FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A team with potential, but never quite hitting that consistently sweet spot, finally put it all together. And in the end, they were crowned unlikely champions.
The story of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and their improbable run is of great inspiration to Jay Heaps. And the New England Revolution head coach is drawing on the Kings' example ahead of his team's potentially make-it-or-break-it string of matches against Eastern Conference foes.
For the Kings, It took a late-season revival and a prolonged battle to improve a poor goalscoring record to secure a playoff berth. Those troubles ended in the postseason as they romped through the Western Conference playoffs before dispatching the New Jersey Devils in six games to lift their first championship.
Heaps cited the mentality the Kings adopted late in the season as a model for the Revs to adopt as they confront a stretch of 11 out of 12 matches against members of the Eastern Conference.
“I think you're going to get into a playoff mode a lot sooner,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “And that's always good. If you read about what the LA Kings did, they got into playoff mode during their season and they went on to win it.”
The concentration of Eastern Conference affairs forces New England to wring out points on a regular basis to stay in the thick of the MLS Cup Playoffs race. It isn't the easiest of situations for a developing side to combat, but Heaps said he believes his players possess the ability to adjust to the situation.
“It just shows you how much more pressure there is going to be when each game is a six-point swing,” Heaps said. “I think it will benefit us because it is less travel. We're a younger group – younger in age and younger in the time we've been together – so we're going to have to accelerate that learning curve and make sure we're not giving away games.”
Heaps counted several of his side's seven losses among that particular statistic. While those setbacks may have cost the Revs some points in the early stages of the campaign, they may just supply the foundation for a push to emulate the Kings' ultimate success.
“Those games are learning experiences,” Heaps said. “There's a negative attached because we have a loss next to it, but, at the same time, we have to use it as a starting point to get better.”