The Kings' clutch king

Posted: June 12, 2014

NEW YORK - Justin Williams views himself more as the butt of a joke than the answer to a trivia question.

Which NHL player holds the record for most points in Stanley Cup playoff Game 7s?

Williams set the new mark earlier this month with his 14th career point in seven Game 7 situations, in which he is now 7-0. The two previous recordholders: Wayne Gretzky and Doug Gilmour.

"It's kind of more like which name doesn't belong?" Williams said with a smile on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

During this Stanley Cup final, so much of the focus in Philadelphia has been on former Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Both are one win away from their second Stanley Cup in three seasons since being traded.

Part of that is because of the controversial manner in which Richards and Carter were dealt. Part of that is because those two players pulled the Flyers within grasping distance of a Cup 4 years ago and then found success so soon elsewhere.

Williams, on the other hand, has not played for the Flyers since Jan. 17, 2004 - more than a decade ago. He has been traded twice. But unlike Richards and Carter, who cut the cord quickly after acrimonious divorces, Williams has never really left the Philadelphia area. It is now home for the Cobourg, Ontario, native.

As a result, he is the one former Flyer - in a playoff year filled with them - who has a dedicated pocket of fans pulling for him. His wife, Kelly, is from Glenolden. His mother-in-law is the superintendent of a school district in Delaware County.

When Williams last won with the Kings in 2012, he brought Lord Stanley's chalice to his permanent residence in Ventnor, N.J. He spends the last month of his summer every year skating with current Flyers in Voorhees before shipping back to Southern California.

Williams, 32, loathes pumping his own tires. But he is easily the most intriguing story line of the Stanley Cup playoffs - a non-superstar on the precipice of his third Stanley Cup (also Carolina, 2006) and quietly pecking away at votes for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

"I'm pretty uncomfortable talking about stuff like that," Williams said. "I feel very fortunate helping the team the way I am. We're a team. I'm a player who does everything he can to help - a guy who is going to go after it and try to make a difference."

It is not ridiculous to think that the Kings would not be one more win away from the Stanley Cup if not for Williams. His magic occurred so often this spring that it almost seemed routine.

In the first round, he netted two goals - including the game-winner - and an assist in Game 6 as the Kings rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose. Williams ignited a second-round Game 7 rout over crosstown rival Anaheim with the game's first goal. Then, he added another goal and assist in Game 7 against Chicago, for good measure.

Like any other player, he admits he feels "stress and butterflies" before elimination games, but he's found a way to harness them so he's "not just taking up space."

With 24 points, he trails only teammate Anze Kopitar for the playoff lead this spring. He is on a short list with Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty for the Conn Smythe - an award he says means little in comparison.

"When you're presented with it, I think a lot of guys just want to put it aside and look at the big jug," Williams said yesterday. "I'm a player who is really just another piece of the puzzle that everyone is part of here. Throughout my career, I don't do anything flashy out there. I'm not the fastest skater. I don't have the hardest shot. I just try and do the best I can out there with what I have . . . Step by step, I've gotten to be the player I've become. I want to keep getting better.

"I mean, to be even mentioned with these big guys in that conversation is awesome. But, hey, the big one is what matters. I want to taste it again."

Doughty, thought of by many as one of the top defensemen in the game, recently called Williams the Kings' most underrated player "by a mile."

"He doesn't get enough credit for what he does," Doughty said. "There are two guys on this team that I want to give the puck to, and that's him and [Kopitar]. When they have the puck, plays happen."

With credit to mentors John LeClair, Rick Tocchet, Keith Primeau and Eric Desjardins, Williams has climbed to the top without much fanfare or publicity - except for the dedicated cheering sections in here and his hometown. That's enough for him.

"I got plenty of opportunity in Philadelphia. I was a guy that was just trying to find my way," Williams said. "Heck, I played as an 18-year-old. They gave me every opportunity that I could ask for. Time marches on. I was able to find my way."

Slap shots

Former Flyer Dan Carcillo, suspended six games last round for an altercation with an official, said he does not know if he will be re-inserted into Alain Vigneault's lineup tonight for Game 4. It is the first game he is eligible to return . . . If New York stretches the series to Game 6, the Kings will break the 1987 Flyers' NHL record for most playoff games (26) in one season.


On Twitter: @DNFlyers

Blog: ph.ly/FrequentFlyers

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|