New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings: Biggest Takeaways from Game 1
If Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final pitting the New York Rangers against the Los Angeles Kings is any indicator of what's to come in this series, fans better strap in for an exhilarating ride.
The game had a little bit of everything, from an early two-goal lead from the guests, physical play from the bigger Kings, speed from the smaller Rangers, lots of noise from the LA faithful, an appearance by the Great One for the ceremonial puck drop and, in the end, a stirring comeback by the hosts.
The Kings were able to pull out a 3-2 win and take an early lead in the series.
Let's take a look at the biggest takeaways from Game 1.
The Rangers Deserve to Be Here
The Rangers have earned the right to play in the Stanley Cup Final, and they proved in Game 1 that they can more than hang with the Kings. The quicker Rangers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, and while they couldn't extend it, they pushed the hometown Kings to overtime.
The Rangers carried the play for long stretches of time. New York even hemmed the Western Conference champs in their own zone at times.
The Rangers may not be able to boast the same depth at centre ice as the Kings, but they proved that rolling four lines will work for them in the series.
There is reason to believe that the series could be a long one if the Rangers can bring their best every night.
Drew Doughty Is Worth the Price of Admission
Drew Doughty played a high-event game that included a major gaffe on the shorthanded goal against but also a number of high-skill plays. He was all over the ice. At times, he plays like an old-school rover in that he has the mobility to be a fourth forward yet can get back quickly and cover defensively.
His tying goal on a beautiful toe drag displayed the best in his game. He has speed, great hands and wonderful offensive instincts.
If the Kings go on to hoist the Cup, it will be unsurprising if Doughty earns the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Henrik Lundqvist Loves the Big Stage
Henrik Lundqvist was at the top of his game in the series opener. He was calm in the early going and made some great saves in the first period. The Kings got to him by the end of the first and tied the game by the end of the second.
But it was in the third period that Lundqvist was exemplary. The Swedish sensation stopped all 20 shots in a barrage that allowed the Rangers to play in overtime.
He has a lot on the line, as he wants to join the greats at the position who have not only been dominant netminders but champions as well.
His .930 save percentage was even better than his playoff average to date. If King Henrik can continue this hot play, the Kings could be in for a frustrating series.
The Kings Flexed as the Game Wore on
While the Rangers can take some satisfaction from keeping the game tight, the reality is, the Kings took the game over by the end of the second period. The heavier Kings took it to the Rangers as the game progressed, and the official hit total was 45-33. It may have been even more in the Kings' favour from the eye test.
While the Rangers don't want to avoid contact totally, they will have to stay away from some of the Kings' hits.
The Rangers do have some big, physical players in Brian Boyle, Dan Girardi, Derick Brassard and Marc Staal, but the Kings have them throughout the lineup.
If this series moves to the alley, it will be short and not so sweet for the Rangers.
New York Stars Didn't Shine
Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Rick Nash are essential to the Rangers having success. These three talented forwards were held pointless by the Kings' vaunted defense and Jonathan Quick.
It's going to be particularly challenging for St. Louis in five-on-five play, given his size. The Rangers' power play was held off the scoresheet on four attempts. That will not be good enough for the Blueshirts.
St. Louis has been exceptional in this playoff run. While Richards and Nash haven't been quite as consistent, they played much better against the Canadiens. They must build on that in this Stanley Cup Final.
Nash had some inspired shifts in Game 1, but this trio has to produce points if the Rangers are going to have success in Game 2.
Expect all three of them to be better on Saturday night.
Quick Was the Difference Early
Yes, the Rangers scored two early goals in Game 1, but if it weren't for Jonathan Quick, the Kings might have been down by three or even four.
The Rangers came out flying, and the Kings were definitely on their heels. Especially in the first period, the Rangers came at the Kings in waves. They exposed the lack of speed on the LA defence.
Quick was at his athletic best, and maybe most importantly, he didn't allow the second goal that came off an unlucky bounce to shake his confidence.
Henrik Lundqvist made a lot more saves, but Quick may have faced just as many quality chances. He stopped 25 of 27 shots for a .926 save percentage in Game 1. This was 20 points higher than his playoff save percentage of .906 coming into the series.
With these two goalies at the top of their games, expect one of the better goaltending displays in recent Stanley Cup Final play.