A bad clear here, and an unexpectedly fallen Ranger there, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final wasn’t as bad as Humpty Dumpty’s fall-off-the-wall because Old Dumpty couldn’t be put together again.
The Rangers can.
And as they prepare for Game 2 Saturday night at Staples Center against the Big, Bad Kings, the issue is methodology. Translated: Do the Blueshirts prevail?
The Maven believes that fixing the flaws is easier than building a pre-teen Lego set, but the Rangers must pay close attention to my re-building instructions to win …
For example, the Rangers 3-2 downfall Wednesday night started with a major pitfall; Derek Stepan’s ill-advised clearing pass that led to LA’s first goal by Kyle Clifford.
That score catalyzed the Kings’ comeback and the remedy is rather simple for Stepan and other Rangers: Don’t keep your head down when you’re trying to clear the puck out of your own defensive zone.
BEWARE OF BAD ICE
The game’s coup de grace — against the Rangers, that is — was delivered during sudden-death after Dan Girardi zigged when he should have zagged and got tripped up on what must have been a rut in the ice. That’s when Justin Williams said, “Thank you very much,” and fired the overtime winner past Henrik Lundqvist.
As for the remedy: Beware of soft, rutted ice and the rest of the Rangers on ice who disappeared from your zone.
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
Hey, That’s hockey! What else can one say after such an unexpected ending?
And if you don’t believe me, check any postgame press conference. Those two words — that’s hockey — emerge whenever the puck bounces badly and your club isn’t coming up with a big ‘W’ as befell our Rangers in Game 1.
No problem; it’s not the end of the world, nor the end of the series. The Blueshirts already have had plenty of time for a wholesale exhale, while devising ways and means for removing the Kings’ superiority complex before the series moves East to Madison Square Garden on Monday.
Ah, but how can the Blueshirts bounce back and execute this much-needed win? (Let’s not forget the maxim that states,turnabout is fair play.) Try the following solutions on for size:
PLAY A FULL 60-MINUTE (OR MORE) GAME
The first 20 minutes of Game 1 flew so fast for the Rangers, it felt like a mere 20 seconds. AV’s skaters caught the Kings off-guard with their menacing speed on the rush. Such opportunities reappeared later in the game, but the lesson here is that the Rangers cannot afford to take their foot off the gas pedal. Otherwise — as proven on Wednesday — they’ll get gassed.
“For 40 minutes,” said Alain Vigneault, “we handled it real well. I’m not quite sure what happened in the third period.”
The Rangers’ imbalanced third period effort — 3 shots to the Kings’ 20 – was not fatal. For that they can thank Lundqvist, whose performance varied from super to super-human.
Only problem is that Jonathan Quick is matching The King, big save for big save. But even there we can see some blue on the Rangers horizon. And, no, it’s not royal or navy blue.
It’s none other than Nash Blue, which can be roughly translated into a wake-up call for New York’s biggest howitzer that, so far, is just a zer, although you can’t say that about Ryan McDonagh.
The Rangers’ answer to Drew Doughty played more than 31 minutes and most of them were of the quality kind.
“The majority of the game,” said McDonagh, “we matched them physically. We were able to break their forecheck and get out of our zone. They got a few more opportunities in the third because of their forecheck.”
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Yeah, but the opportunity that ended the game occurred when Girardi went from vertical to horizontal faster than you can say, “Wha’ happen, baby?”
This is not likely to happen again in Dangerous Dan’s life, so we won’t even worry about that on Saturday.
MATCHING UP THE BEST, BUT CHANCES FOR THE REST
Look for Kings coach Darryl Sutter to once again call on Doughty and Muzzin to challenge the Rick Nash-Stepan-Chris Kreider unit.
Stepan’s sidekicks are both on the verge of a breakout, so Sutter – not one to reveal his machinations – will ensure his top defensive pair derails the Rangers’ dangerous first unit.
Besides Muzzin’s penalty for interference – nay, tackling! – the pair came through big for LA. Come Saturday, it will be up to these two to maintain some composure on the Kings’ defense. Apart from Doughty and Muzzin, the Kings defense is average at best. And I say that with all deference to my pal, Willie (Velvelah) Mitchell.
SOME IMPORTANT POSTSCRIPT THOUGHTS
Here’s where coach Vigneault comes into play. There’s a myth floating around that the Kings are “too big” and “too skilled” and will therefore overwhelm the Rangers. AV must reverse the psychology and as Mike Keenan says, the Blueshirts must play without fear of failure.
The former Smythe Trophy-winner knows all about playoff pressure, plus he still has skill. Brad is flanked by dangerous sidekicks (Carl Hagelin, Marty St. Louis). Hence, Richards must increasingly include himself in the play. Forget the perfect pass and just shoot the puck! Brad’s linemates can explode through the slot and if given the chance, will be in position to score on a rebound.
P.S. – Lastly, perhaps the most important thought: Remember the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in; never, never, never, never — in nothing great or small.”