Los Angeles Kings: 4 Reasons They Are the Best 8th Seed in NHL History
After a historic run through the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings have climbed the mountain to be crowned the NHL's best by defeating the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 to capture the franchise's first Stanley Cup since entering the league in 1967.
All of the Kings' accomplishments were as an eighth seed out of the Western Conference. They were not a division winner or even in the upper echelon of the conference during the season. They have maintained the notion that it doesn't matter how well a team plays in a regular season, only that it starts playing great hockey at the right time.
That's not to say L.A. wasn't a good team.
Many experts—including USA Today, which had them ranked seventh—had the Kings in the top end of the league in preseason power rankings. They underachieved for most of the year, but shrewd moves midseason—firing Terry Murray, replacing him with Darryl Sutter and trading Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter—along with Jonathan Quick's superior regular season, proved to be the difference makers in transforming the Kings into Cup contenders.
How does their 2012 championship run as a eighth seed stack up? Unprecedented and among the best.
Here are four reasons why.
A Cup is nearly impossible to win without leadership and clutch performances from your team's captain, and Dustin Brown turned in an exemplary 2012 playoffs.
The Ithaca, NY native finished the postseason with eight goals and 12 assists after finishing up a 54-point regular season, including scoring the first goal of Game 6 and notching two assists to propel his Kings to a 6-1 Cup-clinching victory.
That's about as clutch as they come. And it's also about rebounding.
Game 5 was probably the worst performance for Brown during the postseason, and he bounced back to lead his team to victory. That is the mark of a true leader.
None of what L.A. accomplished during the playoffs would've been possible without Brown's leadership on and off the ice. Along with Brown, Derian Hatcher (1999 Dallas Stars) is the only other American-born player in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup.
Climbing the Mountain 44 Seasons Later
In 1967, the NHL underwent a radical expansion, doubling the number of teams from six to 12. One of the teams that entered the league at the time was the Los Angeles Kings.
After this Cup victory, only the St. Louis Blues remain Cup-less from that group. L.A.'s 45-year drought is officially over. It's the longest wait in NHL history for a franchise’s first Cup title, eclipsing the mark of 32 years by the Minnesota/Dallas franchise, who won in 1999.
Not bad for an eighth seed. Long-time diehard fans of the Kings now have a Stanley Cup to write home about.
However, the fact Los Angeles was able to win a Cup as a lower seed makes their first victory much more special. In the franchise's history, the Kings have only won the West twice, appeared in one other Cup Final (1993 against Montreal) and have won their division once (1990-91).
A Historic Playoff Run
Not only is an eighth seed winning a Stanley Cup (the previous lowest seed was the Devils in 1995 against Detroit as a fifth seed) wacky in its own right, it's virtually unheard of in professional sports. Had the Devils won as a sixth seed, it would still have made history. The current seeding format came to the NHL in 1994.
Los Angeles was given the task of going through the best the Western Conference had to offer, and they made swift work of the top three seeds.
The Kings defeated the Canucks (No. 1 seed) in five games, swept the St. Louis Blues (No. 2) and defeated the Phoenix Coyotes (No. 3) in five games. They went 16-4 in the postseason, tying for the second-best record since all four rounds went to a best-of-seven format in 1987.
Need some more stats to convince you how good the Kings were? CBS' Dave Starman has these nuggets for you:
Kings went 16-4 tied for the second-best title run since all rounds Bof7 in 87. Only 88Oilers (16-2) had fewer L's over the past 25 years.
— Dave Starman (@DaveStarmanCBS) June 12, 2012
The Kings became the first NHL club to take a 3-0 lead in games in all four series.— Dave Starman (@DaveStarmanCBS) June 12, 2012
As tough as it would've been for the Kings to march through the playoffs without Dustin Brown, Los Angeles couldn't even sniff the playoffs without the season-long outstanding play of Jonathan Quick.
The 26-year-old netminder followed up a Vezina-worthy regular season (35 wins, 1.95 goals-against average, .929 save percentage, 10 shutouts) with an even better postseason (1.41 goals-against average, .946 save percentage, 3 shutouts), notching his first Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP.
Quick becomes the third American-born player to win the award, joining Tim Thomas (2010-11 Bruins) and Brian Leetch (1993-94 Rangers). His 1.46 goals-against average is the third lowest all time for one playoff season (minimum 10 starts), behind Patrick Lalime (1.39 2001-02) and Frank Brimsek (1.25 1938-39
His remarkable season kept L.A.'s championship aspirations alive while they went through several ups and downs and fueled the team's blitzkrieg through the rest of the NHL in the postseason.
We may be witnessing just the tip of the iceberg of what Jonathan Quick and the Los Angeles Kings are capable of doing.