Saturday, June 9, 2012
Adversity has found the Kings
By Pierre LeBrun ESPN.com
NEWARK, N.J. -- Well now, let's find out a little more about these Los Angeles Kings, eh?
For the first time in these playoffs, the screws have tightened a little on the once seemingly unbeatable Kings.
Oh, my gosh, adversity! A series lasting longer than five games!
Two losses in a series for the first time all spring. A record-breaking road record finally snapped.
From sweep to survival now.
The stakes couldn't be any higher Monday night at Staples Center, where the Kings need to wrap this up or else face the unenviable task of a seventh game back here in New Jersey, where the pressure will all be on them, with talk of the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs dancing in their heads.
For the first time in the playoffs, the Kings have to deal with a little self-doubt.
"Now we're going into a tough environment in L.A., to try and ruin the party again because I think they're so close to winning the Stanley Cup, I'm sure it's getting to them a little bit,'' said Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, already playing the mental game with the Kings, "and to be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them, and we're looking to just stay alive."
No matter how you cut it, the Kings are facing the most pressure they've faced all playoffs.
"I'm going to say the pressure's on them because they're the home team and they had a hundred-some points, OK?" Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said.
Well, he's right on one count -- the Kings are technically the underdogs as the No. 8 seed. But after winning 15 of their first 17 playoff games, there's hardly anyone in the world who views them in that light.
It's going to be important now for Sutter, who has had all the right touches on this Kings team, to reinforce the positive with his team and make sure they don't lose confidence in the face of two straight losses to the Devils.
"I think that's why they have seven-game series, unless they change it to five or something," Sutter said. "We don't know about next year in the
new agreement [CBA]. Long series, that's why they call it four out of seven."
Certainly, if you had given the Kings a chance back in September to host Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals at home with a chance to win it, they would have embraced that golden opportunity.
You see, it's all about perspective.
And the fact is, the Kings played a strong road game Saturday night, worthy of a victory. A post here and a brilliant Brodeur save there, that was the difference.
Then again, the Devils were unfortunate to be down 2-0 after Games 1-2, so now we're seeing all the breaks even out.
These are two closely matched teams, and it's a series that was worthy of at least six games all along, at least on paper.
That it took a 3-0 Kings lead and two Devils victories with their season on the line to get there, well, that's what makes it a little different than the usual six-game script. In fact, the Devils are the first team since 1945 to force Game 6 after going down 3-0 in the Cup finals.
If you ask me, the Kings are going to win Monday night at home and end this thing. But either way, you can expect another one-goal game in which the margin between winning and losing is oh so close.
Either way, we finally have a series. And after four games to open the series that weren't terribly compelling, the players seemingly deprived of energy after a long year, Saturday night brought us the best the sport can offer: a fast-paced affair with big hits and brilliant plays by the top players on each team.
It just so happen the Devils made one more of those plays than the Kings.