Every memorable champion has to have some type of definable quality that marks their legacy years down the line.
Maybe they were the plucky underdogs that did the improbable and in the process became America's darlings. Maybe they were historically dominant. Perhaps they were in the midst of a dynasty. Or it could be that they had a few players that simply captivated all who watched them.
And then there are this year's Los Angeles Kings.
Years from now, when people talk about these Kings, one word will echo through their memory: resilience.
They overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. They overcame a 3-2 deficit to beat the Anaheim Ducks in the semifinals. They nearly blew a 3-1 lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference finals before winning Game 7 in a contest that saw them overcome a 4-3 deficit in the third period and win it in overtime.
In all, the Kings went 5-2 in overtime games. Three of those games went into double overtime, with the Kings going 2-1 in those contests.
And you have to wonder, after 26 games and 10 overtime periods, how much gas the Kings had left in the tank. Barely any—if any at all—Pierre LeBrun of ESPN found out:
Jarret Stoll said it's a mighty good thing the series ended tonight. He says the Kings were totally out of gas.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 14, 2014
Of course, they were gassed both mentally and physically. They played a ton of hockey. They overcame deficit after deficit. New heroes seemed to step up every time a hero was needed.
Even in a series they won in five games against the Rangers, the Kings barely led—believe it or not. This tidbit from ESPN Stats & Information is an eye-opener:
Kings win series 4-1 despite leading for only (19%) of game action (NYR: 30%), 2nd-lowest pct for champ since 1939— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2014
Once again, this team made history. However, it did so a bit differently than it did two years ago, as Corey Masisak of NHL.com wrote after L.A. reached this year's Stanley Cup Final:
Two years after becoming the first team to take a 3-0 lead in every series, despite starting all four on the road, the Kings became the first team in NHL history to play all 21 possible games in the first three rounds. They're also first to win three Game 7s on the road in one postseason.
Nobody understands that resilience like the players themselves.
“Things looked bleak for us," Conn Smythe Trophy winner Justin Williams told Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe. “But we were able to channel our inner will. We just didn’t want to go away. The term ‘one at a time’ certainly applied to us that series.
"What we went through to get to this point, to win the Stanley Cup, is pretty emotional and special, and we’ll never forget it."
Neither will we. The resilience of these Kings will live on.