MVP Justin Williams is definition of clutch
June, 14, 2014
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- Wearing khaki cargo shots, flip flops and a vintage, purple Justin Williams jersey given to him on a fathers’ road trip, Craig Williams watched as his son Justin celebrated the third Stanley Cup of his career on the ice moments after beating the Rangers 3-2 in the Kings' double-overtime Game 5 win Friday.
Three Stanley Cups and now one Conn Smythe Trophy to go with it. The collection of accomplishments is growing for the kid from Cobourg, the southern Ontario town with a population that would fill Staples Center just about perfectly.
“He’s achieving goals that I only dream about,” Craig Williams told ESPN.com. “Nothing but elation. As parents, we’re proud as hell.”
They’re proud, but Justin Williams was still a bit in shock.
With his son, Jaxon, on his lap, the celebration on the ice over and him now sitting in a chair with the Conn Smythe trophy on a table in front of him, the reality was still sinking in.
He pointed to the trophy.
“I can’t believe I won that,” Justin Williams said, Jaxon examining it a few moments later. “That will I don’t think ever, ever sink in.”
He was as deserving as any name on that trophy. He finished with 25 points in 26 postseason games, one shy of teammates Anze Kopitar for the most in the playoffs. He came on strong in the Stanley Cup finals with seven points in five games, more than anyone.
He scored the overtime winner in Game 1. He had three assists in Game 2. In the Kings' three Game 7s, Williams had two goals and three assists.
He’s disproving the theory that’s there’s no such thing as clutch in hockey. It’s impossible to watch him in big games and think otherwise. He opened the scoring in the Kings' clincher, which broke the Conn Smythe tie he had with Drew Doughty in the mind of at least one voter.
In a tight game, he kept the chances coming, finishing with a game-high eight shots on goal -- double the best effort from any of the Rangers. When he was on the ice, the Kings controlled 70.9 percent of the shot attempts at even strength, a remarkable number.
It’s what he does. Especially in the biggest games.
“He’s one of the most clutch players that ever played the game,” said former Kings defenseman and current Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake on the ice after the win. “Guys just have that mentality they want to be the guy. Other guys play to be safe.”
Not Justin Williams. He plays the same way he did when Kings GM Dean Lombardi watched him as a junior hockey player scoring 37 goals one season for the Plymouth Whalers.
Lombardi saw a kid who played with a chip on his shoulder, carried from his days of getting cut from youth teams. He was a first-round draft pick, but it wasn’t an easy path to get there.
“We go a ways back,” said Lombardi, who was part of the Flyers organization when Williams was there. “Some things he’s gone through in his life, I can relate to. ... He’s got a little rebel in him, but those guys rise to the occasion. He’s a special, special human being.”
You can tell that’s the case by seeing the reaction of his teammates when he won the Conn Smythe. Kings captain Dustin Brown was asked what he first said to Williams after he won the award.
His eyes filled with emotion, Brown could barely get it out.
“Just,” he said, pausing briefly. “I love him. At the end of the day, that’s what’s it’s all about -- going to battle with 20 guys that would do anything for you. That’s what makes us special. We’re a team.”(
Back home in Cobourg, there are signs that say, “Bring home the Cup, Justin.” His mom Denise joked that she already received 100,000 texts and the Stanley Cup was still being passed around.
“We can’t even keep up,” she said.
“We’re not even going to look at it until tomorrow,” his dad said.
Maybe that’s when it will start to sink in. All these accomplishments despite being traded twice and suffering through injuries that stalled his career into his late 20s. This was the postseason when the hockey world truly gained an appreciation for Justin Williams.
He might not believe his name will be on the Conn Smythe trophy, but everyone else can. It will also be etched on the bigger trophy for the third time.
“I’m speechless,” Williams said.
Is it possible to be any more proud as parents? Justin Williams' mom and dad. pic.twitter.com/Fb42o0mcD0— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) June 14, 2014