The goal was apparent from the very beginning, defend the Stanley Cup, become the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings in ’97 and ’98. Needless to say ,the end result was not what they wanted, coming up short and losing in the Conference Final.
Sure, both the Kings and their fan base are disappointed, but these playoffs were a different beast and both parties should be happy with the effort that was put forth on the ice.
Last year’s run to the Kings’ first Stanley Cup since the team came into the league in ’67 was the definition of special.
A subpar regular season, that was jolted with the addition of Darryl Sutter behind the bench and acquisition of Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson, put the Kings in a position where they needed every last game to get into the playoffs. They finally qualified for the post season with the Kings’ last game, qualifying as the West’s number 8 seed.
They went through the league’s big guns, eliminating the President’sTrophy winner in the first round, the Western Conference’s second seed in the second round and finished their run through the Western Conference by knokcing out the only remaining Division Champion in the third round.
Then the Kings went on to take care of the Eastern Conference Champion, New Jersey Devils, in 6 games and hoisted the Stanley Cup on home ice, in front of thousands of Kings fans.
Their run was miraculous, going 10-1 on the road, going the first three rounds without a loss on the road. They started every series 3-0 never having to play a game 7, and only had to play 1 game 6, en route to a 16-4 record through the playoffs. They stayed healthy and pummeled teams into the ground, and suffocated them with their team defense.
A lockout lengthened summer full of celebrations, parades, guest appearances and joy came and went, and a Stanley Cup Champion caliber roster stayed intact and returned at the start of this season.
The 2012-2013 season seemed like a sprint to the finish line, and the Kings were in a bind late in the season yet again, except this season they were fighting for home ice advantage. But in the end, they came up just short qualifying for the post season as the Western Conference’s fifth seed losing home ice to the St. Louis Blues, the Kings’ first round matchup.
It was a different story this time around. The Kings fell into a 0-2 hole in their opening series and Kings fans, in unfamiliar waters, felt a new panic about them. Then the Kings went on to win 4 games in a row and eliminated the Blues, restoring that faith and confidence. Then came the Kings only 7 games series over the last two seasons, but that home ice proved vital in a series where the home team was 7-0. The Kings were back in the Conference Final and only one round away from the Stanley Cup Final.
The Western Conference Final, the Kings were put against the juggernaut of the West, the Chicago Blackhawks. If you were a Kings fan and said you weren’t nervous about this series you were lying. But still, the Kings took care of the Vancouver Canucks the previous year, so why not the Hawks this year?
Unfortunately, in the end the Blackhawks proved too much for the Kings. Their speed and skill were unmatchable, resulting in the Kings being scored on 14 times in their 5-game series. But the Kings went down like Kings, fighting until the very end, ending their run in a double overtime loss, the longest playoff game in Kings history.
Everything felt a bit off this time around, and rightfully so. The Kings won just one game when away from Staples Center this year. They were all but healthy, they lost Jarrett Stoll and Mike Richards to injuries during their series against the Sharks and Blackhawks, and it was revealed that Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty played through some significant injuries for good portions of the playoffs.
Jonathan Quick, the Kings’ rock last season, although great at times seemed human this year, letting in several questionable and soft goals at inopportune times for his team. The Kings’ defense seemed jumbled and lost, their season ending goal came from a questionable pinch by Slava Voynov, who had been one of the Kings’ best players all season long.
Now we wait and watch to see who will take the Kings’ trophy, who will get this year’s parade, this year’s banner and who will have the target on their back next season, all things the Kings had and enjoyed over the last year.
It may not have ended how the Kings wanted, but it has still been a great two seasons for an organization that had won just one playoff series over the last 19-seasons. They are now an organization that has won 25-playoff games and has made it to the Conference Finals twice over the last two seasons.
They are made up of a core that will make that trend continuing a major possibility. They are now a team that players want to play for. A team that is writing a future, a future bright enough to look past a season where the Kings came up short.