On Monday night, the Los Angeles Kings had won two-straight, hoping to force a seventh and deciding game in their already-hostile series against the San Jose Sharks. Justin Williams, one of the silver-and-black's richest playoff veterans, came through when it mattered most as he scored twice, including the game-winner. But coming through when his team's facing elimination is nothing new for the 32-year-old. In fact, he's been doing this since he first arrived in the NHL.
Before being traded to Los Angeles in 2009, Justin Williams had spent time with the Carolina Hurricanes and before that with the Philadelphia Flyers. Since making his playoff debut with the Flyers in 2002, Williams has seen a lot during his postseason career. After winning his first Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, the Cobourg, Ontario, native won another championship helping the Los Angeles Kings reach the top in 2012 en route to the team's glorious (and unpredictable) run. But en route to said wins and even other playoff achievements, Justin Williams had never been one to simply cheer from the sidelines. For the 2006 Hurricanes and the 2012 Kings especially, it is hard to argue whether those respective teams would have been champions without Williams's services.
For everything he has contributed to his teams's respective successes throughout his playoff career, Justin Williams never looked better than when his team was facing elimination.
So far in his postseason career, Justin Williams has taken part in 13 elimination games. During that span, the veteran has scored 10 goals and added seven assists, including, among others, two in 2006: his game-winner against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres to send Carolina to the Stanley Cup Final and his empty-netter in Game 7 of the final round to seal the franchise's first championship. But for what he's done for the Hurricanes and Flyers respectively, no team has benefited from Justin Williams's clutch play more than the Los Angeles Kings.
With the Kings alone, Williams has played in eight elimination games, scoring seven goals and adding two assists. In their series against San Jose this year alone, Williams has four goals, including a pair in their Game 6 victory on Monday night.
On Wednesday, Justin Williams will be suiting up for his ninth elimination game as a member of the Los Angeles Kings and 14th overall. When the Kings acquired him from Carolina in 2009, I was half-skeptical. The reluctance in me was worried that the player Los Angeles traded the other way (Patrick O'Sullivan) would break out and become a star. After all, he had already shown promise while with the Kings. But the excitement in me knew what the Kings were getting in return. After all, growing up on the east coast, I was able to see just how dangerous a player Justin Williams could be when the calendar turned to spring both with the Flyers and again with the Hurricanes.
To my relief (and with all due respect to Patrick O'Sullivan), he never did achieve much success at the NHL level since leaving Los Angeles. As for Justin Williams, he was as good as advertised.
His regular season average of just over 14 goals and 23 assists while donning the silver-and-black may not put him in the running for any individual awards but it's when the NHL's second season begins when Justin Williams really flourishes, especially when his team's back is to the wall.
He may be a veteran and he may be a leader but Justin Williams is also a two-time Stanley Cup champion and that is no fluke. At 6'1, 189 pounds, Williams may not exactly meet the expectations of his team in size but that certainly doesn't mean that he's unable to help out in other facets of the game. After all, as the old adage goes, When the going gets tough, the tough gets going - and the Los Angeles Kings and their fans can count on good 'ol No. 14 to be front-and-center to show adversity the door.