Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Kings won Game 1 in overtime, 3-2, taking an early series lead over the New York Rangers.
What should we expect for Game 2? Here are five keys to watch:
1. Kings Vs. Rangers Speed
Without question, the silver lining for the Rangers in Game 1 was confirmation that their team speed can give the Kings problems. Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin scored on plays created by their wheels; other scoring chances in the game were an indication that the Rangers can exploit their more plodding opponents, especially on the wings.
Said Anze Kopitar: “It’s different when somebody tells you and then obviously when you experience that, it’s different too. We’ve talked about it. We were getting ready for it but it did catch by surprise. How to guard against it? I think the biggest thing for us is to make sure we don’t give them the opportunity to use that speed."
"They’re obviously good players and they’re going to make plays and they’re going to get their chances," he said. "We just have to limit those that come off our mishandles, our sloppy play.”
2. The Rangers Need Meat and Potatoes Forecheck
When the Los Angeles Kings were dominating possession in the third period, outshooting the Rangers 20-3, Marty St. Louis diagnosed the problem thusly: “We didn’t quite get the puck 200 feet. Did a lot of East/West stuff. They didn’t have to come back all the way in and play defense.”
The Kings were never pinned in their zone, allowing them to basically cut the ice down into a two-thirds area that they dominated. When the Rangers would penetrate, it was result in far too many drop passes than strong drives to the net.
It’s a recipe for domination … for their opponents.
3. Stepan, Nash and Kreider
There’s been the usual intense focus on Rick Nash and his lack of goal scoring for the Rangers. But it’s the line of Derek Stepan, Nash and Chris Kreider that overall needs to give the Kings something to thing about defensively: “Our line as a group, when we're playing and all three of us are contributing and bringing our strengths -- Chris' skating, Nasher and I creating space for ourselves -- the big thing is we only work as a group of three. It's not just Rick alone,” said Stepan. “We were talking about it today, me and Kreids, and we have to step up our game to help him out too."
All three have failed to tally a point in their last two games.
4. Special Teams Stalemate?
Both the Kings (0-4) and the Rangers (0-3) were shut down on the power play in Game 1, after both used the man advantage to their advantage in the previous round. (The Rangers did score a shorthanded goal, however.) Will this remain a stalemate or will one of these teams get that extra goal they’ll need on the power play?
5. The ‘A’ Game
“We’re not going to win it if we bring our ‘B’ game to the table,” said coach Rangers Alain Vigneault, the day after Game 1.
Clichéd as it sounds, he’s right: The Rangers have shown they can be just as dominant as the Kings where in the third period before in these playoffs. “When we played Game 6 against Montréal, each and every player brought his ‘A’ game. It's not an easy thing to do. But against this opponent, I do believe our expectations are to win, got to find a way to do it,” said Vigneault.
Bring the ‘A’ game, and this series might be evened up headed back to Manhattan.