The Los Angeles Kings find themselves in an unusual position. After riding four decisive series victories to a Stanley Cup championship a season ago, the Kings currently trail the St. Louis Blues, 2-0, in the opening round of the NHL playoffs. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times joins Bill Littlefield to break down the series.
BL: We’ll talk about the Kings in just a moment, but [earlier in the program] we spoke with Patrick Burke of You Can Play and I want to ask you if you’ve seen evidence in the early going that the group’s partnership with the NHL has changed the atmosphere around the league.
HE: I think it absolutely has. Earlier this week we talked to a number of players about Jason Collins, and I asked a number of hockey players whether a gay player would be accepted in the NHL, and it was like, “Why are you even asking? Of course.” David Backes, captain of the St. Louis Blues was saying, “We don’t care. The idea is if you’re a good teammate, if you’re going to help me win, I want you on my team. I don’t care about anything beyond that.” Dustin Brown, who is captain of the Kings, said, “Look, I have friends who are gay, I have relatives who are gay. I don’t care. I care that you’re a good teammate. That’s all that matters.”
BL: The Los Angeles Kings now find themselves down 0-2 in the first round of the playoffs. Both losses came in close games in St. Louis. Do the Kings feel they can come back?
HE: Yeah, but it would really help if they could score some goals. They tried that route last year, but they were getting timely goals. Now they’re not getting anything. In Game 1, the only goal they scored was after they had pulled the goalie in favor of an extra skater. And in Game 2, the only goal they scored was on a five-on-three, power-play goal. So it would behoove them to start scoring at even strength at some point or else they’re going to have an earlier summer than they anticipated.
BL: The Blues scored with 50 seconds left in regulation to win Game 2. And they won the previous game in overtime in stunning fashion. Some have called Game 1 one of the greatest postseason games in the history of the NHL. You were there. Have you got that right?
HE: I think it certainly ranks up there. I mean [Kings goalie] Jonathan Quick made 40 saves in that game, and he was the only reason they got to overtime and then he makes a misplay behind his own net with the puck in the overtime. And then Blues player Alex Steen made a terrific play, took the puck away from Quick and wrapped it around and into the net. So in terms of drama, in terms of tension, physicality, I mean it’s been great drama the first two games. These are two very evenly matched teams, very physical teams. They’re fighting for every inch of ice, and it’s just been great to watch.
BL: Jonathan Quick, Kings goalie, won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as the postseason MVP. It doesn’t sound as if he’s been figured out by opponents exactly.
HE: Yeah, it’s been fluky things. The winning goal in Game 2, the Blues had a three-on-two rush, and Quick’s defenseman Drew Doughty actually screened him on it. It was kind of a soft shot so people are thinking, “Oh, that’s a terrible goal.” But if you analyze it, I don’t think Quick saw it at all. I mean he’s played so well, and to lose two games, the one in overtime, and then this one in literally the last minute, it’s really going to be a test for him and for that team. You know they rolled through the playoffs last year. They took a 3-0 lead in every series that they played last year, and now here they are down, 0-2, so I’m curious to see how they respond when they get home.