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PARK POINT…. As you must know by now, the Los Angeles Kings have finally won their first Stanley Cup in club history, and wrapped up an outstanding tournament performance with a Game 6 manhandling of the New Jersey Devils. The Game 6 final was 6-1 with a 1st-period KO, if the official scorers will allow that. The Kings finished the tournament with a 16-4 record. Folks, I have seen upwards of 50 Stanley Cup tourneys, and to say the Kings dominated their foes in the process of winning the greatest trophy in the world would be inadequate.
Now I’m not stating that they compare with the Fifties’ or Seventies’ Canadiens, or the Eighties’ Isles, Gretzky’s Oiler machine, or even the Red Wings of the past 15 to 20 seasons. They have got a lot more to prove to join those clubs in infamy. But I have got to say theirs was as impressive a single tourney run as I have seen. Was the Kings’ competition as stiff as that faced by the aforementioned clubs? You know, I haven’t thought that through yet. Has league parity raised the overall level of play? Has the number of teams and players (30 and 600) watered down the quality of the league? There is debate on those two questions. Nonetheless, the Kings have absolutely impressed.
Their fans were ecstatic, and I heard not one report of any type of the behavior that took place in Vancouver at the end of last season when the Canucks lost in Game 7. They had a great celebration afterward and I will never, ever get tired of seeing the two “keepers of the Cup” bring it out so that commissioner Gary Bettman can present it to the winning captain. That’s as awesome as awesome can get. Neither the NFL, MLB, or NBA compare to this simple little ceremony, and that’s that. There is no debate. I don’t care.
Post-celebration and parade odds makers announced that the Kings would be the favorite to defend and repeat as champions for next season. (And I hope there will be one—more on this to follow.) And why not? They are relatively young and they simply overpowered and out-quicked (no pun intended) anyone and everyone in their path. I have got to believe that barring any major injuries or dilemmas, the Kings just might pull that off. Do you think there is anyone else as good as them right now? I don’t, and that goes for both conferences.
Nor should anyone underestimate the influence of the even-keeled Daryl Sutter’s guidance to his young charges. (Yeah, I can’t believe I’m writing that.) And here is certainly one major item of import that I’ll remember: the Kings going up 3-0 with three strong performances, only to see the Devils charge back to take games 4 and 5. Then with the Kings back home to attempt to clinch again, and with the game going back and forth in the first period, the Devs’ smallish forward Steven Gionta was checked hard from behind into the boards. Honestly, it was a marginal hit, probably. Then moments later
the Devs’ Steve Bernier viciously checked Rob Scuderi into the end boards behind net minder Jonathan Quick, and Scuderi went down with a contusion on the bridge of his nose and a split lip. Bernier gets a five-minute major and a game misconduct, the Kings smell blood in the water and score three times on the PP, and the game is effectively over. Honestly speaking, you could have just ended the game right there and handed out the Cup.
And you know how the Cup winners all get to spend a day with the Cup at a location of their choosing? Here is what the Devils should do. Since they will get no day with the Cup, each club member should get to spend a day with Steve Bernier. And each guy should tie him to a chair and knock the absolute snuff out of him. He cost his club a chance to see if they could win it. I’m not saying I think the Devs may have won this game and/or series, but Bernier, if nothing else, cost them the chance to find out with his stupidity. I don’t know what his contract status is, but do you think there is a snowball’s chance in Hades that he suits up for the Devs next year? I don’t. See ya, dumbbell!
Yes, the Kings will be back. They have a couple of minor RFA and UFA matters to deal with, but their core will be back. (And the Wild’s core compares how?) The Devils have more serious player matters to deal with. Their captain Zach Parise could be the most coveted forward free agent this summer, and Mar-tan Brodeur has stated that he would like to come back, but does he have another run left in him like the one he just had? We are one week post-Cup hoist, so time will tell. What a heckuva tournament, though. I can recall back in the early days after expansion, the NorthStars had a real long unbeaten streak going against the Kings. Those weren’t these Kings. Very awesome job, guys. Congrats to the champs…
I WAS READING A web page Saturday. In the upper right corner were three news bylines: an NBA guy getting hurt in a friend’s bar fight, a college football player getting hurt in a bar fight, and something about the ongoing Roger Clemens PED-perjury trial mess. But my attention was locked on a photo of an LA Kings Stanley Cup champion hat nestled between the names of two Kings employees on the 9/11 monument in NY City. Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey were aboard one of the two planes that went down in NY on that fateful day.
A Kings fan of immeasurable thoughtfulness and class made this moving gesture. I could tell you what my reaction was when I first saw the picture, but if you haven’t seen it yet, why don’t you look it up on the ’net. Chances are that you will probably have the same reaction I did... PEACE
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.