For two periods, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final was a pretty brilliant back-and-forth affair between two closely matched teams.
The rest of the way, it was the New York Rangers hanging on for dear life against a vastly superior opponent.
Somehow, New York needs to find a way to channel the former and avoid the latter the rest of the way, or this is going to be an awfully short series.
Rangers’ Top Storylines
How will the Rangers react to Alain Vigneault’s comments?
ESPN’s Katie Strang reports that New York head coach Alain Vigneault didn’t pull any punches on Thursday when describing the work of his team in Game 1 against the Kings:
One thing that's real evident to me, and it should be to our whole group, is we're not going to beat this team if we do not all bring our A-game. ... We had [Henrik Lundqvist] that brought his A-game last night. We had a couple guys. I don't want to name who I think brought their A-game. But our B-game won't do it. We're not going to win if we bring our B-game to the table.
After playing fairly well through 40 minutes, the Rangers imploded toward the end of Game 1, so the question now is which version of the team shows up for Game 2.
Post-suspension, John Moore ready to return to Rangers blue line
With John Moore’s two-game suspension over with, he’s now eligible to return to the Rangers lineup, and the expectation is that he will play in Game 2. Jim Cerny of Blue Shirts United notes that Moore practiced on Friday with regular partner Kevin Klein, with Raphael Diaz demoted to skating with the team’s extras.
Even so, Vigneault was noncommittal when asked if Moore would be ready to go.
"As far as him being ready, I know if we need him he will be because he works extremely hard and he's only missed two games," said the Rangers coach, via Cerny.
Pucks on net
One of the most interesting statistics from Game 1 was the gap between shot attempts and shots:
In terms of attempting shots, these teams were on relatively even footing. In terms of getting shot attempts through to the net, Los Angeles clobbered New York.
That can’t keep happening to the Rangers. It’s going to be hard enough for that team to match the Kings (a Corsi powerhouse) in shot attempts; it can’t be in a position where the Kings are getting a much higher percentage of their tries on net.
Kings’ Top Storylines
Robyn Regehr likely to return for Game 2
At the very end of his post-practice press availability, provided by the Kings' official website, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter was asked about injured Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr.
"He’ll probably play tomorrow," he answered succinctly.
It isn’t clear whose spot in the rotation Regehr will take, but Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times speculates that Matt Greene will be the healthy scratch once again.
Anze Kopitar finally getting the recognition he deserves
In that same presser, there was a great exchange on Kings star centre Anze Kopitar:
- Reporter: "Darryl, could you talk a bit about Anze Kopitar? We’ve all known that he’s an offensively skilled guy, but just how much has his two-way game evolved this year, especially in these playoffs?"
- Sutter: "I don’t think it’s this year. I’ve said lots; he’s a top end guy at both ends of the ice. Probably it gets talked about more now just because the team’s done well."
Kopitar leads the NHL postseason with 24 points, and in Game 1 against New York the Kings went an impressive 9-0 in shots with him on the ice at even strength. Of course, he’s also been an underlying stats superstar for years now, so it’s nice to see the growing realization of just how good he is.
AEG denies rumours of the Kings being up for sale
One interesting story to keep an eye on is the report that even as the Kings contend for their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, parent company AEG is looking at selling the club.
Josh Kosman of the New York Post is the source of the story, with one of several anonymous sources in finance claiming that the team could be sold as part of a wider effort by the company to divest itself of professional sports franchises.
Kosman also included a quote from AEG’s chief legal officer stating that the company was not looking to sell any of its teams, and on Thursday, CBS Los Angeles ran a longer statement from AEG president Dan Beckerman:
The unsubstantiated rumors printed in the New York post earlier today about the potential sale of the Los Angeles kings are false. So I’m clear, the Los Angeles Kings are not for sale, and there are no plans to sell the franchise today, tomorrow or anytime in the future. These rumors were started by anonymous sources seeking to create chaos and mischief. We remain solely focused on one goal, winning the Stanley Cup, and we will not be distracted by such irresponsible reports.
Rangers 2, Kings 1
Statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.