Hockey is amazing. It is that perfect song on the drive home from work and that perfectly cool drink on a hot summer day. It is the sweet innocent kiss of adolescence wrapped around the thrill of a first roller coaster ride. It combines the burning in the pit of your stomach before speech class with the classic disappointment of a gourmet dish where you didn’t follow the recipe.
Tonight my Los Angeles Kings lost a game.
In my life as a fan of the team I could have written that very same sentence 1,111 times, as that’s how many regular season games the Kings have lost since I started following them. Again, that’s just the regular season. The post season has been another story altogether, as during that same timeframe the Kings have lost a whopping 103 playoff games.
But tonight was a killer loss.
On the verge of clinching a trip back to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Kings trailed 2-1 heading into the third period of Game 6 at home, but scored two goals in the final period to take a one-goal lead at 3-2. That was the last good moment of the game, as the Kings surrendered the final two goals of the game to the defending champion Blackhawks and ultimately lost 4-3, sending the series back to Chicago for the decisive Game 7 on Sunday.
The temptation as a long-suffering Kings fan is to look closely a those 1,111 regular season losses over 32 seasons as well as the 100+ post season disasters and make the assumption that Sunday will result in almost certain disaster with Kane, Toews and Company taking down the Kings by a score of 7-2, with Jonathan Quick getting pulled in the first period after surrendering four goals on 11 shots. I could envision Marian Gaborik getting the Kings back into it at 4-1 with a nifty power play goal early in the second, but the Kings giving it right back following a Jake Muzzin turnover, and the Kings essentially phoning it in from there. Immediately we fans of the team will begin demanding the trades of Dustin Brown and Mike Richards, while another more belligerent and unrealistic group will plead for the firing of coach Darryl Sutter.
Seems like only yesterday that these same Kings were taking down the Ducks in Game 7. Wasn’t it only a week ago that the Kings rallied from an 0-3 deficit to the San Jose Sharks to stun the hockey world?
Yep, same Los Angeles Kings.
What are you supposed to think? Succumb to the above temptation, that we are headed towards almost certain disaster come Sunday, that the Hawks are some sort of super power that cannot be contained? Sure, you have to give them credit because they are an amazingly talented team, but then so are the Kings. The Kings have made some mistakes They appear slow out of the gate at the start of the last few games and they seem uncertain about how to escape the defensive zone. Quick hardly seems himself, while several role players are a step slow and at the very least, indecisive with the puck.
But let’s consider a few things.
Quick always bounces back and he is overdue for a miraculous game. The Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli-Tanner Pearson line is due, and we all certainly know that Gaborik and Anze Kopitar cannot be quiet much longer. Defenseman Drew Doughty is a monster and will seek to impose his will upon the Hawks Sunday. Without quite saying it, Doughty essentially assures us of a win come Sunday. “We’ve had two chances to close out this series, and we’re not going to blow a third one,” he said.
And then there is forward Justin Williams.
The Kings’ maddeningly inconsistent winger is amazing consistent when it comes to these frighteningly, gut-wrenching, booze-inducing Game 7 elimination games, where he has somehow scored an incredible six career goals in these pressure cookers.
So what’s it going to be? The agonizing, debilitating, one-sided Hawks triumph or the Amazing Quick, Monster Doughty and Magical Williams leading the Kings into the Finals?
I sincerely wish that I had the answer.
Until then I am left to fret and wonder and second guess and simply hope for the best until the drop of the puck at 5 PM on Sunday.
Because hockey is like a fine wine and a rainbow after a thunder shower. It is a cheeseburger, fries and Coke when you need it most and it is the smile on your kids’ faces when you get home from work each night.
In short, hockey is a truly wonderful, terrifyingly stressful ballet on ice.
Enjoy your Game 7 people. It’s going to be epic.