2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Long Live the Kings
What eliminated the Red Wings in 2011 and 2013, the Kings overcame on their way to a Cup Final berth in 2014.
The NHL hasn't been in realignment long enough for this Detroit Red Wings fan to let go of the hatred he still harbors for the Chicago Blackhawks. So you can imagine the sheer joy and relief I felt a few hours ago when an Alec Martinez point shot bounced(!) in off Nick Leddy's hip for the series winner in favor of the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks are done; the Red Wings still hold the honor of being the most recent team to repeat as champions.
Despite the Kings not being able to take that honor away from the Red Wings, they do have two accomplishments the Red Wings themselves were tantalizingly close to completing before falling short at the last moment. Fans watching the playoffs in 2011 remember the second postseason in a row where we faced the San Jose Sharks in the second round; it was also the second postseason in a row the Sharks took a 3-0 series lead against us. Unlike the 2010 team falling in five games, the Red Wings forced Game 7 thanks to Valtteri Filppula. Try as a Pavel Datsyuk backhander might, the Red Wings couldn't finish the job and lost 3-2 in Game 7 in San Jose.
Last postseason also isn't far enough away for me to get over the sting of the Red Wings leading the Blackhawks 3-1 in a second-round series and losing in overtime of Game 7. It was ultimately the expected result given the seeming disparity between the two teams going into the series. But when Daniel Cleary scored the empty-netter in Game 4 that sealed a 3-1 series lead, people had to be wondering whether Chicago could come back and win the series. Joel Quenneville hadn't won a playoff series against Detroit prior to last year, and losing Games 2-4 was the Blackhawks' first three-game losing streak last season. Unfortunately for us, we know how that series ended: Detroit couldn't finish the job.
Fast forward a season, and what have the Kings done to get to the Stanley Cup Final? The Sharks blitzed them 17-8 en route to winning Games 1-3 of Round 1. The Kings not only finished the reverse sweep which the 2011 Red Wings couldn't, but they also returned the favor to the Sharks, outscoring them 18-5 over the final four games.
And what did they do to Chicago? They also took a 3-1 series lead, almost avoiding this whole scenario entirely when Game 5 went into overtime tied 4-4. Losing that game and Game 6 at Staples Center forced a déjà vu Game 7. Chicago's riding high on confidence: Patrick Kane's pounded the scoresheet; they're back at the Chelsea-Dagger-infested United Center; they were in this exact position against the Red Wings last season and look how that turned out. How many people considered the Kings done after Game 6? Unfortunately for Chicago, history did not repeat itself this year, and the Kings finished off Chicago in overtime in Game 7.
The Los Angeles Kings of the 2010s seem to make a show of going to the Stanley Cup Final, taking 3-0 series leads in all series in 2012, and winning three Game 7s on the road in 2014. This isn't a Red Wings fan living vicariously in the Los Angeles team just because they happened to do what the Red Wings couldn't over the last few postseasons. Sure, the Kings are now my rooting interest with the Red Wings absent from the playoffs after the first round. But you have to give the Kings a stick tap (or seven) for being the better team this season and actually finishing the job in both instances this time around.
At the end of the day, if there's one thing, one particular thread fate ties the Kings and the Red Wings together with, it's the Anaheim Ducks.
Suck it, Corey Perry.
Let's Go Red Wings
Go Kings Go