Photo credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

LA Kings television color commentator Jim Fox likes to say that goals are scored in hockey due to mistakes.

Defensemen Drew Doughty and Dan Girardi know something about the truthfulness of the statement. The difference is, Girardi’s mistake ended up as the game winning goal while Doughty’s didn’t end up coming back to haunt the team (though it’s probably something that’ll stay with Doughty for a long time). All five of the goals scored in Wednesday night’s Stanley Cup Final opener were due to errors and a pinch of good fortune, which, if you believe what Fox says, is how it happens.

In the first period, Doughty got caught trying to be too cute with the puck and New York Rangers forward Benoit Pouliot was more than happy to take advantage. He streaked out of his own zone and beat Jonathan Quick around the blocker with a good shot. Doughty’s partner, Jake Muzzin got his feet tangled underneath him and couldn’t even attempt to try and stop Pouliot, though it’s dubious he would’ve been able to.

Later on the power play, the Kings turned the puck over and this time it was Slava Voynov and Carl Hagelin who teamed up to beat Quick. Hagelin got a shorthanded breakaway and Voynov was attempting to backcheck him, to no avail. Quick stopped Hagelin’s initial shot but the puck bounced in off Voynov’s skate into the back of the net. A literal fortuitous bounce for the Rangers, thought not an undeserved one.

If there’s anything that we’ve learned about the Kings over the last several weeks is that they’re never out. It doesn’t matter how early or by how many you go up, they always feel like they can rally and more importantly, they can win.

It didn’t take long before LA halved New York’s deficit and it came from an unlikely person. Kyle Clifford shot from about parallel to the goal line and it beat Henrik Lundqvist over the shoulder. The Kings were right back in the game with more than enough time to come back and win. He and the Kings kept pressing but couldn’t find the equalizer before the end of the first.

Midway through the second period, Doughty decided he wanted to make up for his earlier indiscretion. Justin Williams gained the zone and stopped up short to escape pressure. He passed it to Doughty who put it between his legs and then scored. The description doesn’t do it justice, though.

GIF credit: @myregularfaceL 

Sometimes it’s like Doughty has a cheat code that he just plugs it in at will. His team is down and needs a game tying goal? No problem, he’ll just jump into the rush and score like it’s easy.

The rest of the period was played to a draw. In the third, Kings came out with a vengeance and peppered Lundqvist with 20 shots. At the other end, Quick was relaxing, reading the newspaper and knitting a sweater while only facing three shots. Though credit should be given to the Rangers because they were good shots. Martin St. Louis‘s shot went off Quick’s shoulder and the netminder had to be sharp again when Hagelin had another breakaway with 30 seconds left in the game.

Overtime wasn’t even five minutes old when Mr. Game 7 earned a new nickname: Mr. Game 1. On a 3-on-2 that Williams later described as one they “screwed up royally,” Tanner Pearson fanned on the pass and lost in the corner. As Girardi was going to play it, the puck hopped over his stick and he lost his balance. While attempting to play it from his knees, Girardi ended up turning the puck over to Mike Richards who found Williams waiting at the hash marks.

The first 40 minutes were pretty evenly played. Rangers held the edge in overall chances but the Kings had the edge at even strength. Then LA took over and flat out dominated the third period but were stoned by a hot Lundqvist.

Both goalies were great in Game 1 and if Quick maintains his current play, there’s a good chance that the Kings will win more often than the Rangers (even if it takes seven games).

MOAR SPEED

The mainstream media made a huge deal about New York’s speed. They made it seem like LA was surprised by it and how will they ever handle it in the future? Yet, the Rangers’ speed isn’t really a major issue. None of the previous three teams that the Kings beat were exactly slow, certainly not the Chicago Blackhawks. While the Rangers do have a lot of players that can win a foot race (as Hagelin proved), their overall team speed is not really concerning to the Kings, who have a bunch of fast guys like Pearson, Doughty and Jeff Carter.

If the Kings are conscious about clogging up the neutral zone, as they were in the third period, they will be able to frustrate the Rangers who won’t be able to skate laps around the rink with the puck. There’s a good reason LA has been at or near the top of the possession charts in the last three years. They’re very, very good at puck management and whether they play a swift transition team that likes to score off the rush or a grind it out, cycle down low, smackfest type of team, they know how to handle the puck. That’s not to say they’re perfect because they’re certainly not that. They usually end up losing when they get away from playing their game. So if the Kings stick with the game plan and just play the way Darryl Sutter wants them to, more often than not they win. And that is primarily due to excellent puck management.

Mistakes are made in every game but it’s always the most prolific ones that end up in the back of the net. It’s how you move on that matters most. Game 2 is set for Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 7PM ET/4PM PT. It’ll be interesting to see the way both teams respond to their mistakes in the previous game.

 

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