Willie Mitchell returned in Game 1 after having missed eight games due to injury and was assigned 16:49 of ice time, 1:27 of which was spent on the penalty kill. He logged a plus-one rating, having been on the ice for Tyler Toffoli’s goal, and was deemed by Darryl Sutter as having played a “solid” game. “I think everybody thought that,” Sutter added yesterday.
Mind you, these weren’t eight regular season games. Mitchell missed the entire series against Anaheim and stepped in to face a potent, puck-possessing Chicago attack. Having graded out quite well in his return, Mitchell was asked whether there’s any additional difficulty in returning after missing time in the playoffs as compared to the regular season.
“I don’t know…Sometimes in this game there’s no rhyme or reason to it,” he said. “Sometimes you can step out there, and you’ve prepared the same way. You’ve done everything the same way, and you feel real good. Sometimes you do it, and for some reason your legs aren’t there. Sometimes no, because your teammates are playing so well at this time of the year, and everyone’s in the right position, doing the right things, and so your reads are kind of maybe a little bit easier at this time of the year, where it’s only human nature during the course of a regular season that there are ebbs and flows as a team because it’s tough mentally to stay in the right place over the course of an 82-game schedule. I don’t know. It’s always tough stepping back in, and I think sometimes if you just kind of prepare and kind of remember where you were before you kind of step back in and kind of have that not cockiness, but confidence, then I think that transition becomes a lot easier.”
Mitchell, on where the team’s confidence comes from:
I think that always comes from going through adversity. Everyone knows the story on the year when we won the Cup. We faced a lot of adversity that year. We got a coach fired. We had to play with urgency down the stretch to get into the playoffs, and so I think over the course of a few years you kind of build that trust between each other, and sometimes it can work both ways for you. I think we’ve got ourselves in a position in these playoffs that we shouldn’t have been in…Only so many times you can get your backs against a wall and push yourselves to that where other stuff starts playing a factor, because you can go out and play the best game in the world with your back against the wall and it could be an unlucky call and it could be an unlucky call, a bad bounce or whatever, and you’re going home. I think how we get in that mode, and how we kind of get in that urgency, even with a little bit of calmness, I think we do that more often – not rely on that, like I say in situations, all the time. We’re a good group, and we can sense it when we need to do it, and we’re going to need to do that against a really good hockey team here.