Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Playoff Lessons Learned

When you venture into uncharted territory, you're bound to make mistakes. In my time as a Kings fan, we've never been here, so I had my doubts whether it would ever happen. Nothing in the regular season gave me a conclusive reason to believe it would. So I made a choice to try and be smart, hedge my bets and be "realistic" about our chances in the first round, thinking that being "right" about the outcome was what mattered in the end.

Turns out I was wrong -- in so many ways. And it's time to pay the piper and admit just how wrong I was.

Thirteen days ago I tried to use logic, recent history and a season's worth of in person observation at Staples Center to predict the Kings playoff future. In the real world, that's what we do as human beings. We look for facts, statistics, guideposts and mile markers -- anything we think will guide us to the right decision. What I forgot is that the playoffs have a magical third dimension where the normal rules of the world don't always work and the unexpected becomes routine. In the playoffs, role players rise up to becomes heroes, emotion reigns over logic and unshakable belief trumps pure skill.

The Kings believed and that belief was rewarded.

My mistake was not believing enough. Sitting at the watch party Sunday night, chewing my nails and holding my breath, I still doubted the Kings could do it. And when they proved me wrong, when that room erupted and I screamed and hugged people I knew and some I didn't, I learned the most important lesson of my life as a hockey fan -- it feels great to let go and just BELIEVE.

We all make mistakes, but our true measure as human beings is learning from them and not making the same mistake twice. Whether I'm right or wrong, I will never doubt this team again. Because win, lose or draw, it's far more rewarding to be a believer than a doubter.

They say the fourth win is the hardest to get. It's also the sweetest. Even when you predict the wrong outcome.

I learned a few other things during this playoff series as well.
  • Important moments in Kings history are dictated by numerology. Three seasons ago, the Kings went to the playoffs for the first time in 8 years led by a Norris Trophy candidate wearing the number 8. Two years later, the Kings advance to the second round for the first time in 11 years because of a goal scored by jersey 28. When the Kings last advanced beyond the first round in 2001, the series winning goal was scored by another 28 -- Adam Deadmarsh. (Do you have chills yet? I do.)
  • Straight up hard nosed hockey is a lot more fun to watch than a bunch of between the whistles gamesmanship. It also helps you win. I think the Vancouver Canucks know that now.
  • Winning at home is awesome, but stealing a series in the other team's barn almost feels better.
  • It was a pleasure watching Drew Doughty grow up in this series. He is still young, and he still has room to develop, but he's a gamer.  His set up for Brad Richardson's goal to tie the game was worth every bit of the money he made this season. It was a clutch moment and the Kings would not have won without it. And seeing him smile and skate away from a scrap was beautiful icing on the cake, even if it spawned temporary meme insanity on the web.
  • NOT trading Dustin Brown was the smartest move Dean Lombardi will ever make as a GM.

  • Quicker > Ginger
  • Barney's Beanery s'mores have magical powers. No sooner did they arrive at our table during the third period then Brad Richardson scored to tie the game.
  • Bob Miller and Jim Fox are CRITICAL to the kings success. The only game we lost in the first round is the one they DIDN'T call.
  • "S" words in hockey are cursed. Don't even think about saying the word "Sweep" to me, or writing it on a sign, or bringing a broom to the rink. Ever again.
  • Bailey in a speedo is...naked and furry.



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