The first and last scenes in the second episode of "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Stadium Series" serve as reminders of what the Los Angeles Kings have already accomplished and are still capable of accomplishing. Everything in between details their current reality as a struggling team on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The San Jose Sharks, the Kings' rivals to the north and the host team in the 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game on Feb. 21 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2) are shown battling their own problems on the ice while trying to maintain a sense of humor and semblance of balance off it.
EPIX 'ROAD TO THE NHL STADIUM SERIES'
Life in the NHL isn't easy, but it can be a heck of a lot of fun. Winning is even harder, but nothing is more satisfying than when you leave the rink with two points. This series is using the Kings and the Sharks to prove each of those statements.
The episode begins with the Kings at the White House being honored by President Barack Obama. It's clear the visit meant a lot to the Kings, even from a fashion standpoint.
Forwards Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis are giving defenseman Drew Doughty the business about how he's dressed, with Lewis commenting on how the color of his white shirt doesn't even cover the back of his tie. Doughty, incensed, tells his teammates he spent $700 on the jacket and shirt the day before.
In the same room, center Anze Kopitar is talking to Kings captain Dustin Brown, wondering how many times President Obama will work a Chicago reference into his congratulatory speech. Hint: He did it a lot, to the amusement of everyone in the room.
The Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, the president's favorite team, in the Western Conference Final.
"It's pretty cool meeting the President of the United States under any circumstance, but especially when you beat his favorite team, it's always nice," Brown said.
The scene shifts to Tuesday, to Verizon Center, where the Kings are back to work, trying to figure out how to get their season turned around.
"Hey let's make some noise," Kings coach Darryl Sutter told the players before the game.
The Kings barely made a peep. They lost 4-0 despite Sutter constantly imploring them to be stronger and firmer on the puck.
"Sick of [expletive] losing yet, boys?" Brown said at the end of the game.
There would be more losing, but first a visit to Sharks Ice, where it's bring your kids to practice day. Sharks coach Todd McLellan allows his players to bring their children to practice once per week. It's a sign of the family environment the Sharks are trying to create for their players.
"They like seeing the guys," said center Joe Thornton, who has his daughter with him. "It's fun for everybody."
The scene shifts to Thornton's home for a Super Bowl party. Thornton is technically the host, but forward John Scott is the master of ceremonies. Scott even goes around to quiz some of the people at the party, including some teammates, about football.
The results: Forward Tyler Kennedy doesn't know that Bill Belichick coaches the New England Patriots, Danielle Scott (John's wife) thinks the Flyers are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and forward Mike Brown thinks a quarter in an NFL game lasts 10 minutes (it's 15).
"I'm Canadian," Kennedy said. "I don't know this stuff."
The next day brought the Sharks back to work, and it wasn't pretty. McLellan was seething after San Jose gave up 16 shots in the first period to the Edmonton Oilers, the 29th place team in the NHL.
"The goals against, the chances [expletive] against have the same value against this team as it does against Anaheim, Chicago and [expletive] L.A.," McLellan told the Sharks during the first intermission. "Expect more of yourselves."
The Sharks come back to earn a point but lose 5-4 in a 13-round shootout.
Back to the beach, the Florida beach that is, where the Kings have arrived following their lackluster performance against the Capitals. They've got three games left on their five-game road trip; they're 0-2-0 so far.
Assistant coaches John Stevens and Davis Payne work the Kings through a practice, where they can get their legs moving and refocus for the game the following night against the Florida Panthers. Their reality is they haven't lost focus on what's going on.
"From this point on we've got to win every game on this road trip, and that's what we should strive for," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We need to be better and everybody knows it."
They would be, but not against the Panthers, who rally to defeat the Kings 3-2 with two third-period goals, including one on a mistake by defenseman Jake Muzzin.
It becomes clear that frustration is setting in.
"We lost two points," center Jarret Stoll said. "We had two. Then we had one. Then we got none. That's the bottom line. We got zero points tonight. … Yeah, it's a tough loss, but we [got] zero points."
Frustration is a word that works for the Sharks too.
The day after losing at home to Edmonton, San Jose flew north to begin a back-to-back set against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. The Sharks were down 3-0 in the first period against the Flames and wound up losing 3-1 after McLellan delivered an impassioned speech about not letting down their teammates.
"In this league, life is simple," narrator Bill Camp said, reading the words written by Aaron Cohen, "you only feel as good as the result of your last game."
But the Sharks woke up the next morning in Vancouver with another chance, another game to play. This one they took advantage of with a 5-1 win.
Forward Matt Nieto's victory anthem, the making of which was detailed earlier in the episode, plays as the Sharks prepare to fly home feeling good.
"The tone in the visitor's dressing room is a mix of relief and celebration," Camp said.
"Consistency will persist as the long-term objective, but tonight you'll hear no apologies for victory on a tight turnaround."
Across the continent in Tampa, Fla., the Kings are looking to change their losing ways, so they take a limo bus to dinner the night before playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. There was good steak, good conversation, and even a bet that went awry for rookie Andy Andreoff, who thought he could eat six saltine crackers in under a minute.
He couldn't. But everyone got a laugh.
The next day, the Kings finally got a win, defeating the Lightning 4-2.
"That was a huge one for us," forward Jeff Carter is heard saying off camera. "We haven't been very good. Hopefully we can keep it going. So it's a good feeling in the room right now."
As the Kings were leaving the ice, the cameras caught smiles from Dwight King and Lewis, and even a left-eye wink from Gaborik. It was a sign of some of the Kings' swagger coming back, the same swagger that got the Kings to the White House.