LOS ANGELES — No NHL team had ever won three Game 7s en route to the Stanley Cup Final until the Los Angeles Kings beat the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final. The playoffs are a grind for every team that reaches this point of the season, but one side has played the maximum amount of hockey through three rounds, 21 games.
The Kings rallied for a historic comeback after being down 0-3 in opening round versus the San Jose Sharks. In Round 2, they lost three in a row to the Anaheim Ducks before rebounding and winning Games 6 and 7 to take home the Calfornia State Championship. Against Chicago in the conference final, they lost a 3-1 series lead to the Blackhawks before Alec Martinez’s overtime goal in Game 7 sent them to their second Cup Final in three seasons.
The ups and downs of series take a toll, mentally and physically. Kings captain Dustin Brown called the seven games against Chicago “probably the most emotional series I’ve been a part of.” Through three rounds, LA hasn’t had much time to recover before moving on to the next round. Players would love rest, but getting right back at can be a good thing for a team.
“You don’t really want to have a long layover anyway,” Kopitar said during Stanley Cup Final Media Day on Tuesday. “This time of the year everybody’s energized and the room is pretty relaxed. [It] definitely helps having some experience from a couple years ago. You know how to handle it a little bit better, how to channel it toward tomorrow and be ready for it.”
As they breezed through the West en route to the Final in 2012, the Kings had plenty of rest; 21 total days to be exact. They had to learn how to contain that energy with so much time off and stay sharp as their next series approached.
Ahead of Game 1 Wednesday night, the Kings have had 3, 2 and now 3 days of rest, respectively, between their four playoff series. The New York Rangers, meanwhile, dealt with some tired legs early in the playoffs, but between Round 2 and Round 3 and now Round 3 and the Final, they've had 10 total days off.
When asked about their tight playoff schedule early on, Alain Vigneault called it "stupid," unhappy with the two sets of back-to-back games in the first two rounds. The Kings haven't had any quirks in their schedule to this point and by now are used to their quick turnarounds.
“Even though it's the Stanley Cup Final, we've been able to do that pretty consistently, not just this season, but the past couple seasons,” Sutter said. “I mean, you're doing it a lot on the road, a lot with travel.
"If you look at this year, the time between series was not very much. You had to get going again. We went into Chicago and played really well in Game 1. There wasn't much break to it. Just reset and away you go again.”
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