Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy can't wait to get back on the ice and start wiping away the taste of a season-ending loss to the archrival Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"We all left last season with an awful taste in our mouth, and it’s still there. We are desperate to get back on the ice and play that first game, that 40th game and that 82nd game," the 30-year-old defenseman told the Ducks website. "I want to get back in the swing of things. I’m ready to go. I love summer, but I’m over it. I’m ready for training camp and that first game. I’m ready to get competitive again."
The Ducks won the Pacific Division title, finished first in the Western Conference and led the Kings 3-2 entering Game 6 of their Western Conference Second Round series. But Los Angeles evened the series with a 2-1 victory at home, then rolled to a 6-2 win at Honda Center and went on to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.
The Ducks went home much earlier than they had planned.
"We had an incredibly successful regular season, but we didn’t play our best in Game 7 when it mattered most," Lovejoy said. "We can talk all we want about being really good to start the season, or being really good down the stretch, but it won’t matter until it comes down to crunch time."
Lovejoy, who’s coming off career-highs of five goals, 18 points and a plus-21 rating, was especially disappointed because the Ducks had the Kings on the ropes but couldn't put them away.
"We need to have more of a killer instinct. We need to knock teams out when we get the chance," he said. "We've had that problem the last two seasons. We can say all the right things, but until we do it, it doesn't matter."
The Ducks made one of the biggest trades of the offseason when they acquired center Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks. It's the kind of move a team makes when it feels close to winning it all, and Lovejoy feels that while the acquisition of Kesler will make the Ducks better, it also means there's more pressure to win.
"I think that everybody's thought on the team was that the Ducks are all in. We were absolutely disappointed with how last season ended," he said. "[General manager] Bob Murray went out and got the best player he possibly could, a move that will absolutely make us a better team.
"This puts pressure on the players. This is our time to win. We felt we had all the pieces last year, and this year we've upgraded even more. From Day 1, I expect -- and I know the whole team expects -- to win."
Though training camp doesn't start for another seven weeks, Lovejoy is already eager to get started.
"There is a lot to cheer for this year. We have two high-end superstars in their prime who are playing the best hockey of their careers. We have young guys who are on the verge of superstardom who are going to be impact players," he said. "We play a fun game with so much speed. It's fun to be a part of and fun to watch. Everybody is just so excited to get back to Anaheim and get back to work."