EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) - Dustin Brown used a delicious phrase last week to describe the Los Angeles Kings’ seemingly inexorable march through the Stanley Cup playoffs, outworking and outlasting every opponent in their path.
According to their captain, the Kings have been in “zombie mode” while they chewed through San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago in three straight seven-game series, never getting more than 72 hours of rest between games for seven grueling weeks.
Brown’s brainy comparison still seemed apt after Los Angeles beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in overtime Wednesday in the Stanley Cup finals opener.
The Kings might not be as fast as their four playoff opponents, and they’ve encountered innumerable obstacles along the way. They still execute their relentless style of play with remarkable precision, and nobody has figured out how to stop them yet.
“We’re very comfortable in any situation we’re in as a group,” Brown said Thursday.
Game 2 is Saturday, giving the Kings another two-day rest - which is more than these zombies have needed lately.
The current Kings’ tenacity is unmatched in this franchise’s mostly mediocre history, and they’re becoming one of the most remarkable teams in recent NHL seasons.
Los Angeles has won nine seven-game playoff series in the past three years - one more than the Kings managed in their first 43 seasons of existence combined.
The Kings won an incredible seven elimination games in the first three rounds this spring, including four straight in their historic first-round rally past San Jose.
Even when the Kings found themselves one period or one shift away from elimination, their will never wavered - and neither did their determination to play responsible two-way hockey.
“It’s everybody taking pride, chipping in, helping each other out,” said Anze Kopitar, the NHL’s postseason scoring leader with 24 points.
“We have always played our best hockey when you push and pull guys together. That’s what it is, and that’s what we’ve been doing so far.”
It takes a heaping helping of brainpower to play in zombie mode, and the Kings have it. Los Angeles’ puck-possession game and defensive mindset are among the best in recent NHL history, as borne out both by advanced hockey statistics and the naked eye.
General manager Dean Lombardi put together a dressing room full of compatible players willing to play any role for team success.
Coach Darryl Sutter takes little credit for his players’ tremendous group will, but the Alberta farmer fostered it with a steady message and constant accountability.