Thoughts following Game OneJune 6, 2014, by
Well, the Rangers lost Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals. But all is not lost, there are still six more games left to play, and the Kings still need to win three of them. This was never a best of one, and there’s a lot of hockey to be played. However, the Rangers need to make some adjustments if they are to keep up with the Kings in a long series. I love me some bullet points:
- The Rangers need to stick to what worked in Game One: Using their speed on the forecheck to force turnovers and generate chances. Sooner or later those will find their way to the back of the net. Jonathan Quick made some great saves early on to keep it a two-goal game, and he’s really the reason why it didn’t get out of hand early on. Use the speed, and good things will come.
- That said, Daryl Sutter did a great job of adjusting his team on the fly. It became very obvious that the Rangers were picking apart the Kings 2-1-2 forecheck for some solid chances. As the game wore on, the Kings adjusted, keeping four guys back to stymy the rush and nullify the speed advantage held by the Rangers. Alain Vigneault will need to make the same adjustments.
- Carl Hagelin was great all game, and he’s showing why the Rangers refused to include him in any trades. He was their best weapon, and very few Kings players can keep up with him. Chris Kreider is the other Ranger with great speed, and he needs to start using it again, like he did in Game One against Montreal.
- The Rangers were their own worst enemy in Game One, as a pair of turnovers led directly to goals by the Kings. The first was that dreadful giveaway by Derek Stepan, which led to the Kyle Clifford goal. The other, naturally, was the Dan Girardi turnover that led to the game winner. They will need to be better with the puck if they are to beat this team. The Rangers were able to get away with these turnovers against Philly, Pittsburgh, and Montreal, but LA is in a class of its own here. Take better care of the puck.
- Speaking of the Girardi turnover, of course a lot of blame belongs to Girardi. The smart play is to pin it into the boards or sweep it behind the net. However, there is plenty of blame on Ryan McDonagh (who took blame for it), Mats Zuccarello, and Benoit Pouliot for flying the zone way too early. Watching the replay, the puck hopped over Girardi’s stick. Those three were already headed up for a rush before the puck hopped, thus leaving Girardi with no support. It was a bad play all around. Once that puck hopped over his stick, and Justin Williams was clearly all along in front, you could see the game winner coming from a mile away.
- Henrik Lundqvist was outstanding. He’s the reason why the Rangers didn’t lost in regulation.
- After a great first period, the Rangers really disappeared. The top guys didn’t play well. The third line was solid, but two of them were involved in that overtime winner gaffe. The fourth line was pretty solid too. But all four lines need to do a better job of capitalizing on their chances. This game could have been over in the first period with all the turnovers they forced.
- Regardless of the outcome, there’s still a lot of hockey to be played. There’s no reason why the Rangers can’t win tomorrow and come to MSG tied at one a piece. That said, Game Two is now a must-win.