EL SEGUNDO, Calif. –The road has been anything but rocky for the Los Angeles Kings this postseason. They’ve won all five playoff games away from Staples Center during the first two rounds of the playoffs, including Games 1 and 2 in Vancouver and St. Louis, putting their opponents on their heels even before the series headed to L.A.
Does that give the Kings a statistical edge as they prepare to travel to Glendale, Ariz. for Game 1 of their Western Conference final Sunday evening against the Phoenix Coyotes? Probably not. But it sure helps with the comfort level.
“We’re just a comfortable team on the road in general,” said Mike Richards. “With a comfort level on the road, you can go there and steal one early.”
The success away from Staples Center during the playoffs actually dates back two years. They swiped away home ice in Game 2 the opening round of the 2010 playoffs against the Canucks before eventually losing in six games. They did the same against the San Jose Sharks last season before again losing in six games.
Overall, the Kings have won seven consecutive playoff games away from home, one shy of the NHL record set by the New Jersey Devils in the mid 1990s.
“Anytime you have success with something it feels a little bit more comfortable, for sure,” said Jarret Stoll. “It’s a new series, a new team, obviously, and whole new surroundings, so we’re going to have to make sure we’re on top of everything.”
Like the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning Game 1 can set the tone for the entire series.
“Game 1 is a huge advantage if you can find a way to win it,” team captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s one of those things where I think it seems comfortable on the road, in a sense that we know our system really well and we know what we need to do to be successful on the road.”
Jeff Carter has been staying with Richards, his former teammate with the Philadelphia Flyers, since he was traded to the Kings in late February. He looks forward to getting on a plane with his teammates, with nothing but hockey on their minds.
“It’s always nice to kind of get away,” Carter said. “When you’re at home, sometimes there are distractions and guys are dealing with stuff away from the rink.”
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, on the other hand, didn’t seem too concerned where the series would start out. He’s just glad to be playing this far into the postseason after making just one other trip to the conference finals in his 12-year NHL career.
“I don’t care if it’s here, New York, Stockholm, sign me up,” he said. “The reality is, if you want to go to where you want to go, you’re going to have to win all different ways, all different situations. When you’re up in a series, down in a series, on the road, at home, overtime, whatever. You don’t make a long run without winning all these different ways.”
Mitchell compared winning Game 1 of a playoff series to winning the first period of a game. It’s a great start, but there’s still a lot to accomplish.
“It gets your feet underneath you and makes you feel good,” he said. “It starts you going in the right direction.”
Right now, that direction is about 350 miles east of L.A.