LOS ANGELES -- Winning the Stanley Cup is always supposed to be about sacrifice and overcoming adversity and all of those hard-to-quantify things.
The Los Angeles Kings faced about the least amount of adversity of any Stanley Cup champion in NHL history when they cruised to the title in 2012. There were no key injuries. They never trailed in a series, racing to a 3-0 lead four times despite starting each on the road.
Yet from that experience, the Kings have become a team that seems to deal with adversity as well as any in the NHL. Nothing has been easy for Los Angeles in the postseason since winning the Cup.
The Kings fell behind the St. Louis Blues 2-0 in the opening round in 2013. They survived a brutally tough seven-game series with the San Jose Sharks in the second round, but the damage inflicted left them short against the Chicago Blackhawks in a five-game Western Conference Final.
This postseason, the Kings have already faced five elimination games. They won four straight against the Sharks in the opening round for a historic comeback and are now one win from another rally after a 2-1 victory in Game 6 of this Western Conference Second Round series Wednesday against the Anaheim Ducks at Staples Center.
"This group has been together and we've been through a lot of hard situations and that goes a long way in being in these very uncomfortable situations," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "We have that comfortability and that trust with each other. It kind of puts everything in perspective that we've kind of been through a lot worse."
Los Angeles won the first two games of this series without playing nearly as well it did in the final five against San Jose during the opening round. Anaheim made a few lineup tweaks, and the Ducks appeared to be in control of the series, particularly when they took a three-goal lead in the second period of Game 5.
The Kings are short two key veteran defensemen and have been losing the depth battle to their rivals from Orange County. They needed one of those "dig a little deeper" performances to force a Game 7, and it turned into a night that people have come to expect from this group.
Los Angeles controlled the neutral zone. The Kings grinded away in the offensive end, racking up shot attempts and possession time, even after taking the lead in Game 6. They limited the Ducks' ability to find loose pucks in the scoring areas and didn't have that one short lapse Anaheim pounced on in the previous two games.
"It's awesome, but we don't want to be doing this with winning all these elimination games," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We'd rather be up and beat teams that way. We got in this situation for a reason. We didn't play good enough in kind of the middle of the series, but now we're back to playing the way we want to. We're fully confident and ready to go."
Even when the Kings were down 3-0 to the Sharks, there was a businesslike atmosphere on the day before and the day of Game 4. It wasn't a mad dash to get back into the series where a bunch of things had to break the right way. The Kings continued to play better, and the Sharks started to play worse.
Darryl Sutter seems like a coach who trusts his players, this group in particular. The Kings have a way they want to play, and a collection of players who have been together for a long time.
Earlier in this series, Sutter said this group does an excellent job of processing what they need from the previous game and forgetting what they don't need to prepare for the next one.
Based on wins and losses, the Kings have been very streaky during the regular season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the reality is they're often consistent about the plan and the way they go about their business.
Sutter doesn't need to change a whole lot. The players seem committed to playing for each other. All of that intangible stuff that seems to become a hot topic in other NHL cities is never really an issue here.
"We have an unbelievable group in here, on and off the ice," Doughty said. "Everyone expects us to win games, but no one puts more pressure on us than ourselves. Every single one of our teammates believes in the guy sitting next to them or across from them. Nothing is going to stop us. We're a close-knit team that wants nothing more than to be another Stanley Cup champion."
It's no secret the Kings are one of the teams in the League at the forefront of the analytics movement. Sutter might not use words like Corsi and Fenwick, but his philosophy about how the game should be played in 2014 is aligned with the ideas that form the base of a lot of advanced statistics. The front office is on the list of organizations that use analytics in roster construction.
There's an old-school term in hockey that a certain team "plays the right way." Sometimes that term gets misused, but generally speaking it works for a lot of the teams in this analytics-friendly group. The Blackhawks play "the right way." The Boston Bruins, when they aren't distracted by trying to prove how tough they are, adhere to the philosophy.
It's a fine line though. The Sharks are in this group, but losing Game 7 at home to the Kings may have long-term repercussions for the franchise.
What do the Kings have that the Sharks don't? A better goaltender? Better luck with injuries? There's not much separating those teams, just as this series has proved with the Kings and Ducks as well.
The Kings did what they do in Game 6, and the Ducks were unable to knock them out. The Ducks will need to be better, and they can be.
They're probably going to see something very similar from the Kings in Game 7 on Friday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN) as well, because they continue to build quite a track record in situations like this.
"Our team is built to play in these kind of games," Doughty said. "Our leaders step up to the plate and they show the way. We're looking forward to this game. We're not nervous. We're not overly excited or over-anxious. We're just ready to get going."