EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Kings are getting very good at playing in Game 7s.
This is the kind of moment that players dream about in their driveways as kids. Game 7s are what legends are made of. And the Kings sure do their best to keep things legendary, coming back from two three-game deficits to force two Game 7s in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They’ve already got one under their belt — on the road, no less — so why not play another one Friday night in Anaheim?
"It’s the last seconds of the game and the buzzers coming down; It’s the ninth inning and two outs; It’s football and it’s the fourth quarter – it’s everything," said Kings forward Justin Williams. "It’s you or them and that’s what you relish as a kid, coming out on top."
Since 2011, the Kings are 7-2 in elimination games and this is the first time they’ve forced two Game 7s in the same postseason. They’re veterans to the emotions, adrenaline and excitement that come along with a crucial game.
To say they’ve had some practice might be an understatement.
"When you’ve done special things together, you have the confidence — no matter what happens — to do that again," said forward Mike Richards. "That’s a big thing in the playoffs, when you’re down in a game, down in the series, you’ve been through comebacks and good things with the guy beside you. It’s a good thing to lean on. It’s a nice feeling to have, that you have the confidence to do whatever is needed to win."
The Kings dealt with wild momentum swings and even wilder scoring differentials in the Western Conference quarterfinals against the San Jose Sharks. This is series against the Ducks has been remarkably evenly-matched both on the box score and the scoreboard.
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But head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t think it’s as close as it looks.
"It’s another level of team that you’re talking about," Sutter said, following Wednesday night’s win at the Staples Center. "We’re going into a building against a team that finished 16 points ahead of it. You can talk all you want — there’s a big underdog going in against the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference…
"We talk about it all the time, about how much of an underdog we are."
But talking with the coaches is as far as it goes. You won’t see this underdog with guys screaming, jumping around and trying to get everyone pumped up like would in some dressing rooms. That’s simply not their identity and they’re a team that knows how to manage expectations and emotions. Not much needs to be said.
"We’re not a rah-rah team, where you’re going to have one guy sit in front of the room and pump you up. Player or coach, I don’t think you’re going to get that either way," Williams said. "Everyone is well aware of what they need to do. If you can’t get up for a Game 7, you probably shouldn’t be in the dressing room at that time."
Call them the comeback kids or the underdogs. Regardless, Game 7 is the norm in Los Angeles and the Kings are ready for another day at the office, albeit a much more exciting one than usual.
"Most series go six games and Game 7 becomes a defining moment," Sutter said. "But the elimination part of it is every game, that’s how I view it. When you start a series you’re facing elimination."