In which the Kings get two more chances and prove that no matter how well you play, it takes the right set of circumstances to succeed against a long history of failure.
The Kings got hit and they got hit hard. Not closing out a potential series sweep is hardly the end of the world, but everything had aligned so perfectly. How could it not work out? And if that could fail, what about the next game? Suddenly, we’re filled with doubt and back on the road, where the Kings have been, much to the delight of the media coverage these playoffs, undefeated. This is doubly horrifying because it has to end sometime and we’re long past jinx level by now.
With the seed of doubt sown this deep, it’s hard not to imagine Brodeur as the villain. Yeah, I’ve focused a lot of my ire on Bryce Salvador, but that’s because he takes cheap shots. He’s the foot soldier; Brodeur is the commander. I have immense respect for this Devils team and many of its players, but right now Brodeur is the Darth Vader to Patrick Roy’s Emperor. It’s 1993 all over again, but hope comes in an unlikely American hero with a name almost as ridiculous as Luke Skywalker’s. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jonathan Quick’s Stanley Cup to win or lose.
19:01 – The game 4 loss doesn’t seem to be affecting Dustin Brown. He goes straight in on Brodeur, beating the defenseman, only to have the puck poked away by Marty’s stick. The rest of the country has finally learned what Kings fans have known for years: Dustin Brown is the best power forward in the NHL since Cam Neely (honorable mention to Jarome Iginla, but shut up, Calgary fans, I’m talking about the Kings here).
13:02 – A high stick call finally stops play. Other than an early penalty call against the Kings (during which penalty kill they had more chances than the Devils) and a shot off the post by Justin Williams (during which time stopped for everyone), this game has seemed like a cutthroat foosball tournament. Everything is in constant motion and the refs have agreed to let it all happen without interfering. So far, there have been no spinnies. I fucking hate spinnies. [That joke is dedicated to DVS, Codykins, Kong, Sizzle, Abraman, Lil’ Weezie, and the editor of this fine publication.]
11:30 – Play stops again after a good New Jersey rush which ends with NJ forward Patrick Elias being leveled by Kings defenseman Matt Greene and sliding backwards into the boards with scary momentum. Elias makes a great play, passing it into the center, but pays the price, lying stunned on the ice for a time before skating to the bench and hearing it from the Kings players. Was he playing up his injury for dramatic effect? Probably not. Will the other team trash talk him incessantly because of it? Of course. Elias gives as good as he got, jawing back at the Kings bench. Elias is the kind of player enforcers are meant to protect. He’s an undersized forward with great hands who can turn a broken play into a highlight reel goal, but he’ll not overpower the 225 lb. defenseman trying to pummel him. Only Elias doesn’t need them. He’s a tough, tough man and I wish he was on my team.
9:13 – Little brother Trevor and I continue to play video game hockey with the Kings throughout these playoffs. Defenseman Willie Mitchell is our unlikely leading scorer. In real life, he whistles a slapshot just wide of the post, but clearly beating Brodeur. Trevor and I look at each other because we both know how much we wanted that to happen.
7:15 – What the fuck? Jonathan Quick, the undisputed Best Goalie In These Playoffs, just fucked up bad. He plays the puck behind the net, only passing it to the opposing team’s captain, who tucks it in by the far post before Quick can get back in time. Devils goal: Parise [assist: Quick]. It’s not entirely his fault. His defensemen also underestimated the urgency with which the New Jersey forwards were charging. The New Jersey fans are chanting something. I assume it’s “Jo-nny”, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring as far as mob mentality goes. Quick dodges a bullet by having soft consonant sounds in his two-syllable name.
16:07 – I love watching the refs pick up the puck and skate their asses off to bring it to the opposite end of the rink for icing. They pump their arms so emphatically, they look like Olympic speed skaters. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.
16:35 – I had more nice things to say about hockey refs, but fuck that, Kings goal: Williams, assist: Greene. Justin Williams walks in as three Devils players coalesce in front of Brodeur to try to block the shot. They succeed only in keeping him from seeing the puck as Williams rips a wide open shot from in between the circles.
15:07 – Brodeur stops another Kings breakaway. Sure, I got a little butthurt at him in Game 4 for getting a bit punchy. He’s still the best. Sorry, Marty.
10:55 – Devils goal: Salvador, assists: Ponikarovsky, Zajac. I hate my life. Since I declared Bryce Salvador a “thug”, he has scored a goal and assisted on two others. In three periods. It’s like the hate-inspired inverse version of the Colbert Bump. Again, the Devils deflect a shot off a Kings defenseman. Oh wait, it’s Voynov again? Fuck his life too. But it’s hockey. These things happen. Even in the playoffs. When it makes you cry. A lot.
8:44 – NHL power plays are super progressive. Forwards become defensemen and play at the point, defenseman become playmakers and crash the net or carry the puck behind it (!). There’s no such thing as a social norm on the power play, everyone plays according to his ability and the team’s need at that moment. NHL power plays are like a goal-scoring commune. No wonder the Russians are so good at hockey. [Obligatory 1980 USA Olympic Hockey shout-out.] The Kings have been Red Army team good on this power play, but with nothing to show for their trans-positional, socialist agenda. Drew Doughty again does his best Bobby Orr impression, driving to the goal line, faking out the defender and sliding a pass into the slot, resulting in another great Brodeur save. I’m really getting sick of this guy. Finally, Jarret Stoll gets the puck past him, batting a rebound out of midair and into the back of the net. Unfortunately, it’s illegal to hit a puck above the crossbar and the puck Stoll hit looked like he needed Peter Dinklage standing on his shoulders to hit it for him.
0:00 – The Devils’ penalty kill has been excellent. And by that I mean, fuck Martin Brodeur.
14:53 – More of the same. The Kings are pressing, the Devils withstanding. The announcers wonder why L.A. Coach Daryl Sutter doesn’t mix up his lines to give the New Jersey defense “a different look”. Because it’s working, assholes. The Kings are getting constant pressure from all four lines and good scoring chances. The only problem is the puck can’t seem to find its way past one of the greatest goalies who ever lived. Should they change things up in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals? Look, I love gambling as much as the next person [that’s not true, I love it waaaaaaay more], but asking Sutter to play roulette with what has brought him this far is asinine. Eyes forward, legs moving. If the Kings keep working this hard, that goal will come. I think. I hope. I hate the playoffs. [The only thing keeping me from having a heart attack right now is Coach Eric Taylor. Clear eyes, full hearts…]
14:08 – Dustin Brown gets a “holding the stick” penalty, which is funny in its own right, but there is almost no funnier face on this planet than Brown’s toothless protests underneath that pre-pubescent playoff “beard”. Oh wait, I’m wrong. Daryl Sutter’s disapproving Muppet face is way more awesome. [I’m convinced he has dentures and leaves them out during games. The only other people I’ve ever seen make that face are my dad, Statler, Waldorf, and the Bitter Beer Face dude from those Keystone Light commercials.]
13:10 – Of all the reasons I was excited about the Kings signing Mike Richards in the offseason, my favorite is that he is just as dangerous on the penalty kill as at any other moment on the ice. Lots of the great goal scorers in this league need space in which to work and so they excel on the power play. Richards is not one them, making him the best hope in the NHL of matching Mario Lemieux’s five goals, five ways feat. [I realize this sounds like a Top Chef challenge, but Lemieux scored, in a single game, each goal-scoring possibility: even strength, power play, penalty kill, penalty shot, and empty net. This is DiMaggio-esque in that it will likely never be equaled. But I get a little bit excited when I see someone get halfway there.] Richards’ penalty killing is excellent, but his offensive drive on the penalty kill is lethal. Here, he takes advantage of a misplayed puck by the Devils defenseman and jumps through the neutral zone, careening in toward Brodeur. The lone defenseman left has two choices, play the angle and limit Richards’ chance on Marty, or cross-check him in the chest. Richards sees him and tries to break inside. Guess which option defenseman Marek Zidlicky chooses? Look, I know hockey is a physical sport and I know this is the Stanley Cup Finals and no one wants to have the game in the hands of the ref… but Zidlicky took a two handed shot to the middle of a player’s chest and no one seems to care? Maybe NBC did get to these refs after all. #Fuckyouhockeyfansweneedtheratings
9:03 – Zidlicky just sucker-punched Richards and shit is on. Marty’s helmet got knocked off in a scrum in front of the net, Penner and Clarkson are still arguing about their beards [wait, Clarkson shaved his off? Does he want his team to lose???], and these guys fucking hate each other. The announcers want to blame it on Jeff Carter, but he and Matt Tallinder were trying to break up the damn thing. Carter put his glove on Marty’s shoulder to keep him out of the fight and the goalie’s dog-in-a-sweater routine ended up with his jersey over his head. I’m not saying that Brodeur behaved like a puppy with an overzealous owner by flailing about at someone trying to help but… oh wait, yeah I am.
6:17 – Consecutive “Beat L.A.!” and “Marty!” chants from the New Jersey fans. Six minutes away from a 3-2 series, the Devils legitimately have a chance to make this comeback for reals. As it turns out, this battle station is fully armed and operational and for the first time these playoffs, the Kings may lose on the road. Back home in California, Kings fans are wondering, “Could we really lose?” [The good news is, 3-0 comebacks have only happened thrice in the past 100+ years, so history is in our favor and the potential Game 6 is at home. Let’s just score in the next six minutes and not have to worry about it, shall we?]
0:00 – Fuck.
9:51 – For ten minutes, this game has balanced on the edge of a knife. Both teams know the first goal will dramatically affect the outcome of this series and these opening minutes have felt as tenuous as the first period of the series. A Kings score means they’re back in charge, just waiting to be awarded the Cup. A Devils goal is terrifying to the home crowd. What if we have to go back to Jersey for Game 7? 3-0 comebacks are extraordinarily rare, but there is a precedent.
9:50 – So here’s what happens: the Devils are going for a line change and Kings forward Jarret Stoll lays out Stephen Gionta into the boards in front of his own bench. This is a shady hit and could easily be a penalty, but the refs either missed it or let it go. Seconds later, the Devils’ Steve Bernier charges into Rob Scuderi, perhaps from an overenthusiastic forecheck, perhaps because the Devils were piping mad about the Gionta hit. The end result, however, is a Kings power play. For five minutes. Uninterrupted. [Bernier drew blood, which usually means four minutes via two consecutive minor penalties. If you score on the first, that penalty ends, but you keep the second power play. But a five minute major only ends at full time, no matter how many times you score.] That was a vicious hit and the penalty is deserved, but this power play will decide the series and that non-call against the Kings is primed for scapegoat status. Whatever. I don’t care; I’m channeling my inner Montgomery Burns right now. “Unleash the hounds.”
8:57 – That didn’t take long. For almost a whole minute, this power play has been a carbon copy of the past two games. The Kings have passed the puck well and taken good shots on goal, but the absence of one Devils defender equals an extra stick for the Kings to make sure those opportunities find pay dirt, and Dustin Brown deflects a shot/pass from Doughty between Brodeur’s pads. Kings goals: Brown, assists: Doughty, Richards. Throughout these playoffs, we’ve seen what these three geniuses are capable of with the puck. It makes sense that they start off this Game 6 with a picture perfect tic-tac-toe goal.
7:15 – Kings defenseman Alec Martinez does his best Drew Doughty impression as he drives in behind the goal on the power play in an attempt to move the puck toward the net. I’m not the only one surprised; the Devils seem to have no idea what to do. So when, during the confusion, Mike Richards picks up the loose puck and feeds it to Dustin Brown in the slot, who deposits it over Brodeur’s left shoulder, not only is New Jersey reeling from this surprising Los Angeles power play onslaught, but Martinez gets to pat himself on the back for being responsible for a vital playoff goal. His team now has a 2-0 lead with the Cup on the line. Way to go, kid. [As it turns out, Brown’s shot was deflected by Jeff Carter over Marty’s glove. Credit where credit is due.] Kings goal: Carter, assists: Brown, Richards.
4:57 – The Devils have a potential odd-man rush and Kovalchuk has the puck on his stick. Under normal circumstances, this would be terrifying, but Kovy’s lost his legs. He’s hurt, and after he coughs up the puck to a smothering Kings defense, they come right back on the other end. Marty makes one save, but there are too many black jerseys on the ice waiting to pick up the garbage. Kings goal: Lewis, assists: King, Doughty.
4:23 – The penalty is now over, and Martinez just rocked David Clarkson into the boards. The game is 3-0 and the Kings are feeling it. They are throwing their bodies into the play with an exuberance we haven’t seen since the Game 3 shutout. It’s nice to be back in L.A. The NBC announcers want the Devils to “play below the goal line”, touting that as a strength of the Devils’ play. I can’t help but notice that the Kings have done that to much greater success during this series. Isn’t copying the team that’s kicking your ass in Game 6 a little too late to try to employ the same strategy? Whatever, those guys make way more money than me, so obviously they’re not total retards.
0:55 – Bad giveaway by the Devils defense equals another great save by Brodeur. He’s not giving up. Nor are his teammates. Elias just hit the post. There is no quit in this New Jersey team.
18:30 – No matter the alleged attempts by the NHL and NBC to increase the ratings for this series by ignoring or making penalty calls that stretch credibility [I take full responsibility for these allegations. They’re blatantly untrue, but I love conspiracy theories.], a referee decides to interrupt a play, cutting off a NJ defenseman during a Kings offensive rush with one of the best hip checks I’ve seen in recent memory. I think everyone was taken aback, but the Kings maintain possession and work the puck back to the point and we start all over again. And then Jeff Carter sneaks in and this game officially becomes ridiculous. Kings goal: Carter, assists: Brown, Kopitar.
14:00 – That fucking jerk Bryce Salvador just smacked Dwight King in the face with his stick and the Kings get to enjoy a four minute power play with a 4-0 lead. The Kings are about to win the Stanley Cup, my reverse jinx on Salvador seems to have been lifted, and all is right with the world.
10:00 – Whoa, that was fun. The Kings controlled every moment of that power play, an aspect of their game that had struggled throughout these playoffs. With the Devils down four goals, I’m a bit surprised to see them play so conservatively because even with the one-man disadvantage, the clock is their biggest enemy. They seemed content to weather the storm and let four crucial minutes pass. Half of this game has passed and they need five goals to win it. Shouldn’t they be pushing the puck forward a bit more? [At the end of the penalty kill, Brodeur makes a wholly unnecessary slash at Dustin Brown, but no further penalty is called. Marty is obviously frustrated and I think he knows this game is over, so he’s determined to at least take his pound of flesh.]
5:37 – Nice to see some fight left in Jersey as Ryan Carter tackles Jonathan Quick as he’s trying to cover up a loose puck. Naturally, this leads to a massive pile-up of bodies in front of the Kings net and it takes a while for the refs to clean up the mess. That was an impressive take-down. Carter may have missed his calling as an NFL linebacker or a UFC fighter.
5:36 – …And Carter’s been kicked out of the game. Another Kings power play. This game is rapidly turning into a prolonged victory lap.
5:13 – Geez Louise, the Kings are still coming hard. Martinez just destroyed Travis Zajac in open ice. He’ll pay the price for that hit in a second, but everyone in Staples Center is riled up.
3:55 – The Kings’ power play is winding down and now that we have a few moments, I’d like to draw your attention to New Jersey’s coach Pete DeBoer, who, in all of his close-ups throughout this series, has done a great job in perpetuating the long, storied history of NHL Coach Sour Puss faces. DeBoer’s effort in this game, however, is exceptional in the two enormous boobs directly behind his head in every shot. Every time I try to pretend that Los Angeles has earned its stripes as a bona fide hockey town, two massive fake breasts stare at me in the face from behind DeBoer. It’s such an L.A. cliché, I’m embarrassed to call attention to
them it. Then, I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but boy is my face red. As it happens, those particular silicon monsters belong to adult model [Ed. note: there was some debate in the FPM offices as to whether or not quotes were necessary around "model" for the purposes of maintaining journalistic integrity] Taylor Stevens who tweeted about her own tits en masse during the game. For long time suffering Kings fans, this game truly has everything.
1:13 – Devils goal: Henrique, assists: Sykora, Ponikarovsky. After an impressive offensive zone faceoff win, Adam Henrique scores the kind of hard-nosed, dirty goal that needed to happen a period ago for the New Jersey Devils. He’s one of the three finalists for the Calder Trophy, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year award. Were the votes not submitted before the playoffs, he’d be the runaway winner. Instead, he has a YouTube highlight reel and will know the pain of getting that close to the Cup early in his career. After Marty retires, there’s no guarantee they’ll be back here any time soon. Sorry, Adam. You’re a great player and your pornstar mustache is epic.
18:55 – The Devils start the period on the power play, but the Kings aren’t letting up. Matt Greene makes a great shot block and Captain Dustin Brown sweeps the puck away from a prone position. Looks like everything’s coming up Milhouse.
13:40 – The refs call a delayed penalty on Dustin Brown, who finishes his check because no whistle had yet been blown. Petr Sykora, a former member of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, sucker punches him because Sykora himself got knocked on his ass by a clean hit. Well done, Petr. That power play might have actually helped your team get back in this fight. You know, because it’s only the Stanley Cup on the line. I know, I know; you, like a few of your teammates, already have a Cup in your résumé. Why should you care if you blow any chance your team had of coming back by acting like a complete dickhole? It’s not like you have to answer to teammates like Adam Henrique, right? Fuck those guys, they’re not real Devils! They didn’t leave the team, win another Stanley Cup with the Penguins, then come back and blow a crucial Game 6 play for no reason… oh wait, that’s you, asshole.
5:05 – The crowd is starting to celebrate. “Go Kings, Go!” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
3:45- Empty net goal. Kings goal: Lewis, assists: King, Stoll. The final nail in the coffin. At least Marty was spared the indignity of giving up this “eff you” goal.
3:30 – Oh shit, that one’s on you,
Mary Marty. Kings goal: Greene, unassisted. Brodeur has been allowed back on the ice since it’s obvious now that the Devils will lose this Cup Final. But seriously, fifteen seconds in and you give up a point shot from a defenseman? The Kings are trying to give you a break, don’t make it worse. They just showed DeBoer’s disapproving face. Boobs in the background.
0:30 – I can’t hear anything that’s happening. This crowd is apeshit crazy.
0:00 – Wow. It’s really happening. Way to go, guys.
Martin Brodeur is obviously disappointed. He’s been in this position before, shaking the hand of the goalie that beat him in the traditional post-Cup Final “good game” line-up that hockey clings onto, making it the only sport that emulates America’s little league culture to such a ridiculously classy extent. But he has a lot to say to Quick, because Marty is a student of the game and one if it’s greatest stars. And Jonathan listens, and they hug, because after all, it’s just a game. A game won by a Kings team that had failed to do so for 45 years. That wait is over. I’m just gonna keep saying it because it will never sound real to me. The Kings won the Stanley Cup? Fuck you, liar.
No, not you, I was talking to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Despite my attempts to build up L.A. as a legitimate hockey town, here is the definitive proof that they will never be so. How does the league commissioner survive a public appearance sans boos? You guys call yourselves hockey fans? For shame. The Conn Smythe Trophy, the leafiest of all sports trophies, rightly goes to Jonathan Quick, who should start working on his acceptance speeches for his Vezina trophies later in his career because while nominated for it this year, it’ll go to Henrik Lundqvist. [The Vezina is given to the best goaltender, but it ends up being kind of a “Scent of a Woman” Oscar in that it’s often given to the best goalie that’s been looked over for years. This year, it was King Henry. Soon enough, it’ll be Jonny Quick.]
The very first time I wrote to you guys, I wrote about this moment. The Cup. This is what these teams worked so hard for. Red carpet is splayed out onto the ice. [For real, don’t trip on the ice when you’re carrying that thing. It’s not light.] Here it comes, gloved handlers and all. It’s so ostentatious. I love it. Every name of every champion is etched into that thing.
Dustin Brown can’t connect his beard to his mustache, but he can lift that trophy like it was weightless. Then Willie Mitchell, who waited 15 years for this moment. Then Gagné, Kopitar, Greene, Stoll, Williams, Richards, Carter, Penner, Quick [Here’s where the crowd starts to go berserk], and Drew. I wish I had something profound to say at this moment, but the looks of sheer joy on their faces is so much more beautiful than anything I could write. I love this team. They earned it.