What a Stanley Cup Finals.
It was another unpredictable year in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Los Angeles Kings became not only the lowest-seeded team to ever claim the greatest prize in sports (a record that can only be tied), but the ninth team to win the Stanley Cup over the last nine seasons.
Through the first three rounds of this year's playoffs, hockey fans were spoiled with 23 overtime games. The Stanley Cup Finals didn't disappoint either, when the first two games of the series were decided by overtime game-winners, including this timeless beauty from game 1.
Some groans were heard after the Kings went up 3-0, but the Devils won the next two and forced the decisive game six in L.A., which the Kings won in front of their home fans.
Though it surely wasn't intentional, it was worth it for the Kings to lose two in a row (for the first time all postseason), snapping their undefeated road winning streak in Newark. Those back-to-back losses brought the series back to the Staples Center, where Dustin Brown and company scored six goals and felt the weight of the Stanley Cup for the first time in this L.A. franchise's 45 years of existence.
Here are the five best players of the Stanley Cup Finals (spoiler alert), including Brown:
Brown celebrating the spoils of conquest
Dustin Brown became only the 2nd American team captain to ever win the Stanley Cup.
Brown did exactly what a Stanley Cup-winning captain should and must do to make his team successful: he played his best hockey during the team's biggest moments.
Round one against the top-seeded Canucks: The Kings opened the series in Vancouver, and Brown recorded four points over those first two road games. He also scored the only goal in Game 3 to give the Kings an insurmountable 3-0 lead over the team with the best record in the regular season.
Conference Semi-Finals against the 2nd-seeded Blues: Brown scored 2 goals in the decisive game 4 to sweep the Blues.
Conference Finals against the 3rd-seeded Coyotes: Brown recorded at least one point in each of the Kings' victories.
Stanley Cup Finals: The team that scored first went on to win each Stanley Cup game in this series. Brown made sure the Kings struck first in Game 6, scoring midway through the first period. Brown also gave the primary assist on the Kings second and fourth goals of the night.
In the final game of the season, Dustin Brown scored the opening goal, had two assists, and could be seen diving in his defensive zone to break up Devils chances.
Dustin Brown was the first person in L.A. Kings franchise history to lift the Stanley Cup, and no one deserved that honor more.
Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick finished this postseason with a 1.41 goals against average.
To give some perspective on how amazing this number is, consider that the next guy down on the list is Hart trophy finalist, Henrik Lundqvist, who has a GAA of 1.82. This means that over the course of the playoffs, Quick conceded almost half a goal less per game than any other goalie in the playoffs.
Quick saved 94.6 percent of the shots he faced, and over the six games of the Stanley Cup Finals he never let in more than two goals.
Quick is quite deserving of the Conn Smythe trophy. This 26-year-old's future is brighter than a bleached Hollywood smile.
Along with Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar led all skaters with 20 postseason points. The two of them also led the league with an identical plus-16 rating.
Kopitar ended game 1 with individual magic, and had five of his 20 postseason points during the Finals.
The plus-16 rating tells a lot about what Kopitar did while on the ice. He forechecked, he hit, he swaggered around (to steal a phrase from Doc Emrick) the Devils defense with ease and he made the Devils work very hard just to possess the puck.
Kopitar is just 24, and he's already a household name in his native Slovenia. The best is yet to come for this Kopi-star.
With a tip of my proverbial hat to Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur, I declare that Adam Henrique was the Devils' best player in the Finals.
In his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Henrique recorded 13 points over 24 games, including three game-winning goals.
In game 4, with the score tied and less than five minutes left in regulation, Henrique showed great personal skill and broke the deadlock with this game-winning goal.
Without that Henrique goal the game would have probably gone into overtime, and the Kings may very well have swept the series.
Henrique is just 22, so we will probably be seeing his playoff mustache for many years to come.
Drew Doughty ended the Finals with 16 playoff points, the most among defensemen and fifth most among all players. Doughty had 12 assists during the postseason, tying teammates Brown and Kopitar for the NHL lead.
During the Stanley Cup Finals, Doughty had six points over six games, including an assist on the game-winning overtime goal in game 1 and the first goal in game 2. Doughty also did an exceptional job running the point on the Kings power play throughout the playoffs.
Also, Doughty is just 22 years old.
This was a Stanley Cup Finals that featured great goals, great goaltending, and the emergence of many future stars.
While the Kings celebrate the greatest trophy in sports, the rest of the us will reflect on what we witnessed and look forward to next season, when every team starts again at zero.
The Kings showed us that any team can be a champion.
Who will be next season's Cinderella eight seed?