LOS ANGELES – So this is what it's like to expect a team to win – to show up knowing one team has no chance because the other is unbeatable.
This is what it's like to watch the Los Angeles Kings. Seven wins in a row going into Thursday night's game against the Phoenix Coyotes and now it's at eight, sneaking away with a 2-1 victory against a game squad that fought hard even though the series was essentially over two days ago when they were swept on their home ice.
To recap, the Kings are now 11-1 in the playoffs, are up 3-0 on the Coyotes in the Western Conference final, a series in which they've trailed for a grand total of 127 seconds – or one fewer than it took the NBA’s Lakers to implode 24 hours earlier.
Yes, it's looking very much like it will be the Kings who will carry the torch into June for the City of Angels, and when they do they'll not only be expected to win the Stanley Cup by people in L.A. – who'd have ever thunk that? – but will likely be installed as the favorite against either the New York Rangers or New Jersey Devils.
It's crazy talk considering the Kings entered the postseason as the No. 8 qualifier from the West. But that's where we are, April seeming like so long ago and that upset of the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks not looking like much of an upset anymore.
Take solace in that, Vancouver.
Darryl Sutter might not think his is a team of destiny – "What's that?" he joked Thursday night – but if the definition fits (destiny: a predetermined course of events), then you gotta wear it.
Even when the Coyotes took a 1-0 lead early in the second period of Game 3 – the first time they'd led in the entire series – there was little doubt the Kings would come right back, which they did just over two minutes later with an Anze Kopitar backhand deke that squeezed between Mike Smith's pads.
That was it – the only window of opportunity Phoenix has had in 180 minutes of ice time lasted as long as a commercial break. And when Dwight King scored early in the third to put L.A. up 2-1, well, how do you expect to win when the other team's third-line rookie winger scores his fifth goal in 12 playoff games?
Great season 'Yotes, but you've run into a buzz saw the likes of which hasn't been seen in playoff hockey in some 20 years and, if the Kings keep it up, ever.
Eleven wins vs. one loss. The best playoff run ever is 16-2, courtesy of Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in 1988. It's still within reach.
"I don't think we expect anything," said L.A. captain Dustin Brown. "The only thing I think we're telling ourselves right now is if we work, do all the right things – the little things together as a team – we put ourselves in a good opportunity to win.
"This time of year you don't expect anything 'cuz there's a reason the Phoenix Coyotes are in the Western Conference final, and it's not because they got lucky or anything. They work hard, which we have to match that work. If we match their work and execute our plays, I like our chances."
That's a diplomatic way of saying he thinks, at their best, they can beat anyone, and Brown's right. They're getting goals from each of their top three lines – 14 from their first, nine from their second, eight from their third – while Jonathan Quick has the best save percentage of any goalie in the playoffs at a sparkling .951.
It's complete domination at both ends of the ice and it's why the Kings are 60 minutes away from their second consecutive series sweep and first trip to the Stanley Cup final since 1993.
Three weeks ago that seemed absurd. Now, it's going to happen, not because destiny says so but because this team is determining its own destiny by being too good to lose.
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