Can anyone doubt that Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez earned his Day with the Cup? After all, he scored the game winning goal both in the Conference Finals and the actual Stanley Cup Finals — both in overtime, by the way.
Let’s start by reliving those two goals.
Alec Martinez’s Game Winners
For (yet another) Game 7, the LA Kings faced the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Chicago Blackhawks. Not only was it the Kings’ third Game 7 of the playoffs, the game went into overtime.
The score was 4-4. Even though Los Angeles are puck-possession, well, kings, these were the reigning champs. Play went back and forth. Then, a quarter of the way through overtime, play entered the Blackhawks’ zone. The puck came to Martinez, and he lobbed it toward Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
It went in. It bounced off defenseman Nick Leddy and careened past Crawford. Crawford slumped. The crowd in Chicago’s United Center growled in disappointment. No matter, third-line defenseman Alec Martinez had scored the game winner.
Surely it was a fluke, right? This was no superstar Drew Doughty. This was Alec Martinez, a player with some of the lowest minutes on the team.
It was no fluke. The Kings didn’t take it to seven games with the New York Rangers — at a certain point even the Energizer Bunny Kings get weary. They solved the Rangers in five.
And Alec Martinez solved another goalie, future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist.
To Lundqvist’s credit, he was a superb goalie that night. He made 48 saves — 32 of them from the third period on. No, you can’t lay the blame at Lundqvist’s feet.
You can lay it at Martinez’s feet, though. The game didn’t just go into overtime, it went into double overtime.
Late in the second overtime, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made a key save. Play moved up the ice, a 3-on-2, and Martinez was part of the action. Kings forward Tyler Toffoli — he of the “Whoo-hoo” to his father on live TV — shot the puck. Lundqvist made the save, but the rebound came right to Martinez’s stick. Lundqvist was on the far side of the net, leaving wide open space for Martinez.
And he buried it in. The crowd at the LA Staples Center went delirious. Martinez went delirious — he says he lost a few seconds:
“I blacked out. I tossed my gear, the guys jumped in, and I couldn’t breathe for a while. It’s a surreal moment.”
Surreal or not, thanks to Alec Martinez’s overtime goal, the Kings had won the Stanley Cup.
Alec Martinez’s Day With the Cup
Alec Martinez is the last amongst players and coaches to receive his Day with the Cup. No reason why everyone else got to go before him — maybe they saved the best for last. Indeed, the Cup will visit vice president and Kings legend Luc Robitaille absolute last.
In any case, Martinez received the Stanley Cup around 10:30 am on Monday, August 25, at his home in Allen, Texas. According to NHL.com and the player’s own tweets, he and a group of family and friends had lunch at a nearby driving range — NHL players do love their golf in the off-season. Later he held a Stanley Cup party at his newly-purchased home, then everyone went out for dinner at an area restaurant. At some point in all the festivities Martinez filled the Cup with Fruit Loops. And that was Martinez’s chill Day with the Cup.
One question going into the 2014-15 season is how big a role Martinez will take on with the Kings. Even before his playoff heroics, he had started becoming a valuable asset on the LA blueline. Come training camp time, Alec Martinez could very well prove worthy of top-4 playing time. And that will give the LA Kings a formidable defensive corps indeed.
Regardless, Alec Martinez will always be remembered as the quiet defenseman who proved to be the clutchiest of all clutch players.
Photo credit: Philip Pritchard’s Twitter
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