We’re on a roll with these chats, so let’s keep ‘em going. Our fourth Stanley Cup Final Playoff Chat will commence at 1 p.m. today. Be there. Or else.
Here’s my column from The Journal News and Lohud.com:
By Rick Carpiniello
LOS ANGELES – Game 1 opened some of the Rangers’ eyes.
So as they head into Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Saturday night, they feel better prepared.
“There’s another gear in the Stanley Cup Final,” Derick Brassard said after practice Friday. “It’s really hard to win the Cup, and I think we realize how hard it was in Game 1. It was pretty intense, really fast game, high-paced.
“And the bottom line is, we lost the game. We need to play better as a team.”
The Rangers’ focus, whether because of the newness of the experience for all but two of their players — Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, neither of whom actually played very well either — was sidetracked after two pretty solid periods. They were dominated by the Los Angeles Kings in the third period, though not as much as the 20-3 shot count would indicate, and lost a game they led 2-0 early, and still could have won late, on a bad hop in overtime.
“We’ve been playing hockey for such a long time now, and everyone’s so on top of their game, that everything’s magnified,” Chris Kreider said. “If you make a mistake, they’re going to capitalize, and vice versa. So in that regard, I guess there’s a different gear, yes.”
The Kings, most of whom played when the franchise won its first Stanley Cup in 2012, were obviously ready for whatever new level the Final would bring.
“Well, probably till you’ve lived it, you know, coaches and guys that have been there can say what they want,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “Like I mentioned prior to the series, sometimes experience is hard to get. When I mentioned (Thursday) … that we need everybody’s ‘A’ game, it’s not just because it’s a great opponent, but it’s the time of the year.
“You know, if you’re in the Final, and your expectations are to win, you have to bring your best game to the table. Our guys are aware of that. Our guys are talking (among) themselves about it. We’re all looking for a better response.”
Though the play might get ramped up in the last round of the marathon, the Rangers were not surprised about the way the Kings played.
“They played exactly the way we expected them to play,” Henrik Lundqvist said. “We had meetings going into this game. We talked about what to expect.
“After the first period, I think A.V. asked us if we were surprised, didn’t expect that. We all looked around the room and realized this is what we’ve been preparing for, this is the way it’s going to look. They’re pretty consistent the way they play. That’s why they’re here.”
But it can go quickly, either in your favor or against you, if you’re not prepared for more, faster, harder and better in the next game.
“It’s pretty obvious,” Richards said. “If we win that game in overtime, we’re still having the same meeting probably today, the way the game went. Sometimes you don’t win a game, you have to realize where you are.
“We have to expect they’re going to be a lot better. We have to be better or you’re going to be down 2-0. You know, that’s normal. We recognized that right when the game was over. You know, it’s this time of year. You get one crack at it. You got to raise it. There’s no other option.”
NASH KNOWS THE SCORE … BUT CAN HE?
LOS ANGELES – Rick Nash remains polite through it all, especially now that the number of people surrounding him has quadrupled, or more.
He’s not scoring. He’s done other things, and done a lot of those things well, and he says those are important, and they are.
But he’s not scoring, as if he doesn’t know it. It’s 33 playoff games in a Rangers uniform now, and four goals — one in a loss to Boston last spring, three in the Eastern final against Montreal this May.
“I’ve got to find a way to finish some of those chances,” Nash said about his Game 1, when he was one of the players, most likely, that coach Alain Vigneault said “need to bring their ‘A’ game.”
“Just get to the inside, try to get some better opportunities, better chances,” Nash went on. “I think our line has to establish more of a forecheck. I thought we had a good first period, had some chances. After that, we just had too many turnovers.
“We spent the second half of the game in our end, and me and (Chris Kreider), we have to be better in their end.”
Moore back in: Vigneault wouldn’t say, but based on Friday’s practice, defenseman John Moore will return from his two-game suspension and replace Raphael Diaz in Game 2 Saturday night.
Vigneault said that nothing has changed with goalie Cam Talbot’s undisclosed injury status, that he remains out day-to-day. So David LeNeveu will back up Henrik Lundqvist in Game 2. Forward J.T. Miller, who suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the Montreal series, is available, though he’s not expected to be in the Game 2 lineup.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said that defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has missed 14 games with an injury, will probably play Game 2.
Gone, but not forgotten: When you have masses of media in one spot, a story line never seems to die. So it was with Dan Girardi, who was cast as the goat in Game 1 when a puck bounced over his stick, he fell down and had his pass picked off, ending up in the winning goal in overtime.
On Friday, Girardi said it was great the way his teammates rallied around him, and that it would have been the same for anybody on the team.
“That’s the type of team we are. Everybody’s got each other’s back,” he said.
He was asked if he had been able to put the moment behind him.
“Well,” Girardi said, “it was gone until this morning. Until right now. … You’ve got to move on.”
Wednesday: Los Angeles 3, Rangers 2, OT
Saturday: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m., NBC
Monday: at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBCSPO
Wednesday: at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBCSPO
x-Friday: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC
x-June 16: at Rangers, 8 p.m., NBC
x-June 18: at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., NBC
Photo by Getty Images.