Kings Win, Salute Retiring Salanne
By Steven Lieberman
It has been a miraculous run for the Los Angeles Kings so far in the playoffs. In round one, they managed to pull off a reverse sweep of the San Jose Sharks, winning that series 4-3 after losing the first three games, and then finishing off the Anaheim Ducks, 6-2, at the Honda Center in the seventh game of the second round -- an away-game in a hostile environment. This is the first time the freeway rivals met in the playoffs.
Ducks superstar Teemu Selänne didn’t have fun at the Kings going-away party. Not only were the Ducks eliminated from the playoffs, but it is also the last game “The Finnish Flash” will every play. He decided to hang up his skates after a phenomenal 21-season NHL career at the age of 43.
After the game, an emotional Selänne spoke to the media.
“I still love this game, and I still know I can play, but I think it is the right time,” Selänne said. “Winning the 2007 Stanley Cup [with the Ducks] has to be the biggest crown for my career. To be honest, the most proud I am is I have been able to play so many years and at this age. You all know when you get older, it’s not going to get any easier. But to be able to compete against these young guys and still enjoy this and play well, that has been another one of the greatest things in my career. I’m really thankful for that.”
“It’s sad. That guy has been an unbelievable player in this league for so long,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “Everyone respects him. He deserves that respect. To see him go…to know that next year we’ll play Anaheim without him out there is going to feel weird. I couldn’t be more happy for him. He had an unbelievable career. I guess you feel bad in a way that we ended it this way.”
When the Kings and Ducks players were all finished shaking hands after the deciding game, Kings players stayed on the ice and tapped their sticks in a show of respect as Selänne raised his stick and thanked the fans.
“There are not many guys left in this league that have earned the respect and admiration of not only the fans but the players he plays against,” Kings forward Justin Williams said. “I think we would have stayed out there 20 minutes if we could. If this was his last game, and I imagine it is, he has nothing to be upset about. He is an awesome player.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau echoed what Doughty and Williams, who had the first goal of the game, had to say about Selänne.
“The universal respect is held for just certain people,” Boudreau said. “[Kings coach] Darryl Sutter is someone I saw had it. Bobby Orr had it. And Teemu Selänne has it, and it’s deserved. He never passes up an autograph request. When we’re out of town and the bus is waiting, Teemu is always the one signing autographs. He is universally loved and respected by his peers.”
The focus of the series was supposed to be about the Ducks against the Kings playing each other for the first time in the playoffs, but one couldn’t help but see Selänne as the center of attention.
The Kings have been on a mission since Sutter spoke his famous quote -- “We won’t go away quietly, that’s for sure” -- during the postgame press conference after losing game 3 to the Sharks at Staples Center, putting them at a 0-3 game deficit in the series.
The Kings players put that quote into action, coming out in attack-mode from the opening puck drop in game 7 against the Ducks. They took complete control and scored three goals within the first 10 minutes of the game – goals by Williams, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
Carter and Richards have become the Kings dynamic duo, much like Adam Oates and Brett Hull were for the St. Louis Blues and Selänne and Paul Kariya were for the Ducks back when they first arrived on the scene in 1996.
The Kings dominated the Ducks, outshooting them 16-6 in the first 20 minutes and never looked back. Anchored by goalie Jonathan Quick, they played smart and poised.
Six different players scored for the Kings, and eleven players recorded at least one point. It really was a team effort.
After winning the second round of the playoffs, the Kings will now go on to battle the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals for the second consecutive postseason. The Kings are looking to revenge falling to the Blackhawks in five games last year.