After playing a bruising series against the St. Louis Blues and delivering enough hits to rank fifth among playoff performers, Kings captain Dustin Brown was glad to get some rest Monday.
For his mind.
His body needed the respite after he dished out 39 hits over two rounds and helped carry the Kings to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1993. But Brown, who had six points in the team’s sweep of St. Louis and has 11 points in the playoffs, said the cerebral side of the game has taxed him more than the physical side during upsets of the No. 1-seeded Vancouver Canucks and No. 2-seeded Blues.
“You get to this point in the year and physically you can find a way to get yourself going, but mentally you’re in a high-stress, high-pressure situation day in and day out,” he said Monday.
“Just to have the day to not really think about hockey or about the type of pressure that comes from being in the playoffs, it’s nice just to get away from the game for a day or two and let your mind reset.”
The Kings were scheduled to practice Tuesday in El Segundo but will have a long break before they face Phoenix for the West title. That West series won’t start until the East semifinals end, which can’t happen before Wednesday.
Winger Dustin Penner agreed the break would help the Kings in many ways.
“But more importantly that mental aspect because of the grind and the stress that you go through on a daily basis focusing in on the task at hand,” Penner said.
He spoke from experience, having won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.
“I see a lot of similarities between the Ducks’ run and this run we’re currently on,” Penner said. “There’s still eight more wins to go, but the mentality of the team, the focus and the intensity we have each shift and each game, and in practice the way we’re moving the puck, it’s breeding confidence, and that’s a byproduct of our success. We’ve all bought in and you can tell by the way we prepare ourselves as a team, not just as individuals, on a daily basis.”
Miller, Fox shut out by NHL’s TV rules
For fans, probably the only negative aspect of the Kings’ success is the absence of TV play-by-play announcer Bob Miller and commentator Jim Fox. The NHL’s TV contract grants exclusive broadcast rights to NBC after the first round, leaving local outlets on the sidelines.
Both have done web chats on lakings.com, appearances on postgame programs and other duties, but both miss their normal roles.
“Honestly, it’s killing me and it’s killing Jim not to be able to do these games,” said Miller, the Kings’ voice for 39 seasons. “If it did come down to the finals and the final game that you might skate around with the Cup, I want to see it, but it’s going to be tough to watch and not be able to describe it.”
Fox, an analyst for 22 seasons, said he has tried to stay busy with web work and preview segments for NHL TV and nhl.com during the first two rounds.
“But it’s certainly not the same as being able to broadcast,” he said. “It might be magnified a little bit just because how the regular season was not necessarily as successful as they expected and now they’re having success you want to be able to talk about the positives. Because we conduct what I consider a pretty straightforward broadcast, pretty honest, compared to most. And I appreciate the Kings for allowing us to have that approach. Sometimes it’s dictated from above.
“But now that they’re having success we don’t have a chance to say how good they are, and that’s unfortunate.”
Prime Ticket aired the Kings’ 1993 Stanley Cup finals appearance, but terms of the NHL’s TV contract have since changed.
Miller and Fox said they were gratified to hear fans are asking NBC to put them on the air. A drive on ipetitions.com had more than 500 signatures Monday and fans have used Twitter to publicize the phone number at NBC’s New York headquarters.
“The inability to share the success with the fans is difficult but it makes it easier when we hear from the fans. It really does,” Fox said. “It makes you feel that you’re still part of it.”
Miller said he appreciated the support, “but I don’t think that will have any effect. They have their own people,” he said. “Let NBC come in here but let us do it too. But I don’t think the network would go for that.”
An NBC spokesman said that the network has “great respect for Bob’s legacy with the Kings,” but it’s too soon to speculate on Cup finals coverage.