EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Darryl Sutter and the Los Angeles Kings like to use the word "reset" when talking about the highs and lows of postseason games. Back in the Stanley Cup Final after a one-year hiatus, the team is well aware of the emotions and how to handle them.
The Kings escaped Game 1 with an overtime win, though it’s still unclear whether it was truly an escape or whether it was just a case of the Kings suffering from a hangover from the incredibly exhausting and exhilarating Western Conference Finals. Here are the takeaways from the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
It was easy for the Kings to say they weren’t tired during Tuesday’s media day when they were still coming off the high of their momentous win. But no one could deny it Wednesday night.
"Guys are not machines," Sutter said. "It was an emotional series against Chicago, Game 7. You play seven games, actually three overtime periods in there, when you add that in there you’re close to eight games when it was all said and done. It was tough."
But the positive takeaway is how the team responded. It became clear early on that New York’s speed would need to be contained. Kyle Clifford and Drew Doughty were influential in slowing the Blueshirts down and the Kings forwards played physical in order to wear them out.
"When you’re talking about guys with heavy legs, there’s also guys that played really well for us," Sutter said. "I think especially Kyle played really well for us, not just because he scored, but he had a lot of energy for the game, played a really good role for us."
The Kings have had a habit of giving up odd-man rushes during early games in the series, but the New York forwards showed considerably more speed than the previous three teams L.A. faced in the postseason. The transition game is dangerous and that fast start could have amounted to much more had the Kings failed to find their legs.
"Their best chances came off of their speed," said Kings captain Dustin Brown. "We need to find a way, much like we did against Chicago, in a similar way, (Brandon) Saad in particular gave us trouble in Chicago, he’s fast. It’s about getting in their way, also managing the puck a lot better than we did."
Puck management is the key to the Kings’ defense-first game, but now the emphasis moves to the neutral zone.
"I think that can eliminate some of the threat of their speed," Brown said. "They’re still going to have pockets and space to do it throughout the game, but where we can limit them is through the neutral zone, forcing them to dump the puck in more."
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The two biggest cities in the country converged for a battle of coastal supremacy. Currently, the left coast is the best coast as L.A. leads New York 1-0, but the ratings from Wednesday night’s game — a 7.1 — showed the interest of the cross-country battle and the growth of the sport in both markets.
"I think having the coast-to-coast TV markets in the biggest cities always [gets people] more interested," Brown said. "I think regardless of the sport, when you have two big cities playing each other, the atmosphere and the excitement, the city-wide pride to beat New York or beat L.A., it definitely magnifies the game of hockey."
According to Sutter, residents of the South Bay neighborhoods have always been in touch with the team and the support is something the team has come to count on.
"I live here in Manhattan Beach, not Los Angeles," he said. "Everybody knows what’s going on with the Kings. It’s great because it’s a small town attitude or small town atmosphere."