Kings hope numbers add up to first Stanley Cup

Published June 05, 2012

| Reuters

Of all the impressive numbers the Los Angeles Kings have put up in their bid for a first Stanley Cup, they have been fixated on only one - 16.

That is the number of wins it will take for the Kings to capture the Cup that has eluded the franchise for 45 years.

With one more victory over the crumbling New Jersey Devils on Wednesday, they can cap what has been a regal post-season performance with an improbable four-game sweep of the best-of-seven series.

"You have to find a way to close it out, win that 16th game and that's the hardest thing to do, we all know that," said Kings Jarret Stoll, who learned all about Stanley Cup heartbreak as a member of the Edmonton Oilers that lost the 2006 final to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.

"It is a really tough trophy to win, very few people have won it and we know how hard it is going to be tomorrow night.

"We have to have that instinct to take it."

The Kings' post-season journey has followed a script as improbable as any imagined by a Hollywood scriptwriter.

After a tumultuous regular season that saw the team change coaches mid-stream and lose more games than they won, the Kings scraped into the playoffs as the eighth seed but have reigned supreme, setting a string of records and firsts.

In each of their four playoff series, Los Angeles has raced to 3-0 leads, finishing off the top seeded Vancouver Canucks (4-1), number two St. Louis Blues (4-0) and number three Phoenix Coyotes (4-1) in rapid-fire succession - an NHL first.

The Kings have also been the ultimate road warriors, going a perfect 10-0 away from home, another NHL record.

Los Angeles penalty killers have been perfect in the finals, killing off all 12 New Jersey powerplay chances while scoring five short-handed goals.

With a miniscule .950 save percentage (another NHL record) netminder Jonathan Quick has driven the Devils to distraction, yielding just two goals through three games, making him the leading candidate for Conn Smythe honors as the Stanley Cup's most outstanding player.

Impressed? Not Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who indicated after Tuesday's practise that he's seen better while coaching the 2004 Calgary Flames to the Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"Yes. Miikka (Kiprusoff)," Sutter replied when asked if he had ever seen a netminding performance like Quick's. "Do the math. Seven games 14-13, goals-for, goals-against, seven-game series. Pretty incredible."

Despite Sutter's reluctance to shower praise on his team, the Kings are approaching rare territory.

With a win on Wednesday, Los Angeles would finish the post-season with a remarkable record of 16-2, matching the mark held by the 1988 Edmonton Oilers, a team led by five Hall of Famers, including Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.

"I think that I knew we had a chance of being a playoff team," said Sutter. "Then once you get in, anything happens, right?"

(Editing by Julian Linden)

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