In the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Rangers used their speed to overwhelm their opponents. It was the biggest advantage they had and they used it well. The Canadiens in particular, were not prepared for the Rangers speed.
During the first period of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Rangers used the same advantage to take a 2-0 lead over the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings, however, are a much better defensive team, and also a much more physical team than the Rangers previous opponents.
The Kings force you to make quicker decisions and crisp passes, something the Rangers already knew, but was reminded of in game one. Dan Girardi of the Rangers had gathered the puck in overtime of game one, he mishandled the puck for a split second and then was forced to make a pass that became a turnover because the Kings were closing in on him. The turnover led directly to the game winning goal.
“I’m not going to dwell on it,” Girardi said. “I’m just going to forget about it and come out next game hard.”
Speed is a part of the Rangers attack, they are quick enough to orchestrate an odd-man rush, using the Kings aggressiveness against them. The problem is, the Kings come at you in waves and it forces teams to make quick decisions, which can lead to turnovers in your own zone, just as it did in that overtime.
The Rangers have to play their game to win, but they have to play it smart. By the time the third period came around, the Kings had complete control of the game. The Rangers had three shots on goal in that period, the Kings pressure had worn the Rangers down completely and they had no answers for it.
They started turning the puck over and they weren’t able to muster any kind of offense. The speed and quickness of the Rangers were good enough to get them through the Eastern Conference, but it will take more than that to get them past the Los Angeles Kings, who are smarter, bigger, more physical, and just better than any team the Rangers have faced so far in the playoffs.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault put his team on notice about how good this Kings team really is, telling his guys “One thing that is real evident to me, and it should be to our whole group, is we are not going to beat this team if we do not all bring our ‘A’ game.” He went on to call the Kings “one of the best teams I’ve seen in a long time.”
Alain did his best to motivate his players, and try to get them to understand how tough a task it will be winning the Stanley Cup. The Rangers team know they will not get the job done having a repeat of game one. They need to make the necessary adjustments in game two, and as Alain Vigneault stated already, have everyone on the team, bring their ‘A’ game, if they want to come home with the series tied.