Los Angeles Finally Makes Its Mark: The Best Teams of the 2011-2012 NHL Season

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Hollywood loves storybooks endings and there was none better than the Los Angeles Kings. This is a team that barely made it to the playoffs, but got in as the eighth seed and shocked the (hockey) world by bringing the Stanley Cup to Tinseltown for the first time in franchise history. No one, Kings fans, hockey fans, and especially anyone playing the Kings saw this coming. The Kings didn’t just win the Stanley Cup — the dominated in ways not seen by a team in any sport in years. Suddenly Lakers and Clippers fans were wondering what the fuss was all about with their roomies on ice at Staples Center.

The Kings were really playing like a top seeded team in eighth seeded team’s clothing. It all started in the first round against last season’s finalists — the Vancouver Canucks. There was no way this lousy eighth seed from la-la land was going to beat the defending Western Conference champions and Presidents’ Trophy winner for best record and most points in the league, right?

Wrong! The Kings made fans in Vancouver want to riot all over again as they went out four games to one. Kings goalie, and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick allowed just seven goals and a total of 20 in the entire playoffs. After disposing the Canucks the Kings went on a tear and just blew out the second seeded St. Louis Blues in a 4-0 sweep. The Phoenix Coyotes were the only ones in the way of the Kings and reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the 1992-93 season. It was the Kings winning 4-2 and on to the cup to face the New Jersey Devils.

Oh, and New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 and the Kings pounded the Vancouver Canucks! And yes. That’s now 19 years in a row since a team from Canada has won the Stanley Cup. Here are the Top 5 NHL teams of 2011-12.

5 Phoenix Coyotes (42-27-13) 97 Points

The Pacific Division champs came close to being the first team from a desert to play and possibly win the cup. No one in their right mind would have figured that the team formally known as the Winnipeg Jets and the Kings would be playing for the right to go to the Stanley Cup finals. The third seed out of the west won its first playoff series since 1987 against the Chicago Blackhawks (when they were the Jets and when many of Top 5’s readers were born). The Coyotes put away the Nashville Predators in five games in the conference semifinals only to have the Kings put an end to that fairy tale in the conference finals in five games.

4 New Jersey Devils (48-28-6) 102 Points

The Devils didn’t make the playoffs last season, but came back to make it to the finals this year with an ageless future hall of fame goalie. The Devils finished fourth in the Atlantic Division and got in as the sixth seed from the east making the playoffs for the 20th time in 22 seasons. The Devils got a scare early by being pushed to seven games against the Florida Panthers, but went on to beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 and the Rangers in six games. That might have been too much for the geezer they had in goal as the Kings prevailed in the finals.

3 St. Louis Blues (49-22-11) 109 Points

The Blues won the Central Division, were the second seed and looked like a team to beat — for the Kings. The Blues were looking to sway some of the Cardinals fans their way as they somehow won the Central Division over the Detroit Red Wings for the first time since the 1999-2000. Once the Kings got rid of the Canucks in the first round, it looked like they would be easy fodder for the Blues. The Blues were coming off their first playoff win series since 2002 by doing something that every team in the west does — beat the San Jose Sharks. That would be all as they decided to hit the golf course early as the Kings humiliated them in a 4-0 sweep.

2 New York Rangers (51-24-7) 109 Points

When was the last time the Rangers were in anyone’s top 5? They won the Atlantic Division for the first time since they won the Stanley Cup in 1993-94. That would have set up a Los Angeles verses New York final, which would have had NBC, which was carrying the finals, drooling. But the Devils put a stop to that nonsense with a 4-2 win in the Eastern Conference finals. The Rangers, which were the top seeded team in the east, gave New York hockey fans something to cheer for the first time since carrying the cup during the first Bill Clinton administration.

1 Los Angeles Kings (40-27-15) 95 Points

For the entire spring, the city of Los Angeles was a Hockey Town and for once the three pro basketball teams that rent Staples Center (the L.A. Sparks are a pro women’s team whether you believe it or not) were playing second fiddle to hockey!This team was an afterthought that even the Sparks had more banners hanging from the rafters at Staples Center than the Kings. But the Kings won theirs in style and put together one of the greatest season for a team in any sport by becoming the only eighth seed towin a championship. It was the first for the Kings, which have been around since 1968. Quick led the league in shutouts with 10 and was second in goals against average at 1.95. But somewhere down the Interstate 5 in Anaheim, the Ducks and their fans could give a crap, because they won their cup first and did it in a shorter time.

Boston Bruins (49-29-4) 102 Points
The Northeast Division winners and defending Stanley Cup champions were probably a little tired from allthe celebrating as they went out in the first round to the Washington Capitals.

Vancouver Canucks (51-22-9) 111 Points
At least the fans didn’t riot after losing in the first round.

Pittsburgh Penguins (51-25-6) 108 Points
The Penguins finished just one point behind the Rangers for the Atlantic Division crown, but suffered an embarrassing 4-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs.

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