LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings are Stanley Cup champions for the second time in three seasons for a variety of reasons that became evident throughout their epic 26-game march to the 2014 title.
The Kings needed every advantage and edge they could muster to pass through the Western Conference and advance to the Stanley Cup Final. They had to win three Game 7s, all on the road, including one against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Kings also had to navigate their way back from a 3-0 series deficit against the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
Somehow, Los Angeles found a way each time it needed to. The result was a Stanley Cup Final matchup against the New York Rangers.
It again proved to be about finding a way in the final round. The Kings rallied to win three of the five games played in the Final, taking the crown with an Alec Martinez
goal in double overtime of Game 5 at Staples Center.
Here are the five main reasons the Kings will be celebrating a second championship in three years with a parade in downtown Los Angeles on Monday afternoon:
1. Depth charge
The Kings had 16 of their 18 skaters get at least one point in the Stanley Cup Final. Twelve Kings scored a goal, and four accounted for the four game-winners.
That kind of depth is almost impossible to defend. Throughout the series, each forward line was dangerous. One night, it was the top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik. Another night, it was the second line of Jeff Carter centering Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli. In Game 5, third-liner Kyle Clifford and fourth-liner Dwight King were among the most dangerous players on the ice. The Rangers had to change their focus game-by-game, if not period-by-period, and that proved to be too difficult.
2. Good health
The Kings were able to ice the same 18 skaters for each of the five games and, for the most part, keep their four forward lines and three defensive pairs intact. Aside from an injury to veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr which kept him out of the Final, the Kings did not deal with many injuries. Through a record-long 26-game postseason, 14 skaters and goalie Jonathan Quick appeared in every game.
The continuity allowed them to develop a chemistry that was evident throughout, especially when they fell behind in games during the Final.
3. Drew can do
Defenseman Drew Doughty did everything for the Kings throughout the playoffs and was a legitimate candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy won by forward Justin Williams.
Doughty logged the most minutes of any Kings player in the Final, and he and defense partner Jake Muzzin were given the toughest assignments by coach Darryl Sutter.
The numbers were staggering. Doughty took 206 shifts across the five games, playing 162:49, the most by a skater in the series. He scored a goal on the power play and had an assist. His goal, in the second period of Game 1, tied the score and made the overtime win possible. His assist, in Game 5 on a goal by Marian Gaborik, also erased a Rangers lead and allowed the Kings to win in double overtime.
"He loves to come to the rink and he wants to make a difference every game, and I really respect it," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said.
4. Finishing kick
The Kings rallied to win three games in overtime, erasing two-goal deficits in two games and a one-goal deficit in the clincher.
The rallies each came in the third period, much like they did throughout this playoff run. In fact, for the playoffs, the Kings outscored the opposition 30-16 in the third period. The Kings had the only third-period goals (three) in the Final, plus three overtime winners. But the ice was even more tilted than that.
In the five games, the Kings averaged a little more than 12 shots in the third period (61 total); the Rangers managed five per third period (25). Three times, the Rangers were held to three or fewer shots in a third period.
5. Steady Sutter
Sutter won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons and did so by being steadfast and steady throughout a long, grueling march featuring incredible highs and lows.
The experiences of winning in 2012 were applied throughout the 2014 postseason, and Sutter maintained the steely reserve for which he has become famous. He never panicked in the Final, not when the Kings fell behind 2-0 in Game 1 and again in Game 2 as part of three two-goal deficits faced in that game. After losing Game 4, he never showed any negative emotion and barely blinked when the Kings blew a one-goal lead in Game 5 with a five-minute stretch of abysmal special-teams play.
Throughout the season, he convinced his players to trust him and the decisions he made. Throughout the playoffs, they stayed in the moment and trusted the process. The results, particularly the legion of comebacks, were stunning.
"I think all playoffs, no matter what situation we've been in, with the guys we have in the room, the leadership that we got from our coaching staff, it's never too high, never too low," Kings forward Jeff Carter said.