The series has been nearly even, and the Kings are still up a game with the chance to close on home ice. These are two truths that Kings fans must bear in mind as they deal with a second loss in pursuit of that magical, white-gloves Stanley Cup moment.
Both coaches said it clearly after Game 4, in fact. Sutter mocked at the idea that his squad would grab the Cup in a 4-0 romp. DeBoer said that the first two games could have gone either way, and that they didn’t just made things appear different than they were.
After Game 5, Sutter repeated the idea: “You know, we’re probably saying what they said Games 1 and 2, where we got breaks and now they did. That’s how even it is. We hit a couple posts again tonight, and you hope one goes off the post and in.” He further cited the excellent play of New Jersey’s goaltender in games four and five.
Further, Martin Brodeur subtly warned people that the veteran presence on his squad would not just lie down while the Kings were crowned. “We’re still alive. We have a chance. It’s not a difficult thing to get yourself ready for games like that. Now it’s been two in a row. It drains you a lot. It takes a lot out of you. But it’s worth it. I think at the end of the day, that’s what the guys are concentrating on, getting themselves ready,leave everything out there. We’ll see where everything’s going to fall.”
That doesn’t exactly suggest that he’s sure of anything. Maybe his team is almost out of gas? He made these comments after game five.
And finally, there was the comment of Dustin Brown on the practice day before Game 5 to consider: “Yeah, I think there was a letdown after not sealing the deal in Game 4 with our home crowd. Everyone wakes up the next morning and understands the situation we’re in, not only the opportunity but the responsibility to be better in Game 5.”
That’s quite correct, but it also says that they’re not looking for miracles. That they get it now—this is a grind, against a tough team, and the magic that seems to have touched them all through the post-season is not something they can rely on now. They’re going to have to win this thing the old-fashioned way, by outgutting the Devils. Obviously, he and his squad did not do it in game five as he had hoped.
It might be that it comes down to seven, who knows? The question is, though that’s almost impossible for Kings’ fans to fathom right now, in retrospect, might it be a good thing? Looking back on all of this, should the Kings win it, the memories will be of a grand and tense time, of a Cup won the hard way, perhaps, but won nonetheless. The series going to six, or even seven, games, will become a classic. It would anyway for LA fans, given their 45-year wait for the trophy. But if the Finals were a 4-0 or 4-1 romp, like the Detroit win in 2002 or Anaheim’s in 2007, the memories might be just a little bit less sweet because the whole thing would have seemed more or less inevitable.
Now, because New Jersey has risen to the challenge, or because the statistical evenness of the two squads has manifest itself after seeing the series get off to a lopsided start, the eventual win will mean that much more because it took an extra week to obtain.
But if the Kings lose? Then the phrase that one keeps hearing and reading, “45 years of frustration,” that nagging sense in the back of the head that says, somehow, that this team is just not fated to prevail, will be front and center. Fans will still be able to tell themselves that there’s always next year, because the team as it has been built is strong, with a core, finally, that won’t go anywhere.
The old days of experimentation are over. The youth, too, is starting to be wiped off the faces of the key members, like Brown and Kopitar. But that’s not a bad thing. That means that they’ll be more ready to win it next year, more able to persevere over the course of the season and playoffs because they’ll understand from the outset what it takes. But that disappointment, the fact that they were so close in 2012, that might be too much. It certainly will leave a scar, for players and fans alike.
Coach Sutter was close to contemptuous after game five when asked about the length of the series. “I think that’s why they have seven-game series, unless they change it to five or something. We don’t know about next year in the new agreement. Long series, that’s why they call it four out of seven.”
He later said, “The only way to really look at it in the series is the first goal. Whoever scores the first goal, that’s the way it’s been. We scored the first goal in the first three. That tells you just really how close it is.” Old-time hockey cliché there hides wisdom, and it’s more than likely that he’s been telling his team this all playoff long. If their expectations were just to roll out and win in four or five, then they’d better temper those. Finally, that’s happened.
So it goes to six? Big deal. The Kings have to focus on one thing: they can win it at home now. Sure, they would have been better off doing that last week in one sense, but tension and drama are what sports exist for.
This one’s got that, finally.
NHL transcripts were used in compiling this article.
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