Stanley Cup Finals

Stanley Cup 2014: Breaking Down Top Performers in Kings' Win over Rangers

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Kings 3-2 double overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJune 14, 2014

The Los Angeles Kings were crowned Stanley Cup champions following Friday's 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in double overtime.

Although the NHL postseason finale was wrapped up in five games, this series was far closer than the bottom-line result indicated. NHL.com's Drew Rosen expressed gratitude for how thrilling these playoffs were:

Three of L.A.'s four wins came in overtime, with its only dominant performance being Game 3's impressive 3-0 shutout at Madison Square Garden. What separated these two clubs was simply clutch plays in big moments from the Kings.

Right winger Justin Williams emerged with the Conn Smythe Trophy, but there were others who contributed heavily to the cause. The fine line between victory and defeat was glaring in this year's Stanley Cup, leaving the Blueshirts disheartened after such a valiant effort to fight this far.

Let's take a look at the top performers from the Kings' second run to capture Lord Stanley's Cup in the past three years.

 

Justin Williams, RW

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings is presented with the Conn Smythe Trophy by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman after helping his team defeat the New York Rangers in the second overtime period of Game Five of the 2014 NH
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Starting with the obvious, Williams won the award given annually to the NHL playoff MVP. It was a well deserved accolade, as the All-Star racked up nine goals and 16 assists.

Former Kings star and current assistant general manager Rob Blake offered high praise for Williams.

"He’s one of the most clutch players that ever played the game," said Blake, per ESPN.com's Craig Custance. "Guys just have that mentality they want to be the guy. Other guys play to be safe."

Williams saved his best for last, as ESPN's John Buccigross pointed out:

The higher the stakes, the better Williams seems to play. He helped set the tone of the Final by scoring the Game 1 overtime winner. Without that, this series could have easily gone in the Rangers' favor. There is no question that Williams has an uncanny knack for willing greatness to happen when his team needs it.

But according to Williams himself, luck has nothing to do with it, per The Record's Tom Gulitti:

Hard not to believe Williams' words, which are backed up by his game on the ice. That does all the talking for him.

 

Marian Gaborik, RW

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 11:  Marian Gaborik #12 of the Los Angeles Kings kneels on the ice after a play at the net during the third period of Game Four of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on June 11, 2014 in
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There was no genuflecting for the King Gaborik en route to the first Stanley Cup Final triumph of his career.

Given his gaudy status as a former top-three draft pick, it's a surprise that Gaborik has never registered a 100-point season. Perhaps such a year is on the horizon after his playoff display.

Gaborik had an uneven stint with the Columbus Blue Jackets, prompting a deadline trade to the City of Angels. Rather stellar production ensued for the rest of the regular season, but the 32-year-old veteran took his game to a whole different stratosphere in the games that mattered most.

The timing couldn't have been better on Gaborik's 14th and final goal of the playoffs, which served as the equalizer in the decisive Game 5:

Scoring that often in addition to notching eight assists in 22 playoff contests showed the type of skill Gaborik possesses when he's in his element. The right situation presented itself for Gaborik with the Kings, and he's taken full advantage of an organizational environment that's seemed to revitalize him.

Now that he's proved himself in the biggest spotlight possible, Gaborik shouldn't be seen as a short-term rental option anymore. Someone should pay him handsomely in free agency if he keeps his postseason momentum going into next season.

 

Jonathan Quick, G

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13:  Goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save as ice flies into his mask in double overtime against the New York Rangers during Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in
Harry How/Getty Images

Looking at the statistics alone, Quick's goals-against average is a modest 2.58 for the postseason. However, he was magnificent in some of the most important stretches of hockey in franchise history.

Having the focus to hang tough while knowing his prolific counterpart in Lundqvist wasn't going to give ground confirms Quick is truly among the league's elite at his position. This is a team that rode him all regular season and saw Quick become a brick wall between the pipes so often.

Prominent TV personality Jimmy Fallon analyzed Quick's brilliance:

The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the NHL in 2013-14. They then rewarded Quick by giving him more offensive production in the postseason. Without him, though, this Stanley Cup title would not have been possible.

At age 28 with two Cups already under his belt, there may be nowhere for Quick to go but down. That could have been true following this last season when he registered a 2.07 GAA, yet he stepped up often enough to raise pro hockey's ultimate prize.

Quick is still the foundation upon which L.A.'s success is built. He proved once again how vital good goalie play is in the postseason and how it can be the ultimate determinant for a team's fate. As long as Quick is minding the Kings' net, they should continue to enjoy sustained status as one of the NHL's premier clubs.

What the Kings must focus on is building a more formidable, consistent lineup in the offseason. The more goal support Quick has, the easier his job becomes. Re-signing Gaborik has to be a sudden priority, but there are enough players in L.A.'s current nucleus who have proved capable of stepping up. Therefore, it'd be unwise to count the Kings out to win another Stanley Cup within the next few years.

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