Greetings from Chicago, where the Kings will face the Blackhawks tonight in their third Game 7 of this playoff run. The Kings won the first two Games 7s on the road, contributing to the 5-1 record road teams have compiled in those games this spring.
To get a sense of how long and grueling the road to the Stanley Cup can be, the Kings’ first postseason game was April 17 at San Jose and the calendar turned to June on Sunday.
“That’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing,” defenseman Willie Mitchell said of playing into June. “That’s a great thing. June hockey is what it’s all about.”
Going to the rink when everyone else is starting vacation and it’s warm and humid outside, as it is in Chicago today, doesn’t bother Mitchell.
“It’s an awesome thing. It’s a privilege, no doubt about it,” he said. “You’re one of four teams to get to play for the ultimate. And a good group on each team has had that chance and knows what it feels like. It’s probably a big reason why both these teams are here.
“I didn’t get it until you win. You look at Detroit and how they’re winning their Cups and you’re thinking, ‘How do these guys do it?’ They play that deep and get re-motivated again. Once you get that feeling you want it again and everything that goes along with it, that whole summer and just the day, the moment with your teammates and for yourself and your family. It’s the ultimate. That’s probably a big reason these teams are here. They know it. They’ve felt it. They want to do it.”
Right wing Justin Williams — also known as Mr. Game 7 for his six goals and 12 points in the six Game 7 experiences of his career — was happy to see the calendar turn. He said he mentioned that to Dustin Brown as they entered the United Center for the Kings’ morning skate.
“I love June hockey. June hockey’s the best and it’s warm out,” Williams said. “I love playing in this nice weather and you know you’re almost the only show in town. It makes it special.”
Incidentally, the Kings won the Cup on June 11, 2012. And Williams won it with Carolina before that, on June 19, 2006.