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After waiting 38 years to win his first Stanley Cup ring in 2012, sitting through another possible championship run two years later should be easier, right?
``I'm every bit as excited,'' former Komet player and coach and current Los Angeles Kings senior scout Rob Laird said. ``These games have been a roller coaster. It's a totally different feeling than last time when I didn't start to feel the nerves until the finals.''
During their 2012 run, the Kings led each of their first three series 3-0 and needed only 14 games to reach the Stanley Cup Finals against New Jersey. They also built a 3-0 lead against the Devils before winning the title in six games.
This spring has been completely different as the Kings trailed San Jose 3-0 before rallying to win the next four games. Then they trailed Anaheim 3-2, losing three straight games, before again rallying to win in seven games. Finally, they had to win a Game 7 in Chicago after almost blowing a 3-1 series lead.
Even in the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals against the New York Rangers, the Kings had to rally from two-goal deficits in each of the first two games to win in overtime.
Now they are up 3-0 heading into tonight's Game 4 with a chance to clinch.
Laird, 59, is in his 20th season as part of the Kings' organization, and no one has been part of the team longer. He watched the first two games in Los Angeles and will head back if a Game 5 is necessary. He'll continue with the team throughout the rest of the series.
``The stamina they have shown and the resiliency to bounce back has been amazing because that's not really the history of our team,'' Laird said. ``We were the best defensive team this year, but we're winning games in the playoffs 5-4.''
The Kings have been dominating the front of both nets, scoring many of their goals off deflections, rebounds and scrums. Most of the big goals seem to come with someone screening Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
``What's amazed me about this is we've been able to beat teams at their games,'' Laird said. ``That series against Chicago was really fast, up and down, and that's Chicago's style. I think a couple of contributing factors are acquiring Marian Gaborik, and then emergence of two younger players, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. They both started the season in the AHL.''
When the Kings won the title two years ago, Laird thought they were a couple of years ahead of schedule, but this team is performing exactly as it was built do. General Manager Dean Lombardi put a plan in place for all the team's scouts and coaches.
Laird points to the drafting of a strong core led by Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, and then the acquisition of veterans like Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
``It's kind of come together, and it's more of a six, seven-year plan,'' Laird said. ``Our core still remains fairly young and we think we can be competitive for several years to come.''
But first, the Kings have to get through this series against the Rangers.
``It's tough watching these games because it's a tough grind,'' Laird said. ```In 2012, though it looked easier, I still realized how difficult it is to win a title.''