The March of Las Cucarachas "We
never say die. Someone described us as a bunch of cockroaches that don't go
- Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, late Sunday night, June 1, 2014
LOS ANGELES, CA -- While their fans see them as something far more
beautiful, Mr. Martinez has placed a moniker on his team that will be
remembered years from now.
Though the Los Angeles Kings have hit the floor numerous times since
mid-April, three 100-point teams, including the defending champions
Chicago Blackhawks, did not possess the formula to exterminate them.
When the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks could not extinguish them
when leading their series, the Blackhawks flipped the script and tried
to lull them into a false sense of security of a 3-1 lead and almost
pulled a rally executed against the Detroit Red Wings on their way to
the 2013 Cup win.
But if you know anything about this Kings team, you know they never do
anything easy. They struggled through an underachieving
regular-season, continuing what seemed to be a never ending struggle
to score. Though Coach Darryl Sutter reinforced the goal of winning
the Pacific Division as the best path to return the Cup to the corner
of 11th and Figueroa, they reverted to their 2012 path of finishing up
the track to place them as the visiting team in all three playoffs
series they've played.
Unlike their 2012 run, the Kings fell into a deep, dark hole against
the Sharks and nothing short of a little sports history would stave
off a first round elimination that could have resulted in numerous
organizational changes in the summer.
But Sutter, who played line change roulette all season, made the bold
decision to return captain Dustin Brown from a season-long bottom six
banishment and installed him as the right wing alongside center Anze
Kopitar and left wing Marian Gaborik.
The pairing wasn't effective with Mr. Game 7, Justin Williams, on the
right flank and Brown's greater speed and net presence has been a
major reason why Kopitar is the leading point man in the post-season
and Gaborik is its top goal scorer.
This team is far from a one line team and their offensive depth is
something we've never seen in the Dean Lombardi Administration.
To witness a Los Angeles team with the ability to outlast teams is a
stunning reversal from the championship team whose singular mission
was simple: potting two then locking down the opponent. That team had
a younger Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene of the backline
and with the departure of the former and the aging of the remaining
ones, this team has morphed into a style that can win a 5-4 game.
This highly-entertaining style has temporarily removed one staple of a
Sutter press conference, "it's a 3-2 league" and we're all a little
better for it.
The development of rookie wingers Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson is
the second key to why the Kings stand four wins away from the Cup.
The rookies took a lot of Sutter tough love throughout the campaign,
down the stretch of the regular season the gifted duo were granted
fourth line status as Sutter relied on his veterans to shift this team
into championship gear.
When that failed, Sutter finally trusted them to play flanking another
sniper in Jeff Carter, the defining moment in which the Kings become a
There's not a bigger testament to the depth of this team than the fact
that Los Angeles knocked out the defending champs without a single
goal from Anze Kopitar. While Kopitar deftly defended Jonathan Toews
through seven games (an insurance goal in Game 1 and a fortuitous
bounce on a powerplay in Game 7 was the only time Toews scored),
emerging from any series with Kopitar getting shut out could only
happen with the support of an effective second line.
While the Kings' star players are entering in the spotlight due to
their second Final appearance in three seasons, this team has 17
players that raised the Cup in 2012 and they rely on that experience
to keep calm as they continue their roller coaster ride towards a
They've beat three 100-point teams and faced much more difficult
competition than in 2012, this team never gets too high or low and the
unsuspecting quote machine, defenseman Alec Martinez embodies the
personality of the team.
Martinez was a valuable member of the 2012 team, playing on the third
pairing and providing an accurate shot and mobility on the blueline.
His 2013-14 season has mirrored the team, he's gone through an injury,
a benching, a hot streak as well as stretches of ineffectiveness. His
demeanor is reflective of this team, matter-of-fact when answering
questions while avoiding cliches. His stick was the weapon that
silenced the 22,000 at the United Center on Sunday night and his prior
referenced quote to a common household pest has traveled much farther
than his wrist shot that put the lights out in the Windy City.
"I think it's going to be a really good series. The one against
Chicago was really great for the fans. As a player, I don't want to
have to go through another one of those," Martinez joked. "It's
important to enjoy the moment, but Game 1 is all business for us."
Martinez fully respects the New York Rangers. He knows they're not a
fluke and when asked about the challenges of what King Henrik
Lundqvist and his crew bring, he sees a similarity to their last
"They forecheck a lot like the Blackhawks did, they have guys that can
put the puck in the net but the biggest similarity to Chicago is their
speed," he said. "Our coaching staff has prepped us well for their
tendencies and system. We played them a couple of times this season
and we know we are in for a very big battle."
As for the personal success and being part of Kings' history via a
deflected puck, Martinez shrugs it off.
"It won't mean anything unless we finish the job," he said. "As an
athlete, you want to play in the big game. We faced a lot of
adversity, but you're going to have to face that in playoff hockey. It
IS the most exciting thing in sports."
So while scoring a series-ending goal wasn't a shocker, the distance
the words he uttered in the celebratory and relieved locker room has
"I really didn't think it would make the rounds and I can't take
credit for it," he said. "As soon as I found out it was getting
attention, I tried jogging my mind to find out where I heard it from.
Maybe it was a buddy back home or someone in the room, but there are
very few times where I would prefer to be called a cockroach. This is
one case where I actually don't mind it."
We share Martinez's assessment that despite the Kings being in the
unusual position of being favorites, the Final will be another
difficult road for them. They've outlasted but not dominated teams and
they face an opponent with strengths similar to what gave them fits in
Round 3. Moreover, they will face the best goaltender they've seen in
Lundqvist and a coach in Alain Vigneault who is very familiar with
them and has beaten them in the playoffs. Add to that the emotional
bonding created around the passing of Martin St. Louis' mother in the
Conference Final round and in some ways, the Rangers are more
dangerous than the Western foes the Kings have faced.
While it would not shock us if the Rangers ended a 20 year absence of
the Stanley Cup on Broadway, pound-for-pound Los Angeles is the better
team. They've swam with Sharks, waddled past Ducks and avoided a
scalping at the hands of Blackhawks. They've survived like Martinez's
favorite pest and the March of Las Cucaraches should conclude
triumphantly in downtown Los Angeles through late June.
As we've done is every Los Angeles series in 2014, the prediction song
remains the same: Kings in 6.