For today's cartoon I thought I'd draw up a nice little BoC-focused logo for this year's NHL playoffs:
Sharks fans know plenty about the heightened stresses of game #83 and beyond -- there's no real advice I can offer there. But for Kings fans, it has been quite a while -- since Los Angeles last qualified for the playoffs, the Ducks have played in 14 playoff series, winning 10 of them. As a fan who has bled and cursed throughout all of that, I thought it might be a nice day to offer some postseason advice for Kings fans, not so much about what it takes for their team to win, but rather what they as fans should be ready to endure once the regular season ends.
Definitely, Ducks and Sharks readers, feel free to add your own sage advice to Kings fans in the comments.
Be ready to sweat. By design, a seven-game series is constant hell, where every tense moment gets magnified to an incredible degree. It's unrelenting -- Game One is always the most important until it ends, then immediately Game Two becomes the be-all-end-all, and so forth. You'll stress about games days before they start, and by the time the puck drops you may even find yourself so overwhelmed that coherent speech becomes impossible. And if you're playing an opponent that you'd absolutely hate to lose to (oh, I don't know, like how the Ducks play the Red Wings every goddamn opportunity available), everything goes up another several notches.
The fact that playoff stress exists isn't surprising, but you still may end up surprised how it gets to you. You may lose the ability to breathe during a 3-on-5 penalty kill. You may lose the ability to talk during an entire intermission. You may get zero hours of sleep between G4 and G5 of a series -- who knows?
Be ready for a new hero and/or goat. By now you should have a very strong sense of this year's L.A. Kings, those you'd like to see on the ice for critical minutes and those you wouldn't. But now as we enter the "every minute is critical" stage, it quickly boils down to results. Score a huge goal, and past sins get forgiven/overlooked quickly. Commit a huge giveaway and past reliability can be flushed down the toilet. Sure, it's still hockey, a game decided somewhere between systems and bounces, where a goaltender can theoretically change anything. But with the short-sighted need for wins, labels get assigned and removed easily.
If you're truly lucky, the stars may align for you, and a player you've had a mancrush on for years may step up and have a postseason for the ages. But don't count on it -- it may just as easily be someone you never saw coming. Postseason labels tend to stick, too -- just ask the guy who first called Joe Thornton a choker.
Be ready for some new attention. This was a really tough one for me at first, because living in SoCal you do become quite accustomed to nobody giving a shit about hockey -- it becomes your own private source for pain and pleasure, one that nobody else really bothers looking into. But then comes the postseason, and meaningful games, and SportsCenter coverage, and all that -- and all of a sudden, folks you never expected will come up to you to talk about last night's game. It can be nice in one sense -- always good to get more eyeballs on the sport -- but for the most part I've found it extremely frustrating, especially if they've managed to catch a crucial playoff loss.
They probably mean well, but they'll be approaching a very sore subject with absolutely no idea what they are talking about, and it can be very difficult not to respond immediately with your fists. It really puts you in a bind -- yeah, it is good to have Lakers fans or football fans watch a hockey game with interest, and you may want to encourage more of that, but it can also come during a game that you have zero interest in discussing further.
Be ready to drink. This really relates to the first point about constant stress -- alcohol has become quite the standard playoff-coping mechanism for me, at least. And it's not just for giggles and antics -- sometimes you need to get yourself shitfaced during a game just to deal with the results. Your mileage may vary here -- some people aren't great candidates for high-stressed drinking -- but it's been a necessary element for me especially for later rounds, and especially for opponents named Detroit.
Be ready for crap like this:
Rudy may be sore that nobody's picked on Kings fans in ages, but plenty of people will enjoy L.A.'s demise this spring, and they probably won't be shy in telling you so. Hooray for the downside to relevance!
Prediction: Kings don't choke just yet -- give 'em five games.