I have to admit–I’m not really sure where to begin after surviving Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. I mean, there were enough ups and downs for an entire series…well, unless you’re the Los Angeles Kings…in which case, it’s all par for the course, right? Nevertheless, there are a million things to write about, and so little time before Game 3…so let me just get straight to the important points.
First of all–for all of the New York Rangers fans out there who are still seething mad about the ‘no call’ on Dwight King‘s alleged goalie interference when the Kings scored their third goal of the game in the third period–get over it! Chris Kreider got away with taking Carey Price out at the knees in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Entirely ‘intentional’ or not, he did take Price out. So you already got away with one…are you really in a position cry foul atop your soap box? Please…
That being said, I took a closer look at exactly what happened from the moment Dwight King approached the crease and Ryan McDonagh skated over to meet him. You can see from the following screen shots (courtesy of CBC and NBC, respectively) that:
- King and McDonagh engage just as King is nearing the crease.
- After McDonagh shoves King toward Henrik Lundqvist, McDonagh gets his right leg in between King’s skates.
- McDonagh then ‘locks’ his right boot behind King’s right boot.
- Matt Greene shoots just as King is getting ‘locked up’ between McDonagh and Lundqvist while he is attempting to get in front of Lundqvist to create a screen (his clear intention to begin with).
- As Lundqvist ranges over to his right as the puck is approaching, King’s skates are actually off the ice entirely–having had his right boot taken out from under him by McDonagh’s half-hearted ‘slew foot’. Puck scoots through the window between Lundqvist and McDonagh.
Now, do I believe that King is entirely blameless here? No, of course not. But let’s take a look at NHL Official Rule 69.1 (Interference on the Goalkeeper). The pertinent portion of the rule reads:
“Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. [...]
If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.” (Emphasis added.)
Obviously, there is a disagreement about whether McDonagh “pushed, shoved, or fouled” King “so as to cause him to come into contact with” Lundqvist…but when a referee has to make that call–in real time–and cannot avail himself of replay in order to determine whether or not he made the right call, people are going to question the accuracy of the call–in hindsight and with benefit of replay. The point is that the Kings didn’t blatantly cheat their way to a goal en route to a comeback. On the other hand, two separate penalties were called against the Kings in overtime–and in each instance, a Rangers player went out of his way to ‘sell’ the call–yes, we saw you Rick Nash, Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers obviously weren’t able to convert those power play opportunities into the game-winning goal, but hey, these things happen in the NHL. You get over it and move on.
Speaking of which, what’s up with Jonathan Quick? This guy just allows goals left and right in the first and second periods, then locks down the net from the third period on. Going back to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, Quick has allowed ZERO goals in three consecutive third periods, three consecutive overtime periods, and a double overtime period. ALL 10 goals scored by the opposition in those three games were allowed BEFORE the third period. That’s nearly 100 minutes of play with ZERO goals allowed. Guess he just lives for ‘crunch time’, eh? And so does ‘the Captain’ Dustin Brown, apparently–who, on the game-winning goal in double overtime, stole the puck from Ryan McDonagh behind the net, passed it back out to the point, then took up a spot in front of Lundqvist in time to redirect Willie Mitchell’s blast from the point just under the left arm pit of Henrik Lundqvist. Brown takes a ton of criticism, but this play exemplifies why he’s ‘the Captain’.
As for what to expect in Game 3–the Kings continue to play sloppy, sloppy, sloppy hockey early in games, and yet continue to get away with it game after game. The Kings gave the puck away 33 times in Game 2 (compared to only 15 giveaways for the Rangers), and they paid for those giveaways to the tune of three goals (the Rangers’ power play goal wasn’t the result of a giveaway, at least not in my opinion–although the ‘too many men on the ice’ penalty that resulted in the power play was inexcusable). The Kings have played with fire since the beginning of this playoff run and somehow find themselves two wins away from getting the Stanley Cup back…but after three straight overtime games, a long flight to New York, and a short turnaround for Game 3, I expect some tired legs, a pissed off Rangers squad, and a low-scoring victory for the Rangers. The Kings only need to win ONE game in New York…my guess is that they get their legs back under them for Friday’s game and return home with a 3-1 series lead.
Although the Kings managed to keep Carl Hagelin from skating up and down the ice as he did in Game 1, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, and Rick Nash all came alive in Game 2 and ran the Kings ragged. That’s the biggest reason the Rangers shouldn’t feel too bad going home down 0-2. With an elite goalie in net and their best players making plays, this series could very well end up tied 2-2. The Kings better hope they have just enough left in the tank to steal a game at Madison Square Garden, otherwise Game 5 is really going to put them to the test–perhaps, that’s just the way the Kings want it…but I don’t know if their fans can handle another seven game series!