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.