that in perspective, the Devils were outscored 22-1 while shorthanded, including 6-0 by the Kings in the Final.
Willie Mitchell played 73:43 shorthanded in this postseason. He was on the ice for three goals against, and two for the Kings. Quick played a large role in this, but coach Darryl Sutter also wasn't afraid to play his top players -- Kopitar, Brown and defenseman Drew Doughty in key PK situations. The power play won Game 6 for the Kings against the Devils, but the penalty killing helped win the Cup.
5. Superior depth: Lombardi built the perfect roster in the salary cap era, but everything didn't come together until the six weeks of the regular season and the postseason. All of the ingredients needed to be successful are there -- great goaltending, three quality centers, big wings, a blend of talent and veteran guile in the defense corps.
The final pieces of the puzzle all came on board in February. Los Angeles brought Dwight King and Jordan Nolan up from the American Hockey League. Lombardi traded Jack Johnson to Columbus for Jeff Carter, and the move allowed Slava Voynov to move into a top-four role on the back end. All four of those players were key contributors, and the Kings have been the best team in the NHL since the trade deadline, not just the postseason. Los Angeles went 29-9-3 after the Carter deal and the rumors of a potential Brown trade. Fittingly, Brown started the run with a hat trick in a 4-0 win against Chicago and ended it with a three-point night in Game 6 against the Devils.