2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One

Kings know they got away with one


LOS ANGELES — You didn’t have to tell the Los Angeles Kings they started the Stanley Cup Final badly. They knew it. And they don’t plan to do it again.

“Obviously not the way we drew it up,” said forward Mike Richards, talking about the 2-0 deficit his team fell into early versus the New York Rangers, despite ultimately fighting back to earn a 3-2 overtime victory.

“Didn’t have our ‘A’ game today, but we battled. We got a couple of bounces and ended up getting the win. We know we have to be better. … We probably got a little lucky tonight.”

Falling behind and battling back has become a theme for the Kings in these playoffs, and all sorts of theories were floating around trying to explain their sloppy start to Game 1 of the Cup final, which came on home ice in front of a supportive Staples Center crowd.

Were they still thinking about the Chicago Blackhawks? Did they underestimate the underdog Rangers? Maybe they just enjoy playing with fire?

“The game of hockey, you’re not going to have your legs every single night,” shrugged Richards. “Just chalk it up to one of those days I guess.”

But coach Darryl Sutter had another theory.

“I think [the Rangers] had a lot of energy and were fresh,” he said. “If you look at their playoffs in the first periods, they’ve had really good first periods every game. You look at it, not I think, I know, that we were not on full tanks.”

And Sutter was none too pleased with all the chances his team gave up, including the breakaway that his best defenseman, Drew Doughty, served up in the first period to New York’s Benoit Pouliot, who promptly opened the scoring.

“You don’t want to trade chances with the New York Rangers,” said Sutter. “I said it yesterday and I’ve said it every day. If you have to score more than three goals, you’re going to have trouble. If you trade chances, in the end you’re going to have trouble.”

Meanwhile, Sutter’s counterpart, Alain Vigneault, was left perplexed at how his team could start so well, then fade away and get outshot 20-3 in the third period.

Did Vigneault feel the Rangers let the Kings off the hook?

“I feel when you play against such a good opponent that has all that strength you need to play a full game,” said Vigneault. “For whatever reason tonight, we just weren’t good enough in the third.”

For New York forward Brad Richards, it was a bad news-good news thing. Yes, the loss was disappointing, but “at the same time, we can play with them, too.”

A two-day break before Saturday’s Game 2 gives both teams time to regroup, look at some video, and figure out what needs to be fixed.

“It’s a great result of the hockey game for us, definitely,” said overtime hero Justin Williams. “But we have a lot of things to clean up. Certainly not our best game by any standards. Especially ours.”

There’s ‘a real positive vibe’ in Buffalo, where Eichel will make NHL debut tonight

Connor McDavid
Leave a comment

Jack Eichel didn’t disappoint in the preseason, finishing with six points in four games, including two shorthanded goals.

Tonight in Buffalo, his NHL career will start for real when the Sabres host the Ottawa Senators in regular-season action.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, stepping foot on that ice and making the NHL,” Eichel said, per NHL.com. “It’s kind of been a whirlwind, but you’re finally playing hockey for a living and everything you’ve done your whole life is to get to this point. It’s pretty special.”

The 18-year-old’s debut was front-page news this morning in Buffalo, where the Sabres have been among the NHL’s worst teams since last making the playoffs in 2010-11.

Eichel front page

Granted, even with the additions of Eichel, Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Robin Lehner and Cody Franson, expectations for 2015-16 remain modest for the new-look Sabres. Certainly, a spot in the playoffs would count as a surprise.

But for the fans of a team that’s barely possessed the puck the past couple of years, it’s night and day.

“People are excited,” GM Tim Murray said earlier this week. “It’s great. They think we’ve improved, and there’s a real positive vibe, I believe.

“That’s what I said to our coaches, ‘I want everybody to be positive. I’m the only guy in the organization allowed to be negative.’ That’s the way I wanted it. If I’m the most negative guy in the city about the team, that’s pretty good.”

Sutter: Kings weren’t ‘interested’ in checking the Sharks

Leave a comment

Lost in the various controversies (see here and here) of last night’s game in Los Angeles was a pretty dismal performance by the Kings, a team that should’ve been especially motivated to start the season after missing the playoffs last year.

The Kings were hammered, 5-1, by the visiting Sharks. They were outshot, 32-20.

“If you don’t check, you don’t have the puck enough,” said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you don’t have the puck enough, you can’t score.”

“We were pretty sloppy. Sloppy on our rushes, sloppy in our D-zone,” said forward Dustin Brown. “That’s probably most of it, but the other part is compete – in the corners and making hard plays coming out of our zone, going in. We didn’t play very well.”

Obviously, much credit has to go to the Sharks. Like the Kings, they missed the playoffs last year and came into 2015-16 looking for redemption. But the Sharks haven’t won two Stanley Cups in the last four years, and they weren’t the home team.

“Gotta check,” said Sutter. “You don’t check, you can’t score. We had a lot of guys, especially top guys that weren’t interested in that part of the game.”

The Kings get a visit from the Arizona Coyotes on Friday. If they don’t dominate that team…