Alexander: Game 7 awaits for Kings youngsters

LOS ANGELES — There’s an adage in sports that at nearly every level, no matter how much experience a player has at the start of a season, by the end he’s older, wiser, and better able to handle every situation.

There is one exception. It’s the playoffs, and in hockey, that’s not something you can simulate or explain.

The young man who will be the future of the Kings has been through a lot this season. Some are here all season, while others are called up in the process. They’ve learned, they’ve grown and they’ve developed resilience, as shown on Thursday night when they bounced back from a two-goal deficit and left the Edmonton Oilers behind for a while.

But they couldn’t finish it. So Saturday night in Edmonton they will play Game 7 after a 4-2 home loss on Thursday night. Whether in junior year, college, or AHL, it can be an experience unlike anything they’ve had. Win or go home, on the road, it’s different when they’re playing for house money and they’ve been a good away team all season.

“I think the idea of ​​growing over a season is logical,” Kings coach Todd McClellan said Thursday night. “But there are also experiences of coercion that some people haven’t experienced.”

Veterans who have played in those moments – Anze Kopita, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and the injured Drew Doughty in the Kings Stanley Cup winner, as well as Philip Danot, Ya Veterans from other teams like Lex Edler and Ollie Mata — can only say so much. Something like this, you have to go through it to really understand it.

Come to think of it, having a chance to knock out someone’s Game 6 is an experience that can’t be replicated. The Kings faced this last night when Connor McDavid shut up the roaring home crowd with a wrap-around goal at 1:40pm…well, you live and learn.

“I think the idea of ​​ending the series might creep into our (minds) and we’re starting to be a little tentative,” Kopital said. “Credits to them; they’re clearly off to a good start. …I mean, these older guys haven’t been there in a couple of years, and we have some of us who haven’t been through that at all. …so it’s natural.

“But if you tell us we have to win a game to qualify, of course we’ll take that chance. So it’s not that bad. We’ll fly there (Friday) and be ready for Game 7.”

I guess it’s all a matter of opinion. Outside of the El Segundo Kings headquarters, not many expected the team to be in this position to start the season. Of course, few outside Los Angeles expected that this team — especially without Doughty and the injured Victor Arvidson — would still be in Game 7 against the star-studded Oilers lingering in, not to mention a regular-season gap of 5 points between the two teams over 82 games in the standings.

What did ever-opinionated TBS Studios analyst Paul Bissonnette say to the Kings early in the series? “I can’t name five players on Los Angeles’ current roster,” he reportedly said. “McDavid and Draisaitl have absolutely no chance of being bounced by an AHL team.”

Given that Bees played part of seven seasons in the AHL, the last three of which were in Manchester and Ontario’s Kings affiliation, I think he does have a frame of reference.

Who knows what will happen on Saturday night? The Kings played better on the road than at home during the regular season (23-11-7 to 21-16-4) and won two of Edmonton’s first three games in this series. That alone shows toughness and mental toughness, and rebounding after being beaten by the Oilers in Games 2 and 3 and winning Games 4 and 5 will also be a sign. (Of course, that’s a conservative description of the 6-0 and 8-2 losses.)

But there are also people who pretend to play Game 7 on a backyard ice rink as a kid, or play ice hockey or tennis on the net in front of the garage. As we’ve already said, living with all the stress that comes with it is another thing.

“The Big Four here, and some of the guys who’ve played a lot of playoffs, got their chance,” McClellan said. “They’ve got a mood swing from night to night if you will. Young players, sometimes they adapt. Fast. Sometimes it’s overwhelming for them. But they have to go through. It’s a different monster.”

Having said that, he added, “We’re good. We’ve played on the road. We’ve played away with some really good teams in some really tough buildings all year and played well. So I don’t have to. Go into the room and put some pixie dust on them to let them play. They’ve played away and they feel confident there.”

Some of the veterans in that room might point out that the seventh of three special road races went well — in 2014 in San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago. You probably don’t want to remind McClellan of the first, as his Sharks are on the business end of the Kings’ comeback from a 3-0 series deficit to head to their second cup game, but if the Veterans are on Saturday night feel like you need some story time before the game, then the experience might be useful.

“We haven’t done that in a while,” said Kopitar, who probably didn’t need to say anything.

“I think the young guys have done really well all season and this series. So they think now, they know what it takes. So I’m not worried at all.”

We’ll all know that Saturday night, won’t we?

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