They played a record 21 games in getting here, to the Stanley Cup final, and two games later, it hardly seems to have caught up with them.
Now, a little less than 48 hours after a marathon double OT win back at home, the Los Angeles Kings are ready to do it all again in Game 3.
One of the secrets to their success?
The Hotel Willie Mitchell, which was essentially a pile of blankets and pillows that the veteran defenceman put together on the team’s cross-country flight on Sunday.
“There’s little gaps in between some of the seats,” teammate Alec Martinez explained. “Some guys will use that and make a little bed. We’re not that highbrow – we can sleep on the floor.”
“Yeah there was a couple of us spooning in there,” Mitchell said, chuckling. “You’ve got to get it when you can. Sometimes when you switch West coast to East coast, your sleep schedule gets messed up so I’m a big believer in taking it when you can get it.”
The Kings may well have an advantage on that front given they’re far more used to logging these sort of miles during the year. Los Angeles had the seventh heaviest travel schedule in terms of distance in the NHL during the season (nearly 80,000 kilometres) while the Rangers travelled less than any other team (48,000).
Add in LA’s remarkable playoff success the last three years – with one Cup, another trip to the third round last year and their marathon run this season – and they’ve been crisscrossing North America more than any other team for a while now.
So you can add travel to the list of things the Kings have no problem dealing with, right next to multi-goal comebacks and winning games in overtime.
“I’m not going to complain – I mean I’m sitting in a chair 36,000 feet in the air,” Martinez said. “I think Louis CK talks about that. If you’re complaining about that, you’ve got problems.”
Even two wins from another championship, this is a very loose, carefree group. That said, they also insisted on Monday that they can play much better than they have and can win without having to pull off heroics like in Games 1 and 2.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are taking solace in the fact the series has been so close and that, with another bounce or two their way, they could be tied.
The majority of teams that have been in this situation in the final in the past have won Game 3, too.
“Chance-wise, we’re right there with them,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We played some good hockey. We got a little bit unfortunate in that last third period, but we’re right there. We feel real good about our game.”
“We’re well aware of the circumstances coming into this game,” Kings winger Justin Williams added. “Could we be coming in here 0-2? Yeah. Could it be tied? Yes, absolutely. But we found a way to get it done.”
That could well be this Kings team’s motto at this point.
After coming back from down 3-0 in a series in Round 1 against San Jose and knocking off a great Chicago team in Round 3 on the road, there’s very little that daunts them – including making yet another cross-country flight to play this game.
Fatigue may be a good media story given the road they’ve travelled, but it’s not in their dressing room, not when it hasn’t hurt them to date.
This is old hat – and they’ve all made pillow beds on the plane many times before.
“It’s the Stanley Cup final – there’s no excuses,” Martinez said. “No one’s tired…. You ask most of the guys, they’d prefer to go every other day.”
And for the next three games (if necessary), they’ll get their wish.