It’s been five months since the L.A. Kings went on their journey to the NHL Stanley Cup when, down by three games to zero and on the verge of being eliminated by the San Jose Sharks after an epic third game overtime loss. Everyone counted the Kings out of the Stanley Cup playoffs because who can win four games in a row after being down by three — in any sport?
And then the L.A. Kings won that fourth game, and then the fifth and then the sixth. When the seventh game of that series opened in San Jose, everyone expected the Sharks to make a comeback of their own, but it turned out to be the biggest win for the Kings — the score was 5-1, and they went on to the next round against the Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings were expected to lose to the Anaheim Ducks; every team in the West was expected to lose to the Ducks, but then in another epic seven-game series the L.A. Kings won the first two games in Anaheim, and then lost the next three games, two of them in the Staples Center, their home ice.
That was it. Maybe the Kings would get one home ice win with that sixth game, but beat the Ducks twice — again? Very unlikely. And then the Kings did what everyone didn’t believe was possible: they beat the Anaheim Ducks at home and then again in Anaheim to send the Ducks home for the season.
Then it was on to Chicago. The Kings had won on the road in their first two series, but this was the Chicago Blackhawks and they and their fans could beat the L.A. Kings In fact, the Blackhawks won the first game of the series, in Chicago and conventional wisdom is: the team that wins first wins the conference series. The L.A. Kings didn’t get that memo. They won the next three games, two in the Staples Center and one in Chicago’s United Center. The Kings lost the next two, one a hotly contested over time game in Chicago and the sixth game loss at home. The teams were tied up in the series and of course the experts all predicted the Blackhawks would not lose a conference finals at home. Once again the experts were wrong. In an incredible seventh game that went to overtime — the fourth over time game for the Kings in those playoffs — The L.A. underdogs of the Stanley Cup Finals made their way into the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.
For the first time in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings had home ice advantage. But the Kings had also proven home ice wasn’t always an advantage and the New York Rangers would be no pushover. Another epic series, it only went five games, but each goalie, Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers and Jonathan Quick for the Kings, defended their goals shot-after-shot, Lundqvist sometimes defending 4-5 shots in mere seconds of play. He made 179 saves during that series, an incredible .837 save percentage. But it wasn’t enough. Jonathan Quick needed to make only 136 saves in that series; his save percentage .929. The unrelenting attack on the Rangers’ goal finally won it all for the L.A. Kings.
- If you watched Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist play enough, you’ll agree he is one of the two best goalies in the NHL. Plus, he has movie star good looks — Lundqvist is a favorite of the ladies.
Many believe the Final was the Kings’ toughest series. Three of the games were won in extended over times.
Now the Kings kick off the new season with the opening of training camp. It should be no surprise people are still celebrating the Kings’ winning the Stanley Cup just 3 months ago, but Kings coach Daryll Sutter and his team know you can’t rest on your laurels in the NHL. It’s time to get ready for the next run to the Stanley Cup.
For the Kings, the strategy this season is simple, according Defenseman Matt Greene. He was asked about a replay of last season, when the Kings were the underdogs, four games behind the San Jose Sharks. “The plan right now is have a good start to the season. You can’t worry about the end, you gotta’ worry about what’s going on right now. I think that’s what our group is focused on: coming out of the gates hard, getting everyone healthy coming out of camp and having a good start to the year.”
I asked Greene what the team was working on now, and their main concern for the start of the season. He explained that the goal was to establish the team’s system, making sure everyone on the team is on the same page. “Timing and the skill part of the game will come. The most important thing is playing our system and being accountable, knowing where you’re supposed to be on the ice. That makes everything easier.”
He added it wasn’t going to be any easier for the Kings this year, “It’s a challenge every year, I think teams are always going to load up. Teams realize now that you only have a certain amount of time to make a run at things. A lot of teams are coming together in the West where they’re in their prime. You gotta strike when the iron is hot — it’s gonna be a tough run.”
Green has suffered a lot of injuries in the past two years so he felt he just needed a chance to get on the ice and show what he could do late last season.
The first game of the preseason is tomorrow, September 22 against the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix and then Thursday at home against the Ducks.
(All photos by Claudia Gestro)
Claudia is of Peruvian and Italian descent, having been born in a small town, in the North of Peru, South America. She was raised by her grandmother from an early age, living in poverty until Claudia’s mother brought her to America. She landed in Miami, FL and started her new life, playing high school basketball and eventually becoming a United States citizen. Claudia completed her education at Florida International University with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and became a model to supplement her income. Since graduating from FIU Claudia has worked with many of the Spanish Language broadcasting companies, including Telemundo, Univision and most recently Spanish Language channels on SiriusXM satellite radio and PasTV Deportes in Venezuela.She encourages you to follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Her content appears here under a shared content agreement with her Spanish television clients.