Rangers, Kings go after one prize

"We'll go out for dinner -- the beards we all have don't help -- but back in the day we could just pretty much roll in anywhere, and there's no way anyone would know who you were, no possible way," Doughty said. "And now it seems like everywhere we do go, we are getting recognized. It's kind of more like Canada, when you're back in home in Canada. It's great because we're bringing more fans to the game, we're making hockey a presence in California. But that was kind of the bonus of playing here too -- you could do what you wanted and not get in trouble for it."

Speaking of Doughty, he is one of a large number of Kings players who are unflinchingly honest, whether it's in talking about their own personal level of play or where the team is at.

"I take it upon myself to make a difference in the game. Sometimes it goes backwards. Last game against the Blackhawks, I wasn't very good in the first period. I played a lot better after that, but I put maybe a little bit too much pressure on myself, tried to do too much on my own," Doughty acknowledged.

"My ultimate thing is just winning. That's all I care about, being a winner and helping this team win. I'll do anything it takes."

Not only are the Kings in a different place in their evolution now, but they're also in a different place in this series as the home team, the first time this spring, and a significant favorite to win this series.

"We're just not looking at it that way," said playoff scoring leader Anze Kopitar. "It doesn't matter to us. Obviously they're doing some really good things to be in this position. Both teams have done it but now it's about to take the next step and get it done."

Not far away, Justin Williams -- Mr. Game 7 -- who ran his record to 7-0 in Game 7s in Chicago, suggested there isn't much to separate the two teams regardless of how others might assess their respective chances.

"The Rangers have proven throughout these playoffs, as we have, that they're tough to put down," Williams said. "Teams don't make it here by chance. It's a tough grind. The Rangers have proven that they're battle-tested, and I know that their will to win is going to be big."

And maybe that's the great lesson from all of this as we head into Game 1 of the 2014 finals: This is where the road converges for that one simple thing -- the will to win.

The paths have been different, to be sure, but now these two teams and those two paths have become one: one path, one goal, one winner.

Bring it on.

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