It was a question posed throughout the latter stages of the 2013-14 season. Could the Kings, already entrenched in a playoff position and with little to gain in the standings, exhibit their best efforts against teams playing out their schedule? While Los Angeles did face a handful of desperate teams down the stretch in Winnipeg, Phoenix, Minnesota, Philadelphia and Washington, there were also a collection of games against Calgary, Edmonton and Florida that weren’t necessarily able to raise the collective level of play towards the playoff boiling point.
Willie Mitchell, when asked if a team two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup was well equipped to handle adversity, referenced the late season competition in his response.
“I don’t think we hit adversity, it’s one game. Of course we want to be on the other side of the ledger, but it’s one game,” Mitchell said. “Being realistic, on the journey, what we want to entail here, is that you will lose more than one game and you have to win games different ways over that journey. I just think for us, we’re looking to have a much better game. And no disrespect, but down the stretch we were stuck in a position, played some hockey clubs that were in the latter part of the league that were kind of out of it and we weren’t kind of playing those in-your-face style of games that come playoff-time. Like I said, we learned our lesson dearly last game and we’ll look to play our style of hockey.”
Willie Mitchell, on whether he anticipates a lower-scoring Game 2:
We’re kind of focusing on our stuff and just a much better effort. We played a real loose hockey game where we weren’t connected as a group. For some reason we just didn’t have jump and you can just feel it around here, guys are in a better place and ready to go. And you’ll probably see as much, I know you’ll see a much better effort from our hockey club.
Mitchell, on how the team strives to exit its defensive zone:
Like I said, it’s just connected. Connected in the D-zone, offensive zone and neutral zone. When you’re connected like that, the game becomes really easy. Support is right there, it’s only six to eight feet away. And this time of year when it’s tighter checking and it’s playoffs and it’s faster paced, that’s what you need. And when you execute on that you become a very fast hockey team.