There are several difference between the 2013 Los Angeles Kings that were unable to successfully defend the Stanley Cup and the edition that’s currently two wins away from winning its second championship in three years, but the presence of defenseman Willie Mitchell is one of the biggest changes.
Although he typically doesn’t do much offensively, Mitchell’s defensive contributions played a big role in the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup in 2012. He couldn’t help the Kings at all during the 2013 campaign and playoffs though due to a knee injury.
He was sidelined for part of the 2014 postseason as well, but he’s been a significant factor when he’s been healthy. The Kings’ 5-4 double-overtime victory on Saturday was a prime example of that as Mitchell logged 34:14 minutes while also scoring a power-play goal and registering an assist on the game-winning marker.
“Mitch, we missed him last year, him being out,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said after the victory, per LA Kings Insider. “It changed the dynamic of the back end. Where I think he makes a very big difference obviously is his defensive coverage, PK. He’s very hard to play against down low.
“You know, tonight you get an added bonus with him making a difference on the offensive side of the puck. His bread and butter is down low and PK.”
Mitchell admitted that he had difficulty even watching the Kings play in the postseason last year “because it’s like sticking a knife in you.”
Now he doesn’t have to deal with that dilemma and Los Angeles is better for it.
Brayden Schenn had a big game in Thursday’s 5-4 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
He scored a goal and had two assists in the defeat, but he also dropped the gloves with rookie Jakob Chychrun.
As you can tell by the video at the top of the page, Chychrun went after Schenn because the Flyers forward flattened Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone (Chychrun got two additional minutes for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct).
The fight occurred just as Martin Hanzal scored to the go-ahead goal in the game.
The officials reviewed it to see if it would stand or not (ultimately it did).
The momentum swung Arizona’s way after that, as they scored 1:39 later to extend their lead to 4-2.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
–How do you decide who gets to be the last player off the ice after warmups? Play rock, paper, scissors of course! (Top)
—Connor McDavid has the city of Edmonton buzzing again. (The New York Times)
–The fight against Alzheimer’s means a lot to Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. (Sports Illustrated)
–Justin Bieber played hockey with a pro team in the UK and pulled off a serious celebration. (BarDown)
–Would Wayne Gretzky have set all those records if he was playing in today’s NHL? Mike Brophy weighs in. (CBC.ca)
–Six forgotten players that are off to fast starts in 2016-17. (USA Today)
How would you describe the Nashville Predators’ Stanley Cup bandwagon at the moment? A few flat tires? One of those abandoned school buses at a dump?
An unlikely occurrence – Peter Budaj winning four straight games for the Los Angeles Kings, all in overtime, all seriously in 2016 – puts a spotlight on an unsightly start for Nashville following a 3-2 OT decision.
In other words, it was another night where the Predators (early or not) didn’t look the part of Stanley Cup contenders.
Pekka Rinne has often been the scapegoat for Nashville’s losses, and his recent numbers justify some of the criticisms. Thursday doesn’t fall into that pattern, however. Instead, the Predators wasted a strong performance from their $7 million man, who stopped 42 out of 45 shots.
Budaj? He only needed to make 24 out of 26 stops to keep his unexpected winning streak going.
For the Kings and Predators, very different patterns continued on Thursday night.
Los Angeles has people wondering “How long can they win with Budaj?” and “Is there a team that can finally hog the puck against the Kings enough to expose him?” Don’t blame Kings fans who never want this strange sequence to end.
Nashville devotees, on the other hand, must wonder if they’re stuck in some sort of sick nightmare.
They’ve been a chic pick to win it all, yet they’re now at 2-4-1 with three away contests remaining on a challenging five-game road trip.
It’s early, but the headaches just keep multiplying for the Preds.
Are the Detroit Red Wings for real or are they headed toward a humbling regression? We might have to wait until their goalies look human before that question can really be answered.
For yet another game, Detroit’s netminder was outstanding, with Petr Mrazek helping the Red Wings beat the St. Louis 2-1 via a shootout (and a pretty stressful shootout in that).
It took eight rounds until Henrik Zetterberg managed Detroit’s second and decisive tally of the “skills competition,” and now Detroit is on a six-game winning streak.
Mrazek made 31 out of 32 games through overtime and was only beaten by Alex Steen in that shootout, stopping seven of eight attempts. He’s faced more than 30 shots on goal in all six of his appearances in 2016-17.
It is not as if there has been a big drop-off when Jimmy Howard has taken the net, either. Howard has only given up one goal in his two games, winning both of them.
Are the Red Wings asking a lot of Mrazek and Howard? Yep. Just take a look a this lopsided possession chart from Natural Stat Trick for another reminder.
You can see why skeptics murmur about this six-game winning streak being fool’s gold, but the Red Wings keep finding a way to win. Usually, it’s their goalies who have been doing the heavy lifting.