Entering game 3 and down 2-0, the New York Rangers try to find relief in the fact that they have yet to trail in any of the nine regulation periods of the Stanley Cup finals, while the Los Angeles Kings once again feel very confident about their resiliency and things simply working out for them in the end.
The Rangers played well and the right way early on in both of the games in Los Angeles. They held two goal leads in the first period in both games, and in the second one actually took that lead into the third period. But it’s more than just lucky bounces or bad whistles from the officials as some would like to call it. The Rangers make mistakes late and don’t finish plays they should. With two teams that are pretty evenly matched when considering their different strengths, the Rangers simply make their mistakes at the wrong time.
Hanging back deep and relying on speed is nice, but there is only so much pressure a team can soak in. The Rangers did push the puck deeper and did it for a long time, but still couldn’t find a way to deny that ending blitz from the Kings that always seems to work out well for them in the end. They’re still confident about their ability to turn this thing around – they’ve led for most of this series. But breaking points come when you lose in a frustrating way, not just in blow outs.
The Kings have a neat statistic to rely on: Out of the 48 teams in Stanley Cup series that have held a 2-0 lead, 43 have gone on to win the series. The Rangers haven’t faced a 2-0 deficit in these playoffs, but they did come back from the verge of elimination against the Penguins, winning three straight after falling to a 1-3 hole. They’ve also won all the game 1’s they’ve been in until meeting the Kings.
For the 2012 champions, it’s about keeping things tight early. The Kings make mistakes and haven’t played a complete game without one so far in the series. Letting things unfold and go their way is a nice thing to believe in, but probably more than just slightly dangerous, with the Rangers being good enough to stop the leaks. The Kings might not admit it, but there has been a certain degree of luck working in their favor, and that is usually something that changes and shifts in series, especially when a venue switches.
One issue will be fatigue and energy. The Kings have been through three consecutive overtime games and have played four out of the last five. The Rangers haven’t exactly been through an easy postseason themselves, but at some point those minutes start to add on. At some point, letting the game slip away from you early and playing catch up later on, with the Kings holding a 7-2 lead in this series excluding the first quarter, just isn’t enough.
There’s no next game for the Rangers, knowing that a 0-3 hole will be too deep to climb out of. It’s about keeping their cool late in the game and keeping up the intensity early. Playing quick, counter attacking hockey isn’t a bad idea, but there comes a point in which possession plays a big part, and giving up on that completely has cost the Rangers two games already. They can’t afford to let it cost them another.