Anaheim Ducks vs. LA Kings: Biggest Takeaways from Game 1
Los Angeles won Game 1 in overtime, 3-2, after tying the game with just seven seconds left in regulation time. Marian Gaborik scored both the tying and winning goals for the Kings.
Both teams played hard, and the game was closely contested from the opening faceoff until the end of overtime.
Based on Saturday's game, expect the first-ever "Freeway Faceoff" to be one heck of a playoff series.
Here are the six biggest takeaways from Game 1 between the Kings and Ducks. Feel free to comment on any of these or to add one of your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
The Loss of Robyn Regehr Hurts the Kings Defense and Penalty Kill
Defenseman Robyn Regehr was injured in the first period of Game 1 and did not return to action. His long-term status has yet to be announced.
The loss of Regehr left the Kings with only five defensemen for the rest of the game. It also took away one of the team's better defensive defensemen and penalty-killers.
The Ducks didn't score on their four chances with the extra attacker, but they did get a number of good looks and scoring chances. Anaheim had six shots on goal while on the power play.
Los Angeles is already without defenseman Willie Mitchell. If both Regehr and Mitchell are out for an extended time, this could hurt the Kings over the course of the series.
Both Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov played more than 30 minutes in Game 1. These extra minutes could also take a toll on the Kings the deeper they go into the series.
So far, in Game 1, Los Angeles was able to overcome the two injuries to its defensemen. But the longer the series goes, the more difficult this will become.
The Ducks Will Try to Make Jonathan Quick Overcommit
Jonathan Quick is considered one of the best goalies in the NHL and covers a lot of ground, especially along the ice.
But the Ducks' scouting report says that Quick sometimes overcommits on his angles, and that makes it harder for him to get back into the play. Anaheim did its best to get Quick to play sharp angles and to try to get some traffic in front of the Kings goalie to limit his vision and his ability to move in his crease.
The results in Game 1 were mixed for the Ducks. They did have a lot of quality scoring chances, but Quick made 33 saves and earned the victory.
Look for Anaheim to continue to get Quick to overcommit to his angles as the series continues. In a tight series like this one, if the strategy results in just one or two extra goals, it could make the difference between winning or losing a game or more.
Jonas Hiller Played Well Enough to Win
The Ducks decided to start veteran Jonas Hiller in Game 1 despite the fact that Frederik Andersen started all six games in the opening-round series against the Dallas Stars.
Hiller played well in Game 1. He allowed three goals on 36 shots, but he didn't allow any soft goals and could not be faulted for either the tying or winning scores.
Hiller played well enough to win and has earned the chance to start in Game 2. While he needs to continue to play well to keep starting, the Ducks should have confidence that the veteran netminder can get the job done.
Anze Kopitar Is a Legitimate Conn Smythe Candidate
The Ducks did their best to slow down Kings center Anze Kopitar, and for a while, it seemed to be working.
Kopitar did not register a shot on goal until the final minute of regulation time. It was his only shot on net in the game.
But that didn't stop Kopitar from being an effective part of the Los Angeles attack. He ended the game with three assists and a plus-two rating. He also was involved physically and was credited with five hits in the game.
Kopitar is off to an incredible start to the 2013-14 playoffs. He has scored at least one point in all eight games the Kings have played. Kopitar has scored four goals and 13 points, and he scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 against the San Jose Sharks.
Right now, Kopitar is leading the NHL in playoff points.
It's early, but if the Kings reach the Stanley Cup Final, Kopitar has to be considered a legitimate contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Marian Gaborik Is Capable of Scoring Clutch Goals After All
Gaborik had a great playoff run with the Minnesota Wild back in 2002-03, but he's been pretty quiet in the few playoff appearances since then.
This year, the veteran forward has proved he can still come up big in the clutch. Gaborik has five goals and eight points in the first eight games of the playoffs this season. In Game 1 against Anaheim, he scored the tying and game-winning goals.
The pressure is off Gaborik in Los Angeles. He doesn't have to be the biggest goal scorer on this team. While the Kings certainly need the Slovakian-born to be productive, they have several other players who are capable of putting the puck in the net.
While Gaborik doesn't have the reputation of being a clutch performer, he came through in Game 1 and proved he is still capable of scoring important goals when the game is on the line.
Expect a Long Series
The Kings won Game 1 in overtime despite the fact that Anaheim controlled the tempo for most of regulation time.
But the biggest takeaway from Game 1 is that these two teams are very evenly matched.
The Ducks led the NHL in goals scored during the regular season, while the Kings had the fewest goals allowed.
In Game 1, the Kings outshot the Ducks, 36-35.
The game had moments where it was very physical. The two teams combined for 95 hits. Expect the hitting to only increase as the series continues and these two teams grow to dislike each other even more.
Expect this series to go six or seven games. Most of the games should be similar to Game 1, low scoring, with ebbs and flows of momentum and a lot of tension.