The Los Angeles Kings were able to take the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers, but there are areas both teams must improve upon if they want to be named Stanley Cup champions.
This year's Stanley Cup Final got off to an exciting start, with the Kings coming away with a 3-2 win in overtime, thanks to a game-winning goal from Justin Williams. The Rangers started the game with a 2-1 lead after the first period, but the Kings were able to shut them down defensively for the rest of the game, helping L.A. come away with the win.
Now that the first game is out of the way, let's take a look at some of the areas where each team could improve heading into Game 2.
Los Angeles Kings
Making the Most of Scoring Opportunities
Even though the Kings are going against one of the best goalies in the NHL, they're going to need to find a way to get more out of their scoring chances if they want to keep winning games.
At first glance, it looks like the Kings dominated the Rangers throughout, taking 43 shots in the game compared to New York's 27 attempts. However, as ESPN Stats & Info points out, the Rangers had a 22-21 advantage in total shots before the Kings outshot them 20-3 in the third period.
Despite taking 20 shots in the period, the Kings didn't score a single goal in the final frame of regulation. That'll need to change because Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers defense likely won't let the Kings get 20 shots off in a single period again.
Avoid Sloppy Mistakes
For a team that's succeeded due to its top-tier defense throughout the season, the Kings had a couple of surprising mental errors early on that put the team in a quick hole.
In fact, the first goal of the game was due to a surprising mental mistake from Drew Doughty, who has been making a strong push for the Conn Smythe Trophy this postseason. As Cam Cole from The Vancouver Sun points out, Doughty tried to get fancy with the puck before having it stripped, leading to a breakaway goal for Benoit Pouliot.
Kings sloppy early. Doughty mistake trying to stickhandle at point, stripped by Pouliot, who beats Quick high blocker side. 1-0 NYR.— Cam Cole (@rcamcole) June 5, 2014
The Rangers were able to score another breakaway goal in the first period just a couple of minutes later from Carl Hagelin, but the shot was kicked in by Slava Voynov, who was unable to catch up to him. In order for the Kings to pull away in games, they'll need to cut down on the mistakes.
New York Rangers
Maintain Intensity Throughout Game
The Rangers came out as the more focused and more aggressive team, and with their two early goals, it looked like the team that hadn't won the Stanley Cup in two decades was going to start this series off on the right foot.
Instead, the Rangers began to fade after the first period. After taking 13 shots in the first period, they had just 12 combined shots in the second and third periods and just 27 throughout the game. By the end of the game, the Kings were clearly the team with more intensity, and they were especially physical throughout, putting up 45 hits compared to New York's 33.
It was clear that the Rangers were fired up to start the game, but they're going to need to find a way to keep up the intensity through the intermissions.
Take the Pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist
It isn't realistic to expect Lundqvist to win a game with the other team taking 43 shots on goal even if he had a .920 save percentage and allowed just 2.36 goals per game during the regular season. The Rangers need to take the pressure off of their veteran goalie, and that starts by getting the team's stars going.
The go-to options for the Rangers were virtually invisible in Game 1. Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Derek Stepan combined for zero points and took just six combined shots on goal. As Charles Curtis from NJ.com pointed out, it almost felt as if Stepan was being too unselfish, as he was the team's second-highest scorer with 57 points in the regular season on 17 goals and 40 assists.
Anyone else thinking Derek Stepan is being too unselfish? #NYR— Charles Curtis (@charlescurtis82) June 5, 2014
The Rangers haven't been a great team offensively, but they'll need their go-to scorers to get on the board to force the Kings to focus on them. That should help take the pressure off of Lundqvist on the other end of the ice.