The Kings had a late afternoon practice today after their return flight from Vancouver landed at about 2:30 this morning. Obviously, the confidence level of this young group is soaring after splitting two overtime games with the Canucks, negating their home-ice advantage and now getting ready for two games at Staples Center in front of a crowd that hasn’t seen a postseason game in eight years.
Coach Terry Murray says it's important to celebrate the split and the way the team played but only briefly.
“That was a big win for us last night,” he said, “but I wanted to get them right back on the ice today, just to reinforce that there’s a lot more to do.”
Just a week ago there was concern on a variety of fronts, not least of which was the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was 0 for 8 going down the stretch of the regular season and heading into the series with Vancouver.
“We had a concern going in,” Murray said today. “I’m not going to kid you. Looking at the last bunch of games he played after the Olympics there was a lot going on his life, with the new baby, a little loss of focus at times, but the one thing that we’ve always talked about with him is his ability to refocus and show that mental toughness, to bounce back after a goal that he wished he’d had or a game that wasn’t quite the 'A' game that he normally shows.”
In just two games Quick has done that — and then some, bouncing back with two terrific performances.
“It’s a great way to finish those two games up there,” said Quick. “Even that first game, it could have gone either way. Both games could have gone either way.
“And as far as the confidence level goes, we were confident going in, even after losing that first game we were confident going into Game 2. Obviously after that win it gives us a little bit of momentum going into Game 3 and it’s going to be exciting to play here in front of our home fans.”
As for concerns about the lack of playoff experience for most of the young guys on the team — nine of them played their first postseason game last Thursday night in the opener — that doesn’t seem to be a problem, either, if it ever was.
“There was a little bit of nerves maybe for a period and a half in Game 1,” said Sean O’Donnell, who has played a team-leading 89 playoff games in his career. “But after that it was just excitement. I heard Kopi [Anze Kopitar] say that the overtime last night just felt different from the first overtime, we’ve done it before. It’s like anything, starting a new job or going to a new school. You’re always a little bit nervous until you feel your way through it and then you go back to what you know best. I think the young guys have done a great job and I don’t see any setbacks moving forward.”
“There’s definitely a sense that we can beat them, absolutely,” added Kopitar, “and we’re going into every game with that mindset — that we’re going to win the game.”
“It’s a confidence builder,” said Ryan Smyth, “it’s momentum, it’s knowing that we’re in the series. We’re bringing it back home and we’re going to be energized with our fans and excited. I think we’re geared up for it.”
They won’t have to wait long. Game 3 is tomorrow night at 7 p.m. And not surprisingly, Murray won’t be making any changes in the lineup.
“I can’t make a change,” he said, smiling. “I like what I saw. I’m going to leave things the way they are.”
And hope, along with his players, that no change in that lineup will mean the same result in Game 3 at Staples as there was last night in Vancouver.