This is subject to change, and subject to the blog server not crashing, but we’re planning to do another Live Stanley Cup Final Chat today at noon. Or maybe we’ll call it, Talking You Down. Be there.
1) This review is quick and easy. The Los Angeles Kings are the better team in this series. Yes, the Rangers could have won either of the first two games, could be down 2-1 or even up 2-1. Yes, Los Angeles got a critical non-call at a pivotal juncture in Game 2. Yes, the Kings got bounces on all three of their goals in Game 3. But the Kings are the better team. Period. Me, after the fluke 1-0 win in L.A. in the second game of the season: “11) The Kings are loaded for bear.” That was before they added Marian Gaborik. The Rangers added Martin St. Louis. I still think St. Louis is the better player, but Gaborik is going to get Conn Smythe votes. Imagine how bad this might be if Anze Kopitar was having a good series.
2) But going back to the bounces. Yes. The Kings got more of ‘em in the series. The Rangers got a few too. I seem to recall Ryan McDonagh’s shot in Game 2 caroming in off a King. And Carl Hagelin’s short-handed breakaway that was stopped by Jonathan Quick but went in off Slava Voynov’s skate in Game 1. Breaking news: There are bounces in hockey games, almost all hockey games. The better teams still seem to win more games.
3) And those three bounces in Game 3 need some ‘splainin’ … The first goal, the really back-breaking goal that gave the Kings their first lead of the series with .7 seconds left in what was otherwise a pretty good period in front of a pretty good home crowd by the home team: John Moore has to have a clock in his head, has to know that time is winding down in the period. There is not a single reason for him to chase Justin Williams to the wall, not when Rick Nash is there already. He left a huge seam for Jeff Carter, and yes, Dan Girardi did his snow-angel thing and the puck deflected up past a surprised Henrik Lundqvist. But Jeff Carter, that wide open, who’s to say Lundqvist stops it if Girardi’s skate blade doesn’t get a piece?
4) The second goal, on the power play, with Marc Staal serving a high-sticking penalty, went in off of St. Louis. But Carter was all by his lonesome screening Lundqvist on that one. Completely ignored. The third goal is a 2-on-1. Ryan McDonagh stops the pass, it goes right back to Mike Richards. Unlucky, yes. Why is it a 2-on-1? Girardi caught up ice? Yes, that’s what the Rangers do. But the high forward was Brad Richards and when the puck changed possession, the acting captain was dead-stopped in the offensive slot. Not a chance he was going to get back in time from a stop. I thought he had some jump at the start. That went away. He’s played all 105 games. The tank is empty.
5) So there you have it. Three bounces, three goals. But the Kings only needed one. I didn’t see a lot of the Kings’ early-round games. But I saw the entire Chicago series and I saw Games 1, 2 and 3 of the Final, and this was Quick’s best game of those 10, IMO. That save he made on Mats Zuccarello was pretty sick. And the Rangers forwards, as they tend to do from time to time over the last (add your number) years, didn’t make it nearly difficult enough for him, despite the big shot advantage.
6) Zuccarello, I though — I know, but it remains an opinion — was the Rangers’ best forward all season. It wasn’t even close in Game 3. And as good as he is, as much as he competes and gets out of that small body, as admirable as that is, he can’t be the best forward on team that has Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Richards and St. Louis. Either Derick Brassard or Chris Kreider was second, and Kreider might yet become an elite power forward, but he shouldn’t be second or third, either. The big guys let down the Rangers.
7) The Daily Nash-O-Meter. Speaking of big guys and let downs. I’m not going to repeat, again, all the good things he does and when he plays hard and all. But enough is enough. Four goals in 35 playoff games in two springtimes, two of them against Dustin Tokarski, one against Peter Budaj, isn’t getting it done. Not at all. Gaborik has 13 this spring. Again, just saying. And all of this hoo-ha about how Nash has to go back onto the power play, well, tell me who he’s replacing. He can’t play the point for Richards, so don’t go there. He’s not better in front of the net than Kreider or Benoit Pouliot. Anyway, the unit that consistently gets chances is Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello. So Nash doesn’t fit there. He doesn’t pass well enough to replace Stepan. And St. Louis has been very good on the PP with the one-timer. He finds spots that Nash doesn’t even think to visit.
8) That said, Nash drove to the net and forced Doughty to take a penalty, a really good penalty, because Nash was going to score there coming out from behind. And some veteran hockey scribes were saying in the pressbox, what doesn’t the NHL award penalty shots when a great scoring chance like that is thwarted by a penalty from behind? Why is it only on breakaways? Good point, I thought. But do you really want these fine men in strikes making more determinations?
9) New game, new rulebook. So in Game 3, all of a sudden, it’s a rodeo. Anything goes. Let’s see. One team is big and strong and struggles defensively. The other team is small and quick. Which team benefits from it being a rodeo? (Answer later).
10) Looked for a while there that the Rangers’ strategy was to make the Kings play with the lead, since they’re so good playing from behind.
11) BTW, and to be clear, I didn’t think effort, overall, was a problem. I thought, again, execution was. I thought, at times, between the ears was a problem again. I thought there was enough try and compete. That wasn’t good enough against a bigger, better team trying and competing just as hard.
12) Alain Vigneault seemed to get a little testy in the post-game, not that he should be blamed when he answers so many lame questions daily. But he really doesn’t like to explain anything that sounds like a second guess, such as why no Nash on the power play. And his “Grade A chances” line is really stale by now.
13) So, as the immortal Ted Sator said when his ’86 Rangers went down 0-3 to Montreal, “One way or another, we’ll be history.” Those Rangers won Game 4, then lost in Game 5. Can these Rangers live to play another day?
14) My buddy Tom Gulitti noted that in the 2012 Final, LA won Games 1 and 2 over the Devils in OT, then won Game 3 via shutout. For those who forget (like me), the Devils won Games 4 and 5, then were blown out in Game 6. But, just so you know, no team has come back from 0-3 in a Final since 1942 (Maple Leaves over Detroit). Seventy-two years ago, and that’s the only one in history.
15) So do you think all those faux-fan celebrities come to Game 4? And do you just feel terrible for those secondary-market (aka legal scalpers) whose bottom lines are going to take a beating now? One more question: What happened to the bunting they used to hang from the facings of the decks at MSG during playoffs?
16) After every loss since we’ve been doing these Three Stars polls, a few of you annoyed fan-boys vote for the backup goalie. So side-splittingly funny. Just never gets old. (sarcasm).
My Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. Ryan McDonagh.
3. Derick Brassard.
Josh Thomson, 26’s Three Rangers Stars:
1. Rick Nash.
2. Derick Brassard.
3. Derek Dorsett.
Your poll vote for Three Rangers Stars:
1. Mats Zuccarello.
2. tie, Ryan McDonagh, Brian Boyle, Rick Nash.
Photos by Getty Images.