EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Dustin Brown played in 431 regular-season games before he finally got into the NHL post-season two years ago. Although he has an Olympic medal, a lucrative contract and a “C” on his shoulder, he’s never been on a playoff run longer than 12 days.
That’s the problem with being on the Los Angeles Kings. That’s also why Brown is making sure his teammates don’t get happy after a stunning bit of early playoff success.
“Honestly, the Kings haven’t been very successful as an organization, but we’re starting to move in the right direction,” Brown said.
Even after eighth-seeded Los Angeles took the first two games from the two-time Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in their first-round series, the Kings’ captain realizes the historic obstacles in the way of a 44-year-old franchise that still has never lifted the Stanley Cup.
Brown also realizes the Canucks will be desperate to save their season in Game 3 on Sunday night even without superstar Daniel Sedin, who didn’t travel to Los Angeles on Saturday.
“When you talk about the Kings’ history, it’s one of those histories (in which) playoffs seem to be few and far between,” Brown said Saturday after the Kings’ optional skate. “It’s good to be a part of a group that has the opportunity to make history. That’s where it comes back to hitting the reset button. I know it was probably 40 years ago, but a Kings team that was up 2-0 lost 4-3. You just check all that stuff at the door and get ready to play.”
Brown knows his Kings history: With two 4-2 victories in Vancouver, Los Angeles has taken a 2-0 lead in a series for just the third time in franchise history—the first since 1976, and the first ever on the road.
And if the Kings can get past their home-ice disadvantage, they’ll be in position to make a little more history. Los Angeles has lost five straight playoff games at Staples Center over the past two years since the club returned to the post-season after an eight-year absence.
The Kings lost all three home games in last spring’s first-round loss to San Jose, and Vancouver won twice in Hollywood in the clubs’ first-round meeting in 2010. Perhaps the Kings don’t have a traditional home-ice advantage in the cavernous Staples Center, or perhaps the Kings didn’t have enough experience to handle the pressure of home playoff games.
But the current Kings have knocked down bits of their franchise’s lamentable history all season. They have several veterans who don’t share Brown’s roots in their meagre playoff history: Mike Richards, Justin Williams, Jeff Carter, Willie Mitchell, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner have all been through lengthy post-season runs elsewhere.
“We haven’t played well on home ice in the playoffs, and that’s got to change,” Stoll said. “It’s not about where we finished the season or where they finished. There are no eighth seeds or No. 1 seeds right now. Once that Game 1 starts, it’s 0-0 and anybody can beat anybody. It can happen any year, any series.”
While the Kings worked out at home, the Canucks skated in Vancouver before flying down for a vital week of work.
The Canucks have lost six of their last seven playoff games going back to last summer’s Stanley Cup finals—and for the first time in franchise history, the Canucks have opened a playoff series with two home losses. Vancouver never even trailed in a playoff series last year before Boston’s victory in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I’m not going to give a rundown of all the teams that have come back in the past (from a 2-0 series deficit), because that’s probably me standing up here and trying to be real positive,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. “The reality is, we’re down by two, and we’ve got to win.”
Brown and Richards echoed coach Darryl Sutter’s theme about forgetting the Kings’ impressive success in Canada while criticizing themselves for various flaws in their victories. The Kings’ lack of confidence is grounded in facts, including Vancouver’s 4-2 advantage during 5-on-5 play so far.
“They controlled most of the game last night,” Richards said. “We know we have to play better. Quickie had to make some great saves. We probably relied on him too much. At home, we feel comfortable. We’ve got to go in with confidence, but know we’ve got to play better.”
Jonathan Quick carried Los Angeles through long stretches of its low-scoring regular season, and the All-Star goalie has been equally solid in the playoffs so far. Vancouver’s high-scoring offence hasn’t managed any soft goals, and the Kings have killed all 10 of the Canucks’ power plays.
The Kings’ dominance in special teams can’t be attributed totally to the absence of Sedin, who has missed 11 straight games with an apparent concussion from a dirty blow by Chicago’s Duncan Keith.
“The power play, it’s the difference in the series,” Sutter said. “Goaltending, special teams, if you want to upset a top, top team, that’s what it comes down to.”