When does easy become too easy? It's surely our nature to relax when the path ahead seems clear; when the light shines bright because you're close to the end of the tunnel. We're all victims of leaning back a bit when things are good.
Over the weekend, the Kings lost their first playoff game in nine tries, and the first in their Western Conference matchup against the Coyotes. Not only was it their first loss of the series, but it was the first time they've been held scoreless in these playoffs. Pretty impressive stuff from a team that finished the season ranked 29th in goals scored for the regular season.
But the real question is: what does this loss tell us? We've been trained by the NBA and baseball to believe that once you hold a 3-0 lead, the series is a lock; with the Red Sox being a one-in-a-million exception. But in hockey, we've seen this phenomenon 3 times, the most recent being in the 2010 with the Flyers over the Bruins.
While 3 out of nearly 200 would be considered horrible odds in other walk of life, those 3 wins, all nearly 30 years apart, give every NHL team hope when down 3-0. Phoenix's captain Shane Doan sums it up perfectly, "We recognize we put ourselves in a tough position, (but) we also know it has been done." You'll never hear that quote in, say, the first round of the NBA playoffs.
But back to the original question: does this loss mean the Kings relaxed? Did they take the night off because they viewed the 3-0 lead as a mortal lock? Were the Coyotes players actually driven by this rare phenomenon in Game 4? If so, what happened in the first 3 games? I'm not going to speculate on the inner thoughts of the players, but is either of the above even a real possibility?
This question is actually very easy to answer if you give it some time. If the Kings take care of business in Game 5, all doubts would be put to rest, and for good reason. It's not realistic to think that any team, no matter how talented, well coached, or even lucky, would run through the entire playoffs without a single loss. Game 4 will simply be written off as "one of those things" and we can all move on.
For the average fan, it's hard to believe that a professional athlete, one competing at the highest level; in the Western Conference Finals no less, would ever take a night off, regardless of the situation. But we've seen it before, and we will see it again. If, in fact, that was the case, getting blanked at home in a closeout game should wake up anyone that fell asleep at the wheel.
For Kings fans, they'll keep believing their team will respond and complete their surprising run to the Finals.