If you polled Los Angeles residents back in early April asking them which of the city’s three playoff-bound teams had the best chance of winning a championship, the results might have looked something like this.
Lakers - 70 percent
Clippers - 25 percent
Kings / “Wait, we have a hockey team?” - 5 percent
And that may be generous for a hockey team that a local news channel confused with the basketball team from Sacramento.
Both NBA teams are long gone from the postseason, and look who’s still standing: the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings. And after their 4-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Monday night, the Kings are one win away from the Stanley Cup.
There’s a reason the NHL playoffs are considered an entirely different animal than the 82-game season. You simply never know what will unfold.
But over the last month Kings fans have known exactly what to expect each time their team takes the ice: a gritty defensive effort, physical play up and down the ice and brilliance between the pipes from young goaltender Jonathan Quick.
With Monday’s win, the Kings took their fourth straight 3-0 series lead this postseason, making them the first No. 8 seed to accomplish the feat. But while the rest of the NHL may be scratching its collective head, wondering how a team that finished second-worst in scoring during the regular season is suddenly an offensive juggernaut, the Kings just keep rolling along.
“I don’t think we’re too surprised,” said defenseman Drew Doughty, who has scored in all three games in the series. “We know we have a great team in here. Before this game, it easily could have been 2-0 for them. It is a tight series, but at the same time, we are really confident with the team we have in here.”
The formula was a familiar one on Monday as the Kings killed off an early two-man advantage and then took the lead on a pair of second-period goals from Alec Martinez and Anze Kopitar. And then there was Quick in net, keeping a clean sheet for the third time this postseason with 22 saves.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur offered insight into New Jersey’s dire situation after Game 3.
“It’s not the best situation,” the 21-year veteran said. “It’s probably the worst situation you could be in — no, it is the worst situation you could be in. But we believe in ourselves. We’re going to compete as hard as we can, and the result will be there one way or another. ... We’re just facing a team right now that’s doing everything right.”
The Kings can add a Hollywood ending to their dream postseason by finishing off the Devils at the Staples Center on Wednesday night.