Only a few players and the assistant coaches were on the ice Tuesday morning as a somber
Most of the
The team Lombardi built to contend for a second
"I don't think any of them thought even in Games 1 and 2 that we played our game," he said of the Kings' series-opening victories over the Ducks. "There's been pockets of it but not the consistency that we know we're capable of. That's the thing."
But much of that comes from the Ducks not allowing the Kings to play the tight, low-scoring games Coach
In addition, injuries that have taken
"I think that's individual stuff," Sutter said. "Normally if you don't play that way you get to watch up where it's cold. But we're not in that position right now. You've got to play."
Lombardi sees some psychological factors affecting the team too. After the Kings' 2012 Cup triumph, he sought advice from general managers and coaches in other sports about how to handle being the defending champions and what they did to keep their respective teams on an elite level. It would be difficult, they told him. He suspected they were right. Now, he knows it.
"The challenge of staying on top and consistently competing with the big boys, the challenge for the club is very different than building," Lombardi said. "I said that two years ago, for all of us, general manager, coach and players … I talked to all those people. They said, 'You're not going to understand it until you go through it.'
"We've got to all learn from it, to get that consistency."
There isn't much time to do that and end the familiar refrain voiced by several players, including winger
"We haven't played our best hockey and I'm sure everybody's going to leave everything out there" on Wednesday, Gaborik said. "I'm confident that we can get back to Anaheim."
The Kings have been through this before, having fought off elimination four times against San Jose in the first round. While losing the third game of that series, in overtime, the Kings found accomplishments to build on and launch a comeback. Their best players were their best, most effective players. And the
Lombardi said he still believes in his team, as much as he wishes it had learned the virtues of consistency.