Sometimes the media can be guilty of looking for shortcuts in storylines. Tidy narratives are convenient, easy and tempting. But sometimes there is a good reason why certain trends emerge during a playoff run. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which the Kings won 3-2 in overtime Wednesday, fits this bill. Why re-invent the wheel?
The prevailing narrative entering this series was that the Kings are the masters of resilience after winning three Game 7's on the road. From the Rangers' perspective, the onus has been heaped on goalie Henrik Lundqvist to be the equalizer for the underdogs.
So in Game 1, the Kings promptly fell behind 2-0, just as they did in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in Chicago.
With the Rangers' chances of winning the series beginning and ending with Lundqvist, he delivered the expected performance. He stopped all 20 shots he faced in the third period. This included a lunging save during the Kings' power play in the final minute of regulation as Jeff Carter nearly banked a wraparound attempt off the skate of Carl Hegelin.
"He's the reason we got to overtime," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said.
To piggyback on the irresistible Hollywood-vs.-Broadway theme in the series, this game went according to script. Particularly after the Kings got stronger as the game progressed, there is the lure of using Game 1 to extrapolate the rest of the series. Sure, it's another crutch, but we're on a roll here.
The Kings talked about needing to clean up their game. It wasn't simply a case of humble lip service, but the way this one unfolded wasn't going to dissuade anyone from abandoning the comfortable story angles.
But within this overall framework, there is the dynamic improvisation of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Until the series breaks form, perhaps the best viewing option for fans is to focus on Doughty's unique skills. For better or for worse as we saw in Game 1, he can single-handedly inject excitement into the action.
He scored 6 1/2 minutes into the second period to tie it 2-2, and it was one for the keeper reel. Doughty maneuvered around Derek Dorsett of the Rangers with a nifty toe-drag and squeezed a wrister past Lundqvist.
"We've seen that a lot from him, and we needed that," defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "After the first couple goals, I know he wasn't happy. Gamebreakers like that can find a way to battle back. He's a guy that when he's playing mad, he is playing very well for us. World-class goal from a world-class player. He can skate sideways out there. Not many guys can do that. That goal started getting us going in the right direction."
Perhaps gutsy is overstating the case, because this is the way he plays, but it is worth noting how Doughty's goal developed. Doughty's move on his scoring foray was similar to the one that resulted in a mistake and the opening Rangers' goal, a breakaway for Benoit Pouliot. In reference to that gaffe, Doughty confirmed Mitchell's theory of being better when he's mad.
"When I get angry, I kind of turn it on I try to throw my emotions into it the right way," Doughty said. "Sometimes I don't. It was a bad turnover I wasn't happy with myself. I didn't want to do too much to try to make up for it, but I knew I had to be a lot better player than I was on that play. ... We know they're a fast team. They get breakaways easily, and we still allowed them to do that. Our whole game plan was to not allow them to do that."
Doughty already has a hefty resume at age 24. Two Olympic gold medals for Canada, plus a Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012. He is the leading scorer in the playoffs among defensemen, and the overall leader in ice time. But his game is still on the upswing.
"He's a player that's tough to describe just because of how good he is," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "He sees everything on the ice. He makes all the right reads. Very passionate about the game and how he plays for his teammates. Very lucky to have him."
Darryl Sutter isn't known for needlessly blowing sunshine, so it was ear-catching that the Kings coach name-dropped Hall of Famer Chris Chelios in reference to Doughty.
"I think Chelios was the best all-around defenseman that I had the opportunity to coach," Sutter said. "Drew would be trending more towards that type of player in terms of ... the whole package."
Prepare Your Glutes For Running