LOS ANGELES – Although Mike Richards has only been in Los Angeles for less than a year, he has a pretty good idea what 45 years of simmering frustration will sound like when his Kings take the ice with the Stanley Cup nearly in reach.
“That’s probably one of the loudest rinks I’ve ever played in, and it’s going to be even louder tomorrow,” the center said Sunday, already anticipating the energy at the Staples Center for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals tonight.
A coronation just feels imminent for these Kings, who opened the finals by adding two more victories in New Jersey to the longest run of road perfection in NHL playoff history – 10-0 this season, and 12-0 dating to last season.
Los Angeles is two wins away from claiming the franchise’s first title and burying 4 ½ decades of monotonous ineptitude interrupted only by short stretches of brilliance from Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne and a few other stars who wore the club’s ever-changing uniforms.
This is just not normal to the long-suffering fans of the Kings, who still remember how their only other appearance in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals went wrong when Marty McSorley was penalized for an illegal stick in 1993. The Kings lost that game and the next four to Montreal, and they hadn’t been back to the finals since.
In fact, they had won one playoff series in the past 17 seasons before this charmed summer when everything changed.
“It’s been a long time for these guys,” the Kings’ Jeff Carter said. “I think it would mean the world to this franchise.”