EL SEGUNDO, CA — On April 22, the Los Angeles Kings gathered at their practice facility where they met with the local media, lamenting their first round playoff loss to the San Jose Sharks, who eliminated them in five games.
Even worse, although the scores were close in all but Game 5, there were long stretches in the other games where the Sharks dominated, at times, making the Kings look like they didn’t belong.
“Teams in this league are pretty good,” said center Anze Kopitar. “You can’t just think that you’re going to come in and just roll over everybody. I think San Jose was a good example. They just flat out played better hockey than we did. They got timely goals on their power play and we weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be on the penalty-kill and on the power play. That’s what usually makes the difference.”
“We just didn’t perform in that series,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “It’s frustrating losing to those guys, and it’s frustrating that we’re watching hockey right now, knowing we’re not playing, because I do know how good our team is.”
“We weren’t the team we needed to be in the playoffs,” added Doughty. “We can use all the excuses we want, but it just came down to the fact that we didn’t perform in the playoffs [well] enough. That’s the bottom line. San Jose—I don’t want to say they were hungrier, or more determined to win, but they definitely played better than us. There’s no doubt about that. It’s disappointing.”
Although it won’t be quite as long as the summer of 2015 after they failed to qualify for the playoffs, the Kings are once again faced with the bitter disappointment of having another long summer, especially after a season in which they were expected to make a deep run into the post-season—they were expected to be a Stanley Cup contender.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” said Doughty. “We may have had one of our best teams, on paper, this year. We had a lot of the right players in place. Guys got hurt and stuff like that, so things didn’t go exactly how we wanted in that way. So yeah, it’s frustrating, knowing what our team is and could’ve been.”
“You’re a little upset after [losing],” added Doughty. “You’re not too happy about the result, but what are you going to do? After it’s all said and done there’s nothing you can really do. I’m ready to reset—get some rest right now, and then get back in the gym and look forward to next year.”
“It’s definitely disappointing,” said Kopitar. “We definitely had other plans in mind, but it didn’t happen, obviously. We got eliminated, so we’ve got to live with this now. It’s going to be a longer summer again. Now it’s just time to exhale, look back, see what everybody can do better, and come back next year ready to go again.”
Although the Kings face that long summer mentioned earlier, to them, whether their summer is short or long is of no consequence, under the circumstances.
“Frustrating—it doesn’t matter if you have a long summer or a short summer,” Kopitar noted. “It’s always frustrating when you go out before the playoffs are done. We’ve been there before so anything less than that is disappointing. I think that’s what makes our team so resilient and it shows the character this team has. Anything less than winning is disappointing and we don’t want to do anything else.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a long summer or a short summer,” Kopitar added. “It only comes down to winning or not.”
With the off-season upon them, the Kings will start heading off in their separate directions. Some will stick around the Los Angeles area over the summer, while others will head to wherever home is.
“[I’ll] stick around here for a bit,” said Kopitar. “Nothing special. Go home for a bit, come back, go up to Toronto, do that for a few weeks, and then, back at it here again.”
“I’ll go home to Ontario [Canada],” said Doughty. “I’m usually out of here within three or four days, but this year I’m going to stick around for a little bit, and actually travel around California a little bit. I’ve basically never left the South Bay.”
Both Kopitar and Doughty are expected to play in the World Cup of Hockey tournament in September.
“I’m very honored to be a part of that team, so far,” said Doughty. “It’s going to be pretty cool being in Toronto, in front of our home fans in Canada. But it’s a little bit tough because you’re not used to getting into real games right away. I think it will be a different adjustment, but I think everyone will be able to do it.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be too hard,” Kopitar said about participating in the tournament. “[Toronto is], arguably, the biggest stage in hockey. Going there, the excitement that’s going to be in the city alone, I think it’s going to fire everybody up, even though we play as a continent, I guess. But it’ll be fun to play with some guys you always play against, and make some new friends. It should be exciting.”
“[Heading into the tournament], I think everybody’s focus is going to be to get ready for this [the NHL] season, in general,” Kopitar added. “I think the games you play there are going to be somewhat used to get ready for the [NHL] season. Those are obviously going to be world-class exhibition games, if you want to call them that. I don’t think it’s going to change things a whole lot. The summer is going to be shortened just little bit because of that, but it’s not going to be a big deal.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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