Mr. Game 7 is now the Conn Man.
The Los Angeles Kings' Justin Williams was the perfect choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs' most valuable player. He defined the Kings' difficult route to the final. Hard work. Clutch performances. Pure heart.
He wasn't the leading scorer—although he finished just a point shy of teammate Anze Kopitar in that category. He wasn't the flashiest guy, leaving the pretty moves to the likes of Marian Gaborik and Drew Doughty. He didn't even score the most game-winning goals for the Kings—that honor belonged to the Cup-winning overtime hero, Alec Martinez.
But when the Kings needed him to come up with a big play throughout the playoffs, Williams was there to provide one this spring.
He earned the title "Mr. Game 7" among his teammates because of his performances in the winner-take-all situations in the past and again this season when the Kings went through three of them on the road and still came out victorious every time.
Williams had a goal and an assist in the Western Conference Final to help eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks, a goal and an assist against the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and a helper in the first round when the Kings came back from a 3-0 series deficit to become just the fourth team in NHL history to do so.
He defines the Kings' ability to play big when the pressure is at its highest. He's embodied the Kings' resilient mentality during this improbable run to their second Stanley Cup in three years.
"Speechless," Williams told Scott Oake on the CBC broadcast minutes after hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup, lifting the latter for the third time in his career. "I don't know what to say. Dream come true."
True to his words of modesty when asked about the possibility of being voted as the Conn man earlier in the series after scoring the overtime game-winner in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final.
"This is such a team thing," he told Oake. "I couldn't be any more proud of what we went through to get here. 2012 went a little smoother to get here. This one was all work and all heart."
Williams was the definition of that.
He finished the playoffs with a plus-13 rating—the best of any player in the postseason—and strong possession numbers because of his hard work in the corners and his determination to win battles against guys bigger and stronger than the 32-year-old.
His efforts in those Game 7s helped the Kings believe they were going to win, and that Williams would help ensure that happens.
|Williams' clutch Game 7s|
|2014||Los Angeles Kings||Chicago Blackhawks||West Final||1||1||2|
|San Jose Sharks||First||0||1||1|
|2013||Los Angeles Kings||San Jose Sharks||Second||2||0||2|
|2006||Carolina Hurricanes||Edmonton Oilers||Cup Final||1||0||1|
|Buffalo Sabres||East Final||1||2||3|
|2003||Philadelphia Flyers||Toronto Maple Leafs||First||1||2||3|
Williams also had a pair of two-goal games as the Kings faced elimination in the first round against the Sharks.
He saved his best for last, though.
Williams, who scored the game's opening goal in Game 5 Friday night, had seven points in the Cup Final—more than any other player.
That gave him the edge over other popular choices in Doughty and Kopitar, who finished as the top-scoring defenseman and forward in the tournament.
Either of them would have been great choices, but neither of them as special and memorable a winner as Williams.
The King of Kings.
"He's a very fiery guy," teammate Jarret Stoll said this week, via Greg Beacham of The Associated Press. "You can see how much he cares, how much he loves his teammates and the game of hockey. He wants to compete so hard, so bad. Whatever it takes. The bigger the games get, he's always showing up, making the big play."
He was rewarded with two trophies for his efforts.
Deserving of each one.
Steve Macfarlane has covered the NHL for more than a decade, including seven seasons with the Calgary Sun. Follow him on Twitter @macfarlaneHKY.
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