EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Jonathan Quick remembers eating ice pops with his friends and watching their beloved New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup on television in 1994. Dustin Brown vaguely recalls Joe Nieuwendyk bringing the Cup to Ithaca, N.Y., but can’t remember if he got to see it up close.
With just one more win by their Los Angeles Kings, the star goalie and the courageous captain will have the Stanley Cup in their hands, above their head – even in the Pacific Ocean, if they choose.
The stage is set for a California coronation in Game 4 tonight. The Kings could complete a sweep of the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals in front of a sellout crowd that’s been waiting 45 years for this chance to celebrate.
“It’s right there in front of us, but we know there’s one more step,” Brown said Tuesday at the Kings’ training complex. “We don’t want to trip now.”
The eighth-seeded Kings are dominating the NHL playoffs with an ease that’s stranger than ice in sunny L.A. A franchise that has never done much of anything in the postseason has already conquered the Western Conference, and the Kings are one win away from claiming their first championship in almost impossibly stylish fashion.
The Kings are on a 15-2 playoff run that has only one equal in NHL history, leaving everyone searching for superlatives to describe the way Los Angeles has steamrolled every opponent in its path by a combined 49-24 margin.
Game 4 is a chance to reward the fans who consistently sold out Staples Center even during the Kings’ playoff absence from 2002-10 before general manager Dean Lombardi’s rebuilding plan yielded fruit this spring.