NHL Playoffs: Kings Dominate Ducks, Teemu and Saku Perhaps Bid Farewell
Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks – LAK wins 6-2, LAK wins series 4-3
A Game 7 is where legends are born.
That may be hyperbole, but those who perform in a Game 7 and lead their team to victory are held in extremely high regard from a fan base and contributions are not easily forgotten.
For Los Angeles, there is no bigger Game 7 performer than Justin Williams. For his career, Williams has 10 points in five career Game 7 contests, including an assist in the Kings’ triumph over the San Jose Sharks in the first round. Williams has long been one of the game’s most underrated players; he was fourth in the entire NHL in CorsiForRelative in 2013 at 10.1-percent above his team’s average (which is high, considering who he plays for) and 15th in 2011-2012 at 6.5 percent above team average. If someone was going to step up for Los Angeles, he was a good a bet as any.
For Anaheim, how their young defensemen held up under the pressure of a Game 7 would be an interesting development. Both Cam Fowler (22) and Hampus Lindholm (20) were relied-upon to this point in the playoffs for the Ducks (over 23 minutes and 18 minutes at 5-on-5 per 60 minutes, respectively) but would be in a pressure-cooker of a situation tonight. How they would hold up against one of the most experienced playoff teams in the West would be interesting to follow.
It didn’t take long for both Fowler and Williams to make an impact early. After Fowler failed to clear the zone twice on the power play, Williams was at the front of the net to jam away at a rebound and put the Kings up 1-0 less than five minutes in to the game. A little over four minutes later, Lindholm was out-muscled by Jeff Carter at the Anaheim blue line (and Lindholm took a penalty on the play) and Carter went in alone on goaltender John Gibson to make it a 2-0 game less than 10 minutes in the first period.
The Kings would start the second period with a 3-0 lead and the coffin would be nailed after a Fowler turnover at the offensive blue line. Trying to make something happen, Fowler tried to get through the defense of Los Angeles, turned the puck over, and Anze Kopitar made it 4-0 with a snap shot past John Gibson. The young netminder would be pulled after the fourth goal.
It was a 5-2 game as time was ticking off the clock and Sami Vatanen (22, another young Ducks defenseman) lost Tanner Pearson, who was his mark, on a rush and Pearson sealed the game with Los Angeles’ sixth goal. Getting the second assist on that sixth goal was Justin Williams, who now upped his career Game 7 totals to 12 points (six goals and six assists) in six career games.
Besides the kids and Williams, the final storyline revolved around two Anaheim veterans. This could be the final game for both Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu. Koivu turn 40 later this year and has been on back-to-back 1-year contracts. He could pull a Teemu and play a few more years, but that’s quite uncertain. On a personal note, Koivu was my favourite Montreal player as a kid and I will never forget watching his return to Montreal after his battle with a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The crowd was on its feet in ovation for over eight minutes.
Teemu, of course, will be remembered for his 76-goal rookie season, but for also being a class-act off the ice as well as on the ice. If it’s his last season, he scored 684 career goals and was part of the Anaheim team that won the Cup in 2007.
Both Koivu and Selanne, if it is indeed their last seasons, will leave a hole in hockey that won’t easily be filled, not only with their play but more importantly their character.
Of course, we’ll always have this:
Thank you, both of you.