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A Los Angeles Kings fan poses for a photo as he celebrates with his friends before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, June 6, 2012. (Bret Hartman/REUTERS)
A Los Angeles Kings fan poses for a photo as he celebrates with his friends before Game 4 of the Stanley Cup between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, June 6, 2012. (Bret Hartman/REUTERS)

Eric Duhatschek

Advice to L.A. Kings: Hide the porn actresses and limos at Stanley Cup Add to ...

Last Wednesday, as the New Jersey Devils were arriving for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final, coach Peter DeBoer couldn’t help but notice that the traffic patterns outside Staples Center had changed a little. Streets were closed; police were deployed around the building; the air was thick with the anticipation of a Los Angeles Kings championship.

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“When your bus has to pull by the 10 limos parked on the road, ready for the after-party, that’s definitely motivation,” DeBoer said.

Touché.

The Kings were expecting a coronation and on Sunday, everyone from defenceman Drew Doughty to centre Mike Richards acknowledged that they might have gotten slightly ahead of themselves. Up 3-0, it seemed more a matter of when the Kings would win the Stanley Cup rather than if.

Now, two losses later, with their lead narrowed to 3-2, the Kings have a second chance to win on home ice Monday night.

A word of advice to any limo drivers doubling as long-suffering, anxiety-ridden Kings fans: Park around the corner next time.

The Devils played every motivational card at their disposal to get back in the series, but they are here, with a chance to win, largely for one reason – goaltender Martin Brodeur has outplayed Conn Smythe Trophy favourite Jonathan Quick in the last two games.

For those two games, or ever since the Los Angeles Kings took a 3-0 lead, Conn Smythe ballots have been cast, because that is procedurally how things are.

It means Quick has likely already won two phantom Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP, had the Kings been able to close the deal.

But this final naturally follows the script of an unpredictable 2012 playoff season, and Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been saying it all along, for anyone bothering to listen. These are all close games that could have gone either way.

In the midst of it all is Brodeur, 40, holding the fort and preparing to play the 205th playoff game of his career Monday night, with the Kings holding a slender 3-2 series lead.

Now 40, the unflappable Brodeur has been a joy to watch with the Devils’ season on the line, playing that old-school, herky-jerky style of goal. At the start of the series, his backup, Johan Hedberg, was asked if he’d ever seen anyone play like Brodeur. Yes, Hedberg said jokingly, in a pickup game the previous week.

Some thought Brodeur’s play in that game might have been adversely affected by the impact of the Devils’ travel on those 40-year-old bones. But Brodeur said he was unfazed by the coast-to-coast flights, noting that the Devils had “plenty of rest” in the two commuter series they played prior to the final.

“We could have packed it in two games ago, that’s the bottom line,” Brodeur said. “But we have a bunch of resilient guys that want to try to make history and try to win the Stanley Cup.”

The long NHL season is about to end in the next 72 hours – either here Monday night or Wednesday in Newark.

“I think a lot of us before Game 4 were distracted with family members and friends, the Cup coming in the building – a lot of things we have to put aside,” Doughty said. “Family always comes first for everyone, but at this point of the year, the team has to come first.”

As for DeBoer, he noted that in Game 4, an adult actress was seated behind the Devils’ bench, wearing a low-cut top that acted as a distraction to him and his team. But in the superstitious way of the hockey world – where if something works once, you do it again – DeBoer said he would happily welcome her back for Game 6.

“We won the last time she was here,” DeBoer said. “I’ll buy her a ticket if we can do that again.”

Whatever works.

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