We Are The Champions

12 06 2012

There you have it:  The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup Champions.

This is the stuff that’s only written in fairy tales.  An eighth-seeded team, with enough heart and determination, knocking off the top 3 seeds in the Western Conference, and taking the last game of the Stanley Cup Finals in a dramatic and dominant fashion.

I can’t even begin to say how happy I am for the LA Kings and their fans, but first we have to acknowledge their opponents:  the New Jersey Devils.  They fought back in an amazing way, coming back from a 3-0 game deficit in the SCFs and gave the Kings a legitimate run for their money.  Honestly, if the Kings hadn’t played the Game 6 that is now etched in the record books, the Devils could have easily taken the series.

But, alas, the hockey gods didn’t want it that way.  The entire hockey world respects the Kings and their organization.  See for yourselves:

The great part about all of the praise for both organizations is that it shows the class of hockey players, officials, and executives.  The exchange between Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick, in particular, was great to see, because they have such a mutual respect for each other.  At one point, I could read Brodeur’s lips and he told Quick that he was “incredible”.  I mean, seriously?  That’s a unbelievable compliment coming from a future Hall of Famer like Brodeur, and obviously well-deserved.

Conn-Smythe Trophy

Was anyone surprised?  If Quick hadn’t gotten the Conn Smythe, I think a riot would have broken out in the streets of Los Angeles, Vancouver-style.  No?  Too soon?  Meh, whatever.  But back to the point, Quick’s performance was unreal.  Completely dominant from start to finish, and he never missed a beat.

16 wins, 4 losses.  Only one road loss.  A .946 save percentage.  WHAT THE WHAT?!  He’s amazing.  Can’t even handle it.  So deserving, and he’s got a long career ahead of him.

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter

It’s really almost funny at this point.  The picture says it all.  When both Richie and Carter were traded away to markets that, let’s be honest, weren’t the most desirable for them as players, you had to wonder if they’d ever see the success they deserved.  And now look:  Carter was traded at the deadline from Columbus, the bottom of the NHL food-chain, to the Kings, and reunited with former-Flyer Richards.  It’s a cinderella story if you’ve ever heard one.

Colin Fraser

Frazzle Dazzle, I’m so proud of you.  As a former Chicago Blackhawk and member of the 2010 Championship team, I always root for those players.  Kings fans, keep this in mind:  you can and always should root for the players that are important to you, no matter where they’re playing.  It keeps historic moments like this fresh in your mind, and you’ll never get over it.

Fraser was a key 4th line role player on the Kings this season, and was on the ice when the hole blew to end Game 6.  He’s a classy guy, a classy player, but was the ugly duckling of hockey this season.  No one wanted him.  The Oilers and the Kings went back and forth trying to figure something out for him, and thanks to the Kings organization and coaching staff, Fraz has carved out a nice spot for himself in LA.  Let’s hope he sticks around, because he deserves it.  Plus, he’s the first of the 2010 Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup again.  Git ‘er done, Frazzle Dazzle!

Darryl Sutter

Holy schnikes, talk about a 180 degree turn.  Darryl Sutter, HUGE ups to you, sir.  To take an organization and a team that was completely discombobulated (I must’ve swallowed a dictionary, that word is longgggg) and dysfunctional, to getting them into the playoffs, and winning the Stanley Cup as an eighth-seed is incredible.  And to think he did it without ever cracking a smile.

Oh wait, there it is.

It’s moments like this that make me love hockey.  I just fell in love more and more with the sport, watching history happen, and seeing the relief on the players’ and coaches faces to have achieved the most difficult trophy to win in all of sports.  It’s incredible.

Honestly, I could go on and on about Game 6, the hit on Rob Scuderi, and every “what if” moment imaginable.  But I just want to say one thing to the Kings fans:  ENJOY THIS.  It’s history that you just witnessed, and something that will forever go down as the night that cheers erupted from the Staples Center without Kobe Bryant on the court.  I hope LA becomes more of a hockey town, because this organization deserves it.  It says a lot about the resilience of the players and the front office to continue to play and work for an organization that might not have the greatest presence in its location.  So cheers to you, boys, you deserve it.  Now party like you’re Patrick Kane, but try not to get arrested or let the front office get mad at you.  So basically…..party like it’s 1999.

-M

Advertisements




And Then There Were Two…

18 03 2012

A hockey team is made up of 20 players:  eight wingers, six defensemen, four centers, and two goalies.  It’s not surprising that the forwards get the most attention, considering they’re the ones scoring most of the goals and making the fancy plays that hit the highlight reels every night on ESPN.  But, on any given night, a team could thrive or completely tank depending on the play of one person:  the goaltender.

These guys make me feel like I need to stretch every day, I mean really?!  They’re crazy flexible!  You think the goal can’t be that big, but when you have a puck coming at you at about 90 mph (or 108 mph if you’re Zdeno Chara, that friggin’ giraffe), your reflexes have to be crazy quick.  In my opinion, the thing the separates a good goaltender from a great goaltender is simple:  he’s not a sieve.  He’s big in the net, crazy quick, and gives his team a legitimate chance to win every game, no matter who the opponent is.  So, in honor of the smallest contingent of men in the NHL, we here at Hockey’s Finest present the Top 6 (because I couldn’t pick just 5) goaltenders of the 2011-2012 season.

6.  Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes

I mean REALLY?!  Marian Gaborik is a dangerous shooter, and Smitty just closes the door.  Unreal.  But like I said before, a team is only as good as its goalie.  And Phoenix is absolutely not an exception to that rule.  When was the last time they were a legitimate threat going into the playoffs?  As of right now, they’re one point outside the race, sitting in 10th place in the West just behind San Jose.  But you had better believe that without Smith posting a .924 save percentage (tied with Kari Lehtonen and Pekka Rinne), they would be an afterthought sitting in the Western Conference basement.  The fact that they can be included in the playoff conversation, especially after their less-than-stellar play the last few season is remarkable, and Mike Smith deserves a huge hunk of the credit.

5.  Pekka Rinne, Nashville Pedators

Homeboy is ridonkulous.  He has to be one of the quickest goalies in the league, second only to Thomas the Tank Engine in Beantown (he’s got those short lil’ legs).  Rinne is truthfully the backbone of that Nashville team.  Yes, Shea Weber gets the bulk of the attention, but if you ask any NHL forward who they don’t like to see between the pipes on the other team, Rinne’s always in the conversation.  Plus, he has a sick name.  You can’t compete with that.

4.  Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

Yet another very appropriate name.  He’s so speedy!  It’s hard for you as a player to look at the goal while you have the puck on your stick because, personally, I’d be thinking, “Oh $#!+, it’s JQ and I’m not gonna score, am I?”  NOPE.  He’s a wall.  Thankfully he gets the recognition he deserves, because even when the Kings hit the skids, Quick is always on the positive side of the conversation.  Great player.

3.  Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

I know some of you might be wondering why I put Thomas so high on this list, and it’s a valid question.  To me, Thomas is an elite goaltender.  Boston sports fans put their athletes on this pedestal of a God-like status, and Thomas has been up there for quite some time.  Yes, his save percentage is nowhere near where it was last year.  However, that stat was truly unreal, and I’m surprised he bounced back this well after the year the Bruins had and the short summer.  Plus, he’s just a solid dude.  I has a soft spot for Timmay, what can I say?

2.  Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

Talk about a dark horse team.  If you had asked any pundit out there what team would be the first o reach 100 points the year, very few if any at all, would have pegged the Blues for that distinction.  I put both of their goalies together because they’ve split the season almost down the middle and, truthfully, are one of the best tandems in the league (Thomas/Rask in Boston are the other).  Every night, no matter who seems to be between the pipes, St. Louis is solid as a brick wall back there.  They’re just nuts, I can’t even stand it.

1.  Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Oh, Hank.  You’re so dreeeeaaammmyyyyy :) *AHEM* I mean, he’s very talented…..whatever, we all know Henrik is gorg, and then there’s the flow….is it hot in here?  Okay I’m done.  But on the serious, folks, isn’t it always the pretty ones that end up being the most talented?  I like to call it Taylor Swift syndrome:  They’re pretty, they’re nice, they’re talented, and you want to hate them on principle, but you CAN’T.  BECAUSE THEY’RE SO DARN NICE.  And Lundqvist has got to be one of the most humble, nice guys in the league, and to go along with how clutch he is every single night for the Rangers is simply remarkable.  I can’t even fathom putting someone else at the top of this list, even though they’ve hit a bit of a slump lately, but he’s just too good.  Even in the clip above, the Rangers were down by 2 with 8 minutes left in the 3rd period, and he just keeps fighting.  He’s a dirty goalie, in the best way possible.  Now if only I can find a way to just touch the hair and not get arrested…..ideas?

What do you guys think?  Did we leave anyone out?  Let us know in the comments!

-M