LA Kings begin title defense
The Los Angeles Kings have begun their quest to defend the National Hockey League championship, in their third-consecutive postseason playoff appearance.
There are those in the city who are hopeful that the Kings will repeat as champions. Former Kings player and current Kings commentator, Daryl Evans is one of them.
“Like last year a lot of things have to fall into place. You have to be a healthy hockey club and you have to get some breaks,” said Evans. “It’s not going to be easy."
Last year, the Kings flew under the radar, with little expectations. They sneaked into the playoffs narrowly clinching the final spot in the Western Conference.
“This year, when you come in as the defending Stanley Cup Champions, there are high expectations,” said Evans. "You have a target on your back, everybody’s shooting for you."
Evans said he believes last year's championship went a long way in terms of gaining valuable experience.
“Prior to [the Kings] winning last year, they had a few players that had won on other teams. Those guys were able to share that experience, but I think when the team does it together, and you have pretty much the entire team intact again, it’s an experience as a group that you can kind of feed off of," said Evans. "It definitely will pay dividends, and I think that experience will bring them together."
One fun tradition that comes along with the NHL playoffs is the growing of playoff beards. After the last game of the regular season, it is custom that most players stop shaving as a sort of superstition.
In addition to the beards, various players have their own little superstitions. Whether it's what they eat for their pre-game meal, the way they drive to the rink, how they tape their stick, or what they wear to a game, “everybody’s got their own little quirks,” said Evans.
When Evans played for the Kings, he used to stay up really late the night before a game and would have a big meal, consisting of a three pound steak. Evans said he was different because a lot of players go with pasta for their pre-game meal, but he went big on the protein.
Santa Monica College student Kelcie Larkin, who has been a Kings fan for about 20 years, has a few of her own superstitions when watching a game.
“My boyfriend is not allowed to bet on my team [the Kings] and I have to have my friend Felipe walk out of the room once per period, they have a tendency to score as soon as he exits a room,” said Larkin with a laugh.
The Kings are looking to become the first NHL team to repeat as champions since the Detroit Red Wings did it back in 1998, a feat that Larkin said she believes is possible.
“Although they were not number one in their conference before the playoffs started, they seem to have an insane drive and hunger to win,” she said.
Echoing Evans' sentiments, Larking also said that winning last year was big for the team coming into these playoffs.
“I think that there is definitely a difference in drive this season. This team has come so far in the past few years, and I think that it would mean everything to them if they could pull out a second [Stanley Cup] victory,” said Larkin.
According to Evans, it will take a total team effort for a repeat.
“It won’t be just one or two guys. Different guys will bring different things to the table. It’s a little bit of everybody taking care of their own business," said Evans. "That’s part of the preparation when you get ready for playoff hockey. The team knows what they have to do, but each individual needs to bring their part to the table."