NEWARK, N.J. – From Vancouver to St. Louis, on to Phoenix and now New Jersey, the Los Angeles Kings have been able to jump on their opponents and take away any advantage the fired-up arenas would be expected to give the home team.
The excitement builds outside and inside the raucous buildings, and what should be a pure rush of adrenaline, can sometimes turn into a wave of nerves that can rattle even the best of players.
Whatever the cause, the Kings – the No. 8 seed out of the West – have capitalized on every possible thing they can while playing away from home. They are a record 9-0 on the road in these playoffs, and are lengthening another record with 11 straight wins in enemy arenas, dating to last season.
The Kings took a 1-0 lead over the Devils in the Stanley Cup finals with a 2-1 overtime win on Wednesday night, spoiling New Jersey’s first chance in these playoffs to open a series at home.
“You’ve just got to come ready to play.” Los Angeles defenseman Matt Greene said Thursday, after the Kings held an optional practice. “It’s the finals. You’re going to be jacked up, you’re going to be nervous. You could have this game anywhere in the world and I think guys are going to be nervous going into it just because of what’s on the line and where you’re at and what’s at stake.”
The Kings seemed as focused as can be as they roll through the playoffs. They are 13-2 and haven’t been stretched past five games in any of their first three series wins over the top three-seeded teams in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has led 3-0 in each series and shows no signs of letting up. The Kings have managed to get plenty of rest throughout the postseason as they have often been forced to wait for their next opponent to emerge from the previous round.
“Our guys said today they felt sluggish,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “If that was nerves, then so it was. Our guys felt they could play better. That’s a good thing. I’m sure the other team is saying the same thing, too.”
After knocking out the Phoenix Coyotes with an overtime win in Game 5 on May 22, the Kings had a seven-day break before facing off against the Devils. Now after just one game, the series has two off days before Game 2 on Saturday.
Los Angeles is in the finals for only the second time.