Indeed, the Kings headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport right after the game, boarding their charter for the nearly 5 1/2-hour, coast-to-coast flight back to Los Angeles.
“[The flight] was fine. Had a good Chilean Sea Bass,” said center Jarret Stoll, eliciting laughter from the media. “It was good. Food was great. Really good catering last night. Got a good three hours of sleep.”
The Kings eat quite well on their charter flights. But rest is often an entirely different matter, and as Stoll indicated, they did not get much sleep on the plane, and probably not much more that morning, given their 3:36 AM PDT arrival at Los Angeles International Airport. As such, it was surprising to see that some players chose to skate on Thursday afternoon, despite the lack of rest.
“It’s just about getting ready,” said winger and captain Dustin Brown. “I’m sure some guys will skate tomorrow, early. But at this point of the year, it’s about getting what you need, personally, [to get ready]. That’s why there was a group of guys out there who’d rather skate today. Again, it’s all about tomorrow night.”
“Some guys like to ride the bike, get a little sweat,” said right wing Tyler Toffoli. “Some guys wanted to skate. It’s a personal decision. Guys who didn’t skate today will skate tomorrow.”
“I wanted to take the day to ride the bike, and rest a little bit,” added Toffoli.
Veteran right wing Justin Williams chose to skate and take the opportunity to get some extra sleep on game day.
“I wanted to get a nice sleep in tomorrow,” he said. “We had a couple of options in front of us. Regardless of what you did last night, you weren’t going to get a great night’s sleep, so if I can get an extra hour tomorrow, as opposed to skating in the morning, I’m going to do that.”
Prior to and after Game 4, there was a lot of talk about the Kings potentially winning the Stanley Cup tonight, in front of their home crowd. Some thought the Kings would prefer to do that, while others expressed shock that some players stated that they did not care where they won the Cup, should that become reality.
The players reiterated that it’s all about winning the Stanley Cup. Where they might win it is not germane to the discussion.
“You don’t pick and choose what position you get put in,” said center Mike Richards. “We’ve never wished [that we’d win] in any place, really. We just want to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s at home, on the road—wherever it is. You just want to have success.”
“I don’t care where it is, or how many games it takes,” said Toffoli. “I just want to win. We started focusing right after last [night’s game], thinking about tomorrow, and what we have to do to win.”
“We’ve won three games,” said Stoll. “We’ve got to win four. It doesn’t matter where you win the fourth. That’s a no-brainer.”
Williams summed it up in two words: “Just win.”
“Just win—that’s what we have to do,” he noted. “I don’t care where it is, I don’t care when it is. Just win. One more.”
“Just win. That’s with a big period and exclamation point behind it.”
Forget Puck Luck
Much has been said about the two pucks sitting on the goal line behind Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in Game 4 that did not result in goals for the Kings.
Many claimed that there was too much snow build-up, preventing the puck from crossing the goal line.
Regardless of whether or not that’s true, don’t try telling that to the Kings.
“That’s the way it goes,” said Stoll. “You work for your bounces, you work for your luck. How many times have we seen, in the playoffs and the regular season, pucks going off legs, elbows, gloves, shins—whatever—and into the net? You’ve got to work to get there. That’s how you get your bounces and your luck.”
“In that situation, we needed to work harder and work smarter to get the bounce to go our way,” added Stoll. “Those two situations went their way, so we move on.”
“All playoffs long, we’ve had bounces and other teams have had bounces,” said Toffoli. “In the Final, it can only go two ways, so we’ve got to make our own luck—keep shooting the puck, keep getting [to the front of the net], playing well in our own zone and being fast.”
Brown shared similar sentiments.
“It’s about being harder in the hard areas,” he stressed. “Everyone’s talking about those two pucks that were laying on the goal line. But that’s a hard area, in the blue paint. We’ve got to be harder there—pucks will go in for us.”
“It happened in Game 3, too,” he added. “The only difference is that we were up, 3-0, so no one talked about it. To have it happen twice in a game? I don’t know. But again, if we’re harder in those areas, those are in the net.”
Williams was even more blunt.
“Puck luck is for cop-outs,” he said. “I don’t believe in that at all.”
“I’m a true believer in making your own breaks and that you get what you deserve,” he added. “Last night, simply, just wasn’t good enough in every aspect of the game. Therefore, we lost.”
Getting off to a good start, as usual, will be a priority.
“We need to have a good start,” said Brown. “The last thirty minutes of Game 4, we were really good. It showed in—I think we gave up [one shot]. We were really good on the defensive side of the puck, which gave us more offensive zone time. But the first ten, 15 minutes of the game, we didn’t have the intensity that we needed, so it’s about bringing that right from the start.”
“We know we can do more, especially at the start of games,” Stoll emphasized. “That’s going to be our focus going into Game 5—being better at the start, being harder, heavier. All those good things. We’ve got to play a full game. At this time of year, against a good team in the Stanley Cup Final, you can’t play thirty minutes or forty minutes, especially when you’re down. [We have to] come out, have a good first twenty minutes, really have a good push, and just play our game, our way, our style. We’ll go from there.”
“We’ve got to come out, play hard for the first ten minutes—send the message that we want to win and we’re going to win,” said Toffoli.
A common refrain heard in the dressing room after practice was “hard and heavy.”
“We weren’t hard enough, we weren’t heavy enough, like the team that we are,” said Stoll. “We got better as the game went on, and things started happening for us. But it was too little, too late, for how we played the game.”
“I think we’ve got to get to the net a little more, and screen [Rangers goaltender Henrik] Lundqvist,” Toffoli noted. “He made some saves, but we let him sees a lot of shots. We’ve got to get there.”
The Kings will have to raise their level of play to another level.
“You always have to look at the end result,” Stoll noted. “Where we’re sitting right now—we’re sitting nice. We’re exactly where we want to be. But we need to elevate our game, just as they did in Game 4, if we’re going to have a chance to win Game 5.”
“We’ll have to be a lot better in Game 5,” said Williams. “Better, in terms of finishing, better, in terms of forechecking—little things. Finishing checks.”
“It’s not just shooting the puck,” added Williams. “It has to do with screens, traffic, rebounds, all of which beat every goalie in this league.”
Despite the need to be better in Game 5, Williams believes his team is ready and motivated.
“I have confidence in this team, in every aspect of hockey,” he said. “We’ll be ready. We know what’s at stake.”
“We don’t want to go back there. That’s a long plane ride.”
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