Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kings Win Game 1; No Mental Edge Yet

In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals Anze Kopitar scored in overtime to give the Kings a 9-0 record on the road this post-season. I have never seen a run like this in any sport. What the Kings are doing is remarkable.

According to most pundits, including yours truly, getting off to a good start and winning the first period would be crucial in this series. The Kings did just that. While New Jersey was able to hang in there with good goaltending by Brodeur, LA could have easily been up by two or three goals. In Game 1 the first period was not the difference; the Devils tied the game in the second and it would stay 1-1 until Kopitar's breakaway goal in the first overtime.

The difference in this game was miniscule. That is why it sets up to be a very interesting and competitive final. If Fayne finishes on an open net with about 10 minutes to go in the third period the Devils are looking to take a 2-0 series lead on Saturday. As far as I can see, other than winning Game 1, neither team grabbed a mental edge. The Kings know they did not play their best game and will need to be better. The Devils realize that they were very close to winning Game 1 despite creating few scoring opportunities. Furthermore, the Devils will not be overly concerned about losing a game at home. Winning on the road is not that big of a deal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Case in point, the Kings have been perfect on the road, but only 4-2 at home.

If the Kings win Game 2 as they have been able to do in the three prior series they will definitely have the mental edge on New Jersey. Rarely does a team win the first two on the road and then lose the series. If the Devils can bounce back they can take momentum with them in to Game 3 in Los Angeles. And, it seems the goalies are both playing great and may wash each other out. Besides being up 1-0 it does not seem to me that LA has gained a big edge yet. We will see as the series develops.

The most important factors that I feel will give the Kings or Devils the edge are composure and discipline. In a low scoring series the effect of special teams will be magnified. So, too many penalties, or worse, untimely penalties can very well be the difference between winning and losing the Cup. As the intensity of the series rises and the players begin to have grudges, the ability to stay focused and composed will be huge. New Jersey has been great during the playoffs at not retaliating. Kings have been pretty good as well. The team that holds their discipline will be able to gain the mental edge and put themselves in a position to win Lord Stanley's Cup.

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