They are ready to start the Stanley Cup party in Los Angeles.
A hearty group of Kings fans gathered at Los Angeles International Airport in the wee hours of Sunday morning to welcome the team back following a second straight 2-1 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils.
The championship series is shifting across the continent to Staples Center and the Kings have a chance to wrap it up on home ice. The eighth-seeded team in the Western Conference has gone an amazing 14-2 in these playoffs, leaving many of their fans with the feeling that the first championship in franchise history is only days away.
A headline in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times read “Wow and again” while a host on the local KTLA morning news offered a bold prediction: “I think we’re going to have a parade by Friday.” That means she was projecting victories in Monday’s Game 3 and Wednesday’s Game 4 for a four-game sweep.
Of course, the Kings players will do all they can to distance themselves from that kind of talk.
“I think we have to reset, refocus,” defenceman Drew Doughty said after Saturday’s Game 2 victory. “We have to go back to L.A. as if the series is just starting. We have home-ice advantage and have to take the first two at home.”
There’s no denying how commanding their position is. Of the last six Stanley Cup finals that began with the road team winning the opening two games, five ended in sweeps. The other was over in five games.
Only two NHL teams — the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and 1966 Montreal Canadiens — have lifted the Stanley Cup after losing the opening two games on home ice.
However, New Jersey won’t be looking to the history books for any solace. Instead, coach Pete DeBoer will no doubt point out to his players that they haven’t been dominated by the Kings and actually had a good effort in Game 2.
“We’re still alive,” said veteran Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur.
And the Kings are likely to feel some pressure despite their good position. With long-suffering fans starting to get excited about the possibility of the first championship in the 44-year history of the franchise, expectations are running high.
Los Angeles has sort of flown below the radar throughout the post-season but it has undeniably taken centre stage now.
“Going back home, it’s a whole new series,” said Doughty.
Added coach Darryl Sutter: “Hey, you know what? We’ll have our work cut out (for us).”