One game from pulling off what would be a stunning and historic comeback, the Kings were a focused group following team meetings and prior to their flight north to San Jose.
For the second consecutive year, whether the Los Angeles Kings or San Jose Sharks’ season will be extended will be determined by a Game 7. Last year, it was the Kings advancing by virtue of a 2-1 win on home ice. This year, it’s a return to the SAP Center. Or, the Shark Tank. Or, the Shark Cage – if you’re Darryl Sutter.
So, be prepared for the chant that echoes across the stadiums and arenas home to rivals of the Kings, Dodgers, Lakers and Clippers.
“Beat LA,” they say, over and over again. And again. And again and again.
“It’s not the best chant I’ve ever heard,” Drew Doughty said. “It’s not even a good chant.”
If he’s coming off cross, forgive him. He didn’t get a full eight hours last night.
“I’m excited,” Doughty said. “Last night I couldn’t sleep – I’m just so excited for this game. I have to go get a nap in today and get better sleep tonight because I’m a little tired this morning. I just can’t wait to get it going. It’s an unbelievable atmosphere in that arena. When we come out on the ice and they’re going to be booing us like crazy right off the bat, it gets the goose bumps going and gets you excited for the game and gets you excited to hopefully beat that team in their rink. I know everyone is looking forward to it.”
It’s the opposite of last year’s Game 7 surroundings. In 2012-13, the Kings posted a 19-4-1 record at Staples Center before winning all three home games against the St. Louis Blues and the first three home games against San Jose. In last year’s winner take all affair, Los Angeles snuck by on the slimmest of margins – a 2-1 win in which Jonathan Quick stopped 25 of 26 shots.
“It was last year. That’s what comes to mind,” Jonathan Quick said of his recollections of last year’s playoff series. “It’s a new year.”
The emotions and excitement, however, are familiar.
“You’re playing in a Game 7,” Quick said. “One team will lose, one team will win. We’re going to do everything we can to prepare and work to be the team that wins.”
Never mind the historical aspect. The team – as articulated by Darryl Sutter last night – cares less about any historical significance and more about winning one hockey game versus a rival against whom they’ve faced 22 times since March 14, 2013.
“This is what we asked for, to give [ourselves] a chance to win, and we’ve done that so far, but we’re not satisfied,” Doughty said. “We want to beat this team. Especially this team, the San Jose Sharks, they’re a team that we’ve met a lot lately and they’re a team that we’ve really created that rivalry with and we want to beat ‘em bad.”
Drew Doughty, on finding success against San Jose over the last three games:
I don’t think we’ve seen their best in the last few games. But at the same time, I think we’ve played a lot better. We’ve managed the puck better. We’ve had a lot more possession when they do get in on the forecheck, which is a huge part to their game. We’ve done a good job on breakouts making one pass and the next to get going on the rush. We’ve been doing a better job on the PK too, which is important. Their power play is huge for them. Especially last night, there were some huge kills that really got the momentum going for us.
Doughty, on whether the team was ever down “emotionally” or “physically”:
I don’t think so. Maybe a little frustrated after Game 3, just because it was a bad break on the goal and kind of lucky how it went in. I’m sure a lot of us were frustrated at that point, but we obviously just put it behind us and focused on the next game and took it one game at a time. Now we’ve got the position we want to be in and all our emotions are going in the right direction.
Doughty, on how this compares with the 2012 Stanley Cup run:
This feels amazing so far. If we can top it off with this last game, it’s going to be something I’m definitely going to remember, and I think everyone else is, for the rest our lives. We can’t get ahead of ourselves like that. We have to use the experience we have from that cup run in order to win this game and I know we’re going to be fully prepared.
Doughty, on what the team has to do if Willie Mitchell is out of the lineup:
We’ve got Greener who can step in, and Greener is a great player. He’s a great leader, he’s a big part to this team. I don’t know what the decision is there, but whoever is in I know they’re going to do an unbelievable job for us and it doesn’t matter who it is.
Doughty, on imagining Game 7s while playing street hockey as kids:
It’s always Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final or whatever it is. We can treat this as a Stanley Cup Final. This game is huge. We can’t get any further without a win. I think that’s how we’re looking at it. This is the biggest game of our lives, of our careers. There is no option but to win.
Doughty, on his parents having videos of him playing hockey as a kid:
Yeah, I think they’ve got a lot of home videos. I know they’re kind of not organized. We have a whole drawer full of them and we always have to watch them to see which is which and stuff like that. I think that’s something we might do this summer as a family is just watch some old videos and laugh about the good ol’ times.
Jonathan Quick, on whether there has been a turning point in the series:
No, I don’t think there’s any specific turning point where that happened. We just kind of kept bringing what we thought was our best, and attempted to bring our best every night. I think Game 3 we thought we played a really good game, possibly deserved a little better of a fate. Nothing against them – they played a great game, too, and I think both teams probably deserved to win that game. But we lost, so you wake up the next day, and you get ready for the next game, and luckily that one went our way, and so on.
Quick, on whether the players in front of him have helped cut down quality chances:
Yeah, it’s possible. [Reporter: Can you tell when you guys are on your game that way? You know what I mean? That you’re not getting as many shots, or the quality isn’t as good?] That’s been an area of our focus for the last five years, how well we play through the middle and through the neutral zone, and our own end. It’s something that we’ve done really well lately.