Kings Need to Slam Door

By HOWARD BERGER

LOS ANGELES (June 11) – Rather than studying portions of videotape from the Stanley Cup final, the DVD of an afternoon game here on May 6 should be mandatory viewing for the Los Angeles Kings. It was on that day – at Staples Center – that the Kings exhibited the type of cocksure disposition they’ll need in order to finally win the Cup tonight and avoid the most ominous tempting of hockey fate since World War II.

While they finished off a consecutive-games dismantling of the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference semifinals, the Kings proved they could harbor the energy from their rollicking supporters and use it as a weapon. A virtual repeat of that performance occurred in Game 3 of the championship series a week ago tonight, when the Kings destroyed New Jersey, 4-0, to position themselves for a Stanley Cup sweep. That we are back here in Los Angeles for Game 6 is on account of the lone gremlin among the best team in the 2012 playoffs: a lack of killer instinct.

Only in that close-out triumph against the Blues – more resounding than the 3-1 final score indicated – did the Kings place foot on throat. In three identical opportunities, the club failed – having to scratch out overtime victories on the road at Vancouver and Glendale AZ in Rounds 1 and 2. No such repeat was in store at the Prudential Center two nights ago, when the Devils prevailed, 2-1, and ended L.A.’s remarkable string of undefeated playoff matches on foreign ice.

Now it’s time for the Kings to step up – to display the early scoring-rush; the backbone, and the authority that has marked the club’s meteoric ascent through the Cup tournament this spring… and to prove it has been more than a delightful accident.   

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES FROM THE WINDOW OF MY 21st-FLOOR HOTEL ROOM – ARRIVING HERE LAST NIGHT AFTER DAY-LONG TRAVEL FROM NEWARK, WITH A STOP IN PHOENIX.

If the Kings raise their first Stanley Cup on home ice tonight, the consecutive losses to New Jersey will be chalked up to the obstinacy of a vigorous rival. A third defeat, however, will send the Kings back east with the apprehension and misgiving that has enveloped the franchise from its inception 45 years ago. And, should the Devils become only the second club in Cup final history – and fourth overall – to triumph after falling behind 0-3 in a best-of-seven series, all the Kings achieved in the past two months will be forgotten… consigned, forever, to happenstance.

Only the Toronto Maple Leafs of 1942 – when NHL rosters were depleted by the call to war-time service – rebounded from the abyss, expunging a 3-0 Detroit lead and winning the Stanley Cup in Game 7. Not until 1975 did a similar feat occur – and much earlier in the playoffs – when the upstart New York Islanders came all the way back against Pittsburgh. And 35 additional years were required for the next-such happening: by Philadelphia against Boston in the 2010 Eastern Conference championship.

The Kings are competent enough, from goal on out, to prevent a fourth monumental collapse, but it says here they’ve got to fire the dagger at Staples Center tonight. It is not, of course, beyond comprehension that L.A. could lose once again and author the Great Stanley Cup Escape on Wednesday in Newark. But, having to chew on the specter of an el-foldo that has only once-previously occurred would make for a miserable cross-continent trek.

All bets would be off once the puck was dropped at Prudential Center.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE TONIGHT…

 

LOS ANGELES KINGS DESPERATELY NEED TO AVOID PLACING THEMSELVES IN POSITION TO BECOME ONLY THE FOURTH TEAM IN STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HISTORY TO FRITTER AWAY A 3-0 LEAD IN A BEST-OF-SEVEN SERIES. IT HAPPENED IN:

1942…

  OVER   

1975…

   OVER   

2010…

   OVER   

KINGS MUST REMEMBER…

SUNDAY, MAY 6th, STAPLES CENTER:

NOAH GRAHAM – GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

NOAH GRAHAM – GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

HARRY HOW – GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN – GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN – GETTY IMAGES/NHL.COM

Email: howardLberger@gmail.com

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