The Los Angeles Kings made history by becoming the first ever No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup; however, they weren’t your typical story of the little guy besting giants.
The Kings underperformed in the early part of the season, due in large part to an inability to find the back of the net despite a core of forwards that looked enviable on paper.
Mike Richards in particular didn’t live up to expectations after being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in a blockbuster trade over the summer of 2011.
The team’s slow start ultimately led to Terry Murray’s dismissal as head coach and the eventual hiring of Darryl Sutter. Two months later, Kings GM Dean Lombardi acquired an unhappy Jeff Carter from Columbus. Both moves proved to be critical to the Kings’ success.
Towards the end of the season, everything started to finally click. By the time the playoffs rolled around, they weren’t just defying the odds — they were doing so with style. Since the new playoff format was adopted in 1987, the Kings are the only team to ever jump to a 3-0 lead in all four series.
Suddenly Richards, reunited with Carter, was an offensive leader once more, but he wasn’t the only one redeeming himself. The Kings were firing on all cylinders, with even guys like Dustin Penner going from the man who got injured eating pancakes to a major playoff contributor.
But goalie Jonthan Quick was the key component of the team. Unlike many of his peers, he was as consistent as he was phenomenal, excelling both during the Kings’ good and bad times.
Of course, like any Cup champion, L.A. got its fair share of luck. In the first round, the Kings played a Canucks side without Daniel Sedin. Next came the Blues, minus Jaroslav Halak and without a healthy Alex Pietrangelo. Phoenix and New Jersey were the final two opponents, neither of which was considered a serious contender heading into the postseason.
But a team can only beat the teams it plays, and Los Angeles beat all four handily.
And if this lockout ends in time to save the 2012-13 campaign, the Kings will be defending their first Stanley Cup in franchise history with a team almost identical to the one that won it.