The Stanley Cup in Lotusland + Thoughts on Ed Reed’s no-show
And here I thought I had rubbed my bad juju off on the Los Angeles Kings by saying their Stanley Cup win was inevitable about a week or so ago.
After I wrote that piece, the Kings promptly lost two games to the New Jersey Devils, cutting their series lead to 3-2 and putting genuine fear into Kings fans.
Ageless Devils goalie Martin Brodeur had put on vintage performances in games 4 and 5, getting the Devils back into the series. You could feel the momentum shifting to the Dirty Jerz, and the worry was that eventually, New Jersey’s top-scorers, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk would awaken from their series-long slumber.
The crowd at Staples Center for Game 6 seemed ansy at the start. If the crowd for Game 4 was ready for a party, the Game 6 crowd was biting their nails hoping the Kings stellar playoff run wouldn’t end with an unthinkable collapse.
The Kings needed something to get their slumbering offense going in Game 6, and they got just what the doctor ordered when New Jersey’s Steve Bernier took a 5-minute boarding penalty.
This series had already shifted once on a long penalty: New Jersey had an early 5-on-3 in Game 3 that they failed to take advantage of, opening the floodgates for a Kings rout. Now, it would be the Kings that would get a long power play. When you get a chance like that, with the Big Hardware within your grasp, it’s best to follow Angelo Pappas’ advice to Johnny Utah in “Point Break,” “You don’t miss.”
And they didn’t. Dustin Brown, the bull-in-a-china-shop captain who had been invisible in the series up to then, got things started. Then Jeff Carter tipped a Brown shot for another one. Then Trevor Lewis poked in a rebound. Three goals in five minutes. The Cup was as good as L.A.’s by that point.
The Devils had no chance coming back from that deficit against a home crowd that smelled victory or against L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick, who was practically impenetrable this season. All you need to know about Quick’s greatness: in 20 playoff games, the Kings gave up 30 goals. The same amount as the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were out in six.
Quick definitely put himself as the leader in the clubhouse for the U.S. Olympic Team in 2014, provided the NHL sends its player to Sochi. At 26, he’s the obvious choice, having surpassed 2010 Olympic hero Ryan Miller.
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Here’s how the 2014 team would look like if I were picking it right now.
The first nine forwards look like this:
Dustin Brown (L.A.), David Backes (St. Louis), Ryan Callahan (NY Rangers), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Phil Kessel (Toronto), Zach Parise (NJ), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Bobby Ryan (Anaheim) and Joe Pavelski (San Jose)
All are returnees from 2010 and are locks in my opinion as long as they aren’t injured or fall off in play. Now, that leaves three extra spots, which in 2010 were occupied by Ryan Malone, Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Stastny. In 2014, Langenbrunner will be nearly 40 and Malone will be in his mid-30s.
To fill those two spots, I’ll pick Max Pacioretty (33 goals with Montreal this year) and T.J. Oshie (another bull-in-a-china-shop type from St. Louis).
For the last spot, for me, it comes down to Stastny or Philly’s James van Riemsdyk. I lean towards Stastny right now because he’s a center and due to JVR’s health and consistency issues this year. But if JVR has a big year next year, I think it swings back in his favor for the last spot.
The U.S. is very deep with good young defensemen, so how those guys develop will play a role. The main thing to remember is, on the bigger ice at the Olympics, the game favors puck movers more than bruisers.
The three guys I’d say are locks back there are Ryan McDonagh (NYR), Ryan Suter (Nashville) and Keith Yandle (Phoenix). I’d also say Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh) should be there, even though he had a miserable playoffs this year. For the last two spots, I lean towards John Carlson (Washington) and Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis). I am assuming the Carlson I’m picking is the guy who had a great playoff this year and not the guy who looked lost in the regular season.
If I pick an extra guy, I would go with Jack Johnson, the poor sod who was traded from L.A. to Columbus for Jeff Carter in February. It was really hard for me to leave off Rob Scuderi, who was a rock for the Kings this year but will be 35 by 2014. Erik Johnson (Colorado) and Paul Martin (Pittsburgh) are also candidates, while Justin Faulk (Carolina) and Cam Fowler (Anaheim) are two youngsters who could emerge to take a spot.
In goal, the choices are easy: Quick, with either Miller or Detroit’s Jimmy Howard backing him up.
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Having lived in Los Angeles for a blissfully brief amount of time, I felt a certain connection to the Kings during this run. I wouldn’t call them a second favorite team, that’s sports bigamy, but if it wasn’t going to be the Caps, I was hoping it’d be L.A.
I was only able to attend one game at Staples during my time there, but it was when a washed up Jeremy Roenick had his one year on the team and it was never not fun to yell, “Make his head bleed, Roenick!” as an homage to “Swingers.”
I can attest that the Kings do have great fans, many of whom have suffered with this club for a long, long time. L.A. is definitely a Lakers town first, but the Kings have always had a dedicated cult sort of following. People who are into the Kings, are REALLY into the Kings. I’m happy for those folks. Following the Kings for 40 years could not have been easy.
When the Kings won the Cup, I definitely thought of old pals from back there.
I felt good for Bob Miller, the longtime Kings play-by-play man, who’s covered the Kings since 1973 and has seen more crappy hockey than one man should ever see. For my money, Miller and partner Jim Fox are the best play-by-play tandem in the business and quite frankly, as much as I like Doc Emerick, it would have been great if everyone got to hear Miller call the moment when the Kings won the Cup.
But more than anything, there’s this: seeing the Kings win reminded me of how much I really wanted to see that be Caps one day. Just once.
And now, a few words on Ed Reed
So in Ravenstown, where I have not been as much lately these days due to my recent residence on Planet Hockey, the big news was Ed Reed not showing up to mandatory minicamp.
Naturally, Reed’s no-show, and John Harbaugh not knowing where he was, sent media outlets atwitter trying to deduce What It All Means. Is he retiring? Is he playing? What’s going on?
I don’t know Ed Reed personally, but having followed Reed’s career since it’s beginning, it’s safe to say the man marches to his own drummer. There are few things more futile than getting into the Ed Reed prediction business, simply because the guy has been talking retirement for nearly three years now.
Besides, it’s not like Reed needs another minicamp. The team is taking the right track here, letting Reed move according to his own timetable. The Ravens are a better team defensively with Reed on the team, but he’s earned the right to take his time. Again, there’s nothing the team is gonna do at minicamp that Ed Reed doesn’t already know.
Personally, I think he does come back for one more run at the ring before hanging them up. Reed has to know the Ravens as currently constructed are built to win now, and I think he desperately wants to win a ring. Somehow, I don’t see him leaving a potential Super Bowl on the table. But like everything, Reed’s gonna march to his own beat before he comes back.