The Los Angeles Kings continued their comeback ways in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, erasing an early 2-0 deficit to defeat the New York Rangers in overtime. The extremely tight and fast-paced contest has set the tone for what should be a difficult series to handicap.
Despite their underdog status, the Rangers demonstrated that they could hang with the favored Western Conference champs. Though New York is likely feeling the sting of the loss, the game provided ample evidence to suggest a long series.
Game 2 will represent an important swing game, as a 2-0 lead would give the Kings a comfortable cushion. Conversely, a Rangers win would not only plant doubt in Los Angeles but also give the Eastern champs the home-ice advantage.
For hockey fans looking to catch the action, check out full TV info below. Before the puck drops, let's take a look at the lessons from Game 1 to try and determine what might unfold in the sequel.
|Date||Location||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Saturday, June 7||Los Angeles||7 p.m.||CBC, NBC, RDS||NBC Sports Live Extra|
McDonagh-Girardi Pairing Rebounds
Typically one of the best shutdown defensive pairs in the NHL, Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi did not necessarily play poorly in Game 1. However, Girardi's gaffe in his defensive zone led directly to Justin Williams' game-winner, an uncharacteristic mistake at the worst possible moment.
The Rangers were supportive of Girardi after the game, as they'll need their top pairing to log heavy minutes against Los Angeles' potent offense. As ESPN New York's Katie Strang notes, Girardi is far too important to the Rangers' success to even think about cutting back his minutes:
And one costly mistake will not mitigate Girardi’s critical importance to the Rangers’ team. The 30-year-old comprises the Rangers’ top defensive pairing with McDonagh, and he finished Wednesday’s match with a whopping 27:25 in ice time and a team-leading seven hits. His sound, steady defensive play has been vital as the team has neutralized some of the top lines from opponents all spring. Claude Giroux and his linemates in Round 1. Sidney Crosby & Co. in Round 2. Max Pacioretty's trio in Round 3.
The media reaction has not only taken down Girardi but his partner as well. Hockey analyst Don Cherry actually criticized McDonagh for the goal, and some have questioned if McDonagh made the right play in departing the defensive zone:
Here's the play. Girardi has several options, which all disappear quickly. But McDonagh's to fall back? pic.twitter.com/SOUIKtVXRE— James Mirtle (@mirtle) June 5, 2014
Regardless, Los Angeles' top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown has been the best trio in the postseason. Girardi and McDonagh shut out the line in Game 1, and the three combined for a manageable eight shots on goal the entire contest.
Henrik Lundqvist can handle that reasonable level of pressure. So long as McDonagh and Girardi return to their rock-solid dependability, New York will once again have an opportunity at victory.
Gaborik Scores on Old Team
Midseason acquisitions rarely have a significant effect on a team, especially one as experienced and deep as the Kings. However, Marian Gaborik has provided the speed and offensive jolt Los Angeles needed, changing the complexion of its postseason run.
No player has scored more than Gaborik's 12 goals this postseason, and only linemate Kopitar has more points. In fact, with a strong finish to the series, Gaborik could surpass a franchise playoff record:
It's astounding how quickly Gaborik and Kopitar have developed chemistry. As Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times relays, Kopitar believes the right winger's fit in the locker room translated onto the ice:
I think he fit really well. We have a room where there's a lot of character, a lot of good leaders. For Gabby to come in our room, I think he felt comfortable pretty quick. That's obviously a big thing and a big reason why he's feeling comfortable on the ice too. He'd be probably the best guy to ask, obviously, why is that.
In Game 1, the Kings utilized their depth and heavy play to come back. Many thought Gaborik's poor early-season form in Columbus would make him an incongruent fit with Los Angeles' physical style. Instead, he has provided the scoring and puck-handling skill absent from much of the roster for the past two seasons.
Though he was shut down in Game 1, Gaborik has only gone pointless in two consecutive games twice this postseason. Look for him to put one in the net against the team he excelled on for three-and-a-half seasons.
As they showed in Game 1, the Rangers are certainly capable of winning this series. Though losing a two-goal lead on the road can be demoralizing, it's fair to expect the mentally tough Rangers to rebound.
Who will win Game 2?
Nevertheless, Los Angeles' depth illustrated why they are favored to win their second Cup in three seasons. The Rangers have had trouble with deep and heavy teams like the Boston Bruins in recent seasons, making the Kings a seemingly poor matchup for New York.
Henrik Lundqvist will likely steal a game at some point for the Blueshirts. However, at Staples Center, look for Los Angeles to hold serve and take a 2-0 series lead headed east.