LA Kings Justin Williams Emerged As Clear-Cut Choice For Conn Smythe Trophy

LOS ANGELES — Heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and right wing Justin Williams appeared to have put some distance between themselves and a small handful of teammates who were also in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded annually to the Most Valuable Player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But once the Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup in Game 5 on defenseman Alec Martinez’ goal at 14:43 of the second overtime period, the choice was clear: the trophy had to go to veteran right wing Justin Williams.

Indeed, Williams was the best choice for the Conn Smythe Trophy, even though the Kings got outstanding performances from several players. But his play in the Stanley Cup Final, when he scored two goals and added five assists for seven points, with a +2 plus/minus rating and one game-winning goal, clinched the Conn Smythe Trophy, as he led all players in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in scoring.

On top of that, Williams scored nine goals and contributed 16 assists for 25 points, with a +13 plus/minus rating and 35 penalty minutes in 26 playoff games this season. He ended the playoffs ranked third in goals scored and in points, second in assists and led the league in plus/minus.

Williams spoke with the media about winning the Conn Smythe Trophy after the on-ice celebration.

“It’s pretty sweet,” said Williams. “To get that award and to get the ovation that I got from my teammates was pretty special and emotional for me.”

He certainly earned that response from his teammates.

“Justin Williams is an unbelievable hockey player,” said Martinez. “He’s been around for so long and he’s such a great leader the room. He can do a lot of special things with the puck—it seems like he’s always got the puck on a string.”

“[The media] has called him Mr. Game 7,” added Martinez. “I think I’ve called him that a couple of times, too. I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s a clutch player, he’s a big time player. He makes big plays in big games. He’s awesome.”

“[Winning the Conn Smythe Trophy is] huge,” said center Jarret Stoll. “That’s how he works. That’s how he plays in important games. He comes through in important games. If you look at the [names] on that trophy, that’s how those guys are. The bigger the games get, he’s always showing up, making the big play.”

Speaking of the names on that trophy, Williams has joined some very elite company that includes the legends of the game, such as Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr, Yvan Cournoyer, Bernie Parent, Larry Robinson, Mike Bossy, Patrick Roy, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, among others.

“I can’t believe I won that,” said Williams. “That will, I don’t think, ever, ever sink in. [I’m just] the guy from Cobourg, [Ontario] who played the game he loves and got to be surrounded with a lot of great teammates throughout my years.”

Kings President, Business Operations Luc Robitaille put Williams accomplishments into perspective.

“There is no one that is better than him,” said Robitaille. “He’s incredible. We talk about big game players like [former San Francisco 49ers quarterback] Joe Montana, and all that. Then you see what Justin Williams has done in Game 7’s over his career, it’s amazing. He deserves to be the MVP. He was absolutely amazing.”

“He’s the only guy who has that many points in Game 7’s,” added Robitaille. “He’s alone. He can’t be compared to anybody. You think Joe Montana in big games, but that is it. You can’t think of other big guys in big games that many times in so many years. It’s truly incredible what this guy has done in his career. He’s alone. He beat Gretzky, [Doug] Gilmour. Everybody. He’s alone.”

Williams was also the MVP of the playoffs for his contributions that do not show up on a scoresheet.

“You can throw all the stats out the window, and he’s had tremendous stats, especially in Game 7’s,” center Anze Kopitar told the media before Game 5. “There’s something else about him. He really glues this team together.”

“[Williams is] the same guy I saw when he was in junior hockey,” said Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi. “We go way back. I remember standing behind the glass, watching him in junior hockey. I just love the rebel, the chip on his shoulder.”

“There are some things he’s gone through in his life that I can relate to,” added Lombardi. “To say that I would’ve predicted that he would continue at this pace—he doesn’t surprise me. But what you see here is the same thing you saw in junior hockey. This [guy’s] got a little rebel in him, but those guys rise to the occasion. He’s a special, special human being.”

When he was told about Lombardi’s comments, Williams expressed his gratitude.

“Dean Lombardi has given me a great opportunity here,” Williams noted. “He saw somebody, a player that not a lot of people saw. He gave me a chance, he gave me another opportunity when my career wasn’t going the way I wanted it to.”

“I was able to be a piece of this puzzle, the team that he built,” Williams added. “I’m privileged to play on this team with all the great players. I don’t do anything flashy out there. I’m not the fastest skater. I don’t have the greatest shot. I just try and do the best I can out there with what I have.”

“I feel my smarts and my instincts have gotten me where I am, and my competitiveness.”

Williams, who met the media with his son, Jaxon, at his side, said that he never thought about winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

“The focus was solely on the game,” he said. “That’s no BS. It certainly was. The [trophy] that matters isn’t here right now. This one is just a little extra icing. It’s a little sweeter that I got presented with that trophy.”

“Clearly it could have gone to a lot of players on our team,” he added. “Up and down our lineup, you can make a case for any line, any defensive pair. That’s not just blowing smoke. That’s the God’s honest truth. [But] to be singled out like that, have my teammates give me applause, and be genuinely excited for me, that was the most special thing.”

Williams’ humility is likely just one of the reasons that his teammates gave him that ovation.

“I love him,” said winger and captain Dustin Brown. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. Twenty guys who will do anything for [each other]. That’s what makes us special, as a team.”

LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings right wing Justin Williams (right) receives the Conn Smythe Trophy from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (left) after the Kings won the 2014 Stanley Cup at
Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 13, 2014. Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein. Courtesy Los Angeles Kings.

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