LOS ANGELES – It wasn’t exactly a Mark Messier-type guarantee, in part because the times are not that desperate that they require measures that desperate…yet. But for Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, it was in the ballpark.
Doughty was talking after the morning skate about the desperation with which the Kings have to play in Game 5 on home ice with the Stanley Cup in the building waiting to be awarded.
“There’s no way we’re going to play a bad game tonight, that’s for sure,” Doughty told reporters. “We are fully prepared for this game. We want this so bad. We want to win this one more than (they do), there’s no doubt about that.”
The Kings know full well that their starts in both Games 1 and 2 were terrible and it was only when they buckled down that they took control of both games. They are trying to avoid that, along with a trip back to New York for Game 6. In 2012, the Kings had the Devils on the ropes when they went up 3-0 in the Stanley Cup final then lost two straight before finishing the series in six. Despite the valiant comeback by the Devils, there was never any real feeling they were going to overcome the almost insurmountable 3-0 deficit and this series has much the same feeling.
The Rangers have been plucky and were full marks for gaining a victory in Game 4 despite being badly outplayed. The Rangers are approaching this task as a nothing-to-lose proposition where the pressure is squarely on the Kings.
“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to take it back to New York,” Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist told reporters Thursday. “It would be a lot of fun to get another game in New York and see what we can do with that.”
And that is precisely where things get dicey. If somehow Lundqvist can once again tilt the disparity in talent between the two teams to an even game with another epic goaltending performance, that puts the Kings one road loss away from having to come back home for a Game 7. And if the Rangers get that chance to even the series at home, well, that’s just making it a little too close for comfort.
The Kings talked a lot about the past with the way the series unfolded two years ago, but what they should really be concerned about is the future. Should this series get extended to a Game 6, there will be two days off between games, which would give Lundqvist another day to rest and send him back to a building where he has ripped off an 8-0 record in his past eight elimination games. In these playoffs alone, he’s 5-0 in elimination games with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage.
That’s why Game 5 takes on so much more importance for the Kings. Throughout the playoffs, the Kings have become a team that has been able to break their opponents. They sense weakness, pounce on it and create a sense of defeat in the minds of their opponents. And they were able to do that before Lundqvist stole Game 4 and brought the series back to Los Angeles. The last time the Kings were faced with a clinching game at home, they dominated from the start and buried the Devils 6-1 and the party was on.
“We know what we did wrong and we know why we let then back into the series,” Doughty said. “That why tonight we figure we have to close it out because the more games we give them, the more life they get. Especially here at Staples (Center), our home arena, it’s a very important game for us tonight.”