The Los Angeles Kings pulled off the unthinkable when they not only won the Stanley Cup as a No. 8 seed, but also did it by going 16-4 in the playoffs.
In doing so, they became the first team since the 1996-97 Detroit Red Wings to lose just four times in a Stanley Cup playoff run.
The series was pretty much over when the Kings went up 3-0 in the series on the New Jersey Devils. They were 15-2 at that point. Had they swept the Devils, they could’ve very well become the second team ever to go 16-2 in the playoffs.
The Wayne Gretzkly led Edmonton Oilersfrom 1988 are the only other team to accomplish that feat. It’s important to note that they did that with possibly the greatest team ever assembled in NHL history with Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Gretzky, and Grant Fuhr.
It’s fair to say that the Kings didn’t have those big names. But they had camaraderie, faith, a group of young, driven players, and one hell of a goalie.
Playoff dominance just doesn’t happen like this anymore. That’s what makes the Kings’ run remarkable. There’s just so much parity in this league — evidenced by the fact that an eight seed just won the Cup — that it’s awfully difficult to sweep a series, let alone go on a 16-4 run.
Because of this, one definitely has to put the Kings up there as one of the greatest playoff teams in NHL history. It’s tough to evaluate who the greatest is because teams were not always required to win 16 games in order to win a Stanley Cup.
In the past, there were fewer teams, which means there were fewer rounds in the playoffs.
That being said, there wasn’t as much parity in those days. The Montreal Canadiens would seemingly win Cup after Cup. In other words, it was easier to be dominant, so the 12-1 Montreal Canadiens teams from 1968 and 1976 had things a bit easier than today’s teams.
In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to pull off a run like the Kings did. The fact that a team hadn’t lost four times in a playoff run in 15 years exemplifies that notion. And what’s most amazing is that the Kings almost finished the run with two losses.
No, this team didn’t have heavyweight stars on their team. They didn’t have a Sidney Crosby or an Alex Ovechkin. In fact, the team they defeated was ironically the New Jersey Devils, who ended up beating out the Kings in the hunt for the services of Ilya Kovalchuk a few years ago.
What they did have though were two classy Americans in Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick, who will forever live in the hearts of Kings fans in Los Angeles, and will help grow the sport in a market that has been dominated by basketball forever.
John Ireland of 710 AM ESPN said on the radio following the game that 20 years ago when he first joined ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, they would get crushed by the suits at the radio station for talking hockey because they felt that listeners would tune out.
Now, they’ve been talking non-stop for the last two weeks and Ireland feels that this will continue throughout the years. That’s how much the Cup meant to Los Angeles. It’s going to change the game, as kids are going to grow up wanting to be NHL goalies, not just star NBA players. It won’t be surprising to see the NHL infiltrated with Southern California guys in the next two decades.
One has to put this team as the second-greatest playoff team in modern NHL history after the 1988 Edmonton Oilers. In this case, for the purposes of this article, modern is described as the era where it took a team 16 games to win a Stanley Cup. This spans almost 30 years.
And it’s not just because of the dominance they had on the ice with their 16-4 record, it’s the impact this bunch will have off it.
The Kings will probably never have the largest market share in Los Angeles. It took them 45 years to “wear their crown” as Kings radio announcer Nick Nickson so aptly put it.
But in two months, they captivated a city and helped establish interest in the sport. Diehards are thrilled, casual fans are hooked.
The Kings are cool now. They matter.
And it’s hard to matter in LA. You have to be great.
And the Kings, to put it simply, were more than just great.