The LA Kings now know one thing—what it feels like to find themselves in a 0-2 hole in the playoffs. Not that that knowledge is ancient history for them. Two years ago, they were down a game to the Sharks, evened the series, and ended up losing in six.
Last year, they rolled to a 16-4 record and the Stanley Cup. Of the four losses, only two came against one team, New Jersey, and that wasn’t until the Kings had put up three victories in a row.
In 2010, they went down a game to Vancouver before evening the series and again losing in six games.
But to find them in a real hole, go back to what might be the start of the modern era in Kings’ history, the 2001 series against Detroit. The Kings went to Motown and lost two games in a row. They had a very odd and rare 8:30pm start in game three at Staples Center. That resulted in the crowd gathering beforehand and getting pumped up. I know, because I was part of it.
Luc Robitaille said afterwards that they were not excited to win a game. They were anxious to win the series. They did that, and went on to take Colorado to seven games, losing the series, really, in the third period of game seven.
That could happen this week against St. Louis. But before it does, the Kings have to win a single game. That has to start tonight. The problem is, whose memory is long enough to take that Detroit lesson as motivation?
Fans remember Adam Deadmarsh scoring the goal and then skating in truimph over the to boards to celebrate. They remember Chris Osgood lying on the ice in his crease for a long time after the goal, stunned. They remember the “Stunner at Staples” that had come a few nights before, the greatest playoff comeback other than the “Miracle on Manchester.” But the players on today’s roster, they were eighteen years old (Stoll) and ten (Nolan). This history doesn’t touch them.
So they’ve got to find something else to draw on, and the only history is being a really weak, one-and-done team like in the early part of this decade, or being triumphant beyond all expectation. That’s last year.
In advance of the third game, media have been peppering Kings’ Coach Sutter with questions that made him respond “You guys are asking questions that are sort of like the end-of-the-world questions.” Player Rob Scuderi also said something about the team not being in quite the state of shock that everybody thinks they should be. He said, according to local media reports, that “St. Louis beat us fair and square.”
Indeed. In fact, they beat the Kings by the skin of their teeth. Nobody who watches sports by now doesn’t know that Jonathan Quick gave the first game away after playing a fine contest in net. In the second game, the Kings lost in the final minute. It wasn’t like either game was 5-4. like what happened in the Anaheim game.
The Kings have supported Quick with just two goals in two games. They have been scored by Williams and Brown, so you might at least say that the right guys have been putting them on the board. But that’s it. No secondary scoring. One power play goal, and that was on a 5-on-3.
So the facts are these: there’s not much history for being down 0-2, and if it turns into 0-3 tonight, they’re dead. And they haven’t done much except pray for rain up until now. If something’s going to change, the players have to decide to change it, first, by scoring some goals. Use whatever cliché you want—dirty goals, greasy goals—they’ve got to rattle Mr. Elliott like WW1 rattled another Eliot from St. Louis (look up TS Eliot; you need the literature lesson as a reward for reading this far).
It’s tonight, Kings’ fans, or it’s over, and someone else will end up becoming the defending champ.