Thursday, May 1, 2014
Kings add historic chapter to their success
By Arash Markazi
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Years from now, I'm sure I will tell my kids about these Los Angeles Kings.
When they seem down and out, when it seems as if they don't have a chance, when the odds are completely stacked against them, I will put my arms around them and tell them the story about the 2013-14 Kings.
I will tell them about this gritty group of guys that had been left for dead after losing the first three games of their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
Alec Martinez, left, congratulates Anze Kopitar after a second-period goal that sent the Kings on their way to a Game 7 win at San Jose.
They didn't just lose the first two games of the series; they got smoked 13-5. They looked so bad that some fans were ready to wave the white flags they were given at Staples Center before they dropped Game 3 in overtime.
I will tell them about the mountain that Kings players talked about after losing those first three games and their confidence in being able to climb that mountain together if they all believed and pulled in the same direction.
"Anything is possible if you're still playing," Mike Richards said before Game 4. "You just can't look at the mountain and expect to do it all at once. It's not a time to feel sorry for yourself. It's a time to be excited for the opportunity. Not many teams have done this so it's a good challenge for us."
And I will tell them about a magical one-week stretch where the Kings completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by becoming only the fourth NHL team and fifth team in North American professional sports history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, culminating with Wednesday's 5-1 win.
Like most stories about perseverance, overcoming the odds and refusing to quit, it will be a story that will stand the test of time.
"We believed in ourselves," Drew Doughty said. "We were never going to give up. ... It was so much fun. It will never compare to winning a Stanley Cup obviously, but it's right there with it -- this feeling."
This Kings team is still mainly composed of players who were on that Stanley Cup-winning team from two seasons ago that rewrote the record books. That team needed to win the final game of the regular season just to secure a playoff spot and went on to become the first No. 8 seed in North American professional sports history to win a championship.
That team, however, made it look so easy once the playoffs began. They took a 3-0 lead in every series and won their first 10 games on the road.
Last season, they showed they had the heart of a champion by coming back from a 2-0 series deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues and went on to beat the Sharks in a grueling Game 7. And this year, the Kings did what most outside of their dressing room thought they couldn't do by coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to beat the Sharks in Game 7 again.
When Kings captain Dustin Brown sits down with his kids to tell them about this team, he will have to remind his son Jacob, 6, that even he doubted his dad and his team.
"My oldest is starting to understand it all and he told me we were going to get knocked out when we were down 3-0," Brown said. "You can't really blame a 6-year-old for thinking that, but you just never know what can happen."
The Kings didn't win any trophies Wednesday night in San Jose, but the looks on the faces of the players in the dressing room and the uncharacteristically wide grin on the face of Kings coach Darryl Sutter after the game said it all. The Kings knew what they had just done put them in rarefied postseason air and added another chapter to the ever-expanding storybook they have pieced together since 2012, a stretch where they have played more playoff games than any other team in the NHL.
This core group has made long-suffering Kings fans forget about the first 45 years of the franchise, where playoff success was rare and making it past the second round, outside of one magical run in 1993, was non-existent.
"We just have a lot of heart on this team," Doughty said. "We have guys who are so competitive and want to win. That's how Dean built this team. He built it with guys who are competitive and will do anything to win. I think that showed. We never gave up and we came back hard."
It's a comeback story that probably will be told for years to come, but it's a story the Kings believe is far from being over yet.
"This is something we're all going to remember for the rest of our lives," Doughty said. "But we're not done."