Some fans booed. Some fans threw garbage on the ice. Some fans chanted, “Let’s go Coyotes!” Regardless of how you took the game, either Kings fan or Coyotes, it was over and the Kings are headed to their first Stanley Cup Final in almost 2 decades.
It wasn’t just the fans who were frustrated. Mike Smith complained about the officiating. Shane Doan gave Dustin Brown a stern talking-to during handshakes. It was a bitter end for a Coyotes team that had been frustrated by the incessant forechecking pressure, staunch PK, and stellar goaltending from a superior Kings team. Most of all, it was a Coyotes team that was frustrated by a captain who played the game on the edge and was never penalized for it. Mind you, he was never penalized for good reason: he never deserved it.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, I am biased. I understand that my perspective is from a house in Los Angeles about 15 minutes from Staples Center. If you care to read on, here’s my take.
First, Dustin Brown. From what I can glean this morning, there is a split in perspective amongst pundits on the hit. However, the majority fall on the side that it was clean. Why?
1) The hit came immediately after the whistle. You might hear a “train leaving from point A” type argument about it but the reality is that these guys are moving at high speed and are taught to play through the whistle. The hit came so close to the whistle it would be impossible for Brown to stop without a tether around his waist.
2) He led with the shoulder. This is academic. Look at the hit. Brown leans in with his shoulder. You might hear that Brown has a reputation of aggressive play but all that means is he hits. A lot. However, he doesn’t have a reputation of kneeing. Which brings me to my next point.
3) His knee did not deviate from it’s path. He didn’t bow his leg out to knee Roszival. His foot was planted on the ice so he could, you know, skate. It was an accident.
So, why is all of this ire about Brown bubbling up now when he’s played this way his whole career? Because he’s taking away other people’s dreams and he’s doing it hard, fast, clean, and well. He’s not just a power-forward, he’s an overpowering forward. He’s frustrated the hell out of every team so far. It was supposed to be the President’s Trophy Canucks but it was all Brown. It was supposed to be Backes and the identical Blues but it was all Brown. It was supposed to be a showdown of Doan vs. Brown but that one went hands down to Brown.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the series. Doan lays a questionable hit on Lewis. Not an intent to injure but a penalty for sure. Doan claimed he was trying to pokecheck and didn’t see that Lewis turned his back. Doan plays on the edge and he knows what happened but he’s still upset about Brown’s style of play?
Hanzal. Dirty hit from behind with dirty intent to it. Clearly a penalty. Clearly an ejection. Clearly a suspension. Dirty play. (EDIT: I forgot him tossing his head back when Brown’s stick got close to his face to try to buy a call and his slew foot on Kopitar. Totally clean and honest plays there.)
Tippett. This is where the tone of the series changed. He energized his team after game 3. How? By complaining about the officiating. Did he have a real gripe? Yes, and with good reason. The officiating in this series lost control almost right out the gate. However, it was bad for both sides. You could go back and watch every game and point out a half dozen missed calls either way, be it a penalty or two, or Doughty clearly keeping the puck onside for a chance at the end of Game 5 OT. See how easy that was? The reffing stunk but Tippet is the only one to complain about it so the perception becomes “the Kings are dirty.”
It stings to lose, no doubt about it. And when you’re in the heat of the moment the way the Coyotes were after Game 5, so close to pushing it to Game 6, it’s even worse.
Yet, people who weren’t rooting for the Coyotes or rooting against the Kings saw the truth. A superior team imposing its will throughout the series.
Coyotes fans saw an unfair series.
Kings fans saw something awesome. Something they’ve waited so long for. Something they don’t know when they’ll get to see again.
It has been a historic Playoffs for the Los Angeles Kings, boasting a record setting post-season already. So much so that over 4,000 Kings fans made the trek to the airport last night in hopes that they could inspire their team to make it just a little bit more special in the coming series.
As for me, I had tickets to Game 6 and I can say with certainty that I’ve never been so happy not to go to a hockey game in all my life.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney