There is no form to the first two games of the Stanley Cup final.
There are only results.
The Los Angeles Kings, who according to coach Darryl Sutter may be tired, who aren’t exactly executing, have a two-game lead heading into Monday night’s Game 3 at Madison Square Garden.
This isn’t the kind of hockey they expected to be playing at this time of year.
The faster New York Rangers, who have disrupted the Kings with their speed, who have lost in overtime twice after leading, have the rare distinction of never trailing once in either game but have yet to get a win and now need to get over the manner in which they lost Game 2.
They lost primarily on a controversial goal that would likely have prevented overtime.
When asked what he thought of the Dwight King goal which should have been called off for goaltender interference, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said: “Ask the NHL?”
Yes, this has already been a weird, wild, and somewhat wonderful beginning to what is no longer a one-team Stanley Cup final. The one team may have won both games — the record shows that — but that’s about the only thing apparent and obvious about the heavily favoured Kings to date.
If asked privately, Sutter would admit to hating this kind of free-flow, trade chances hockey. That’s not his template. That’s not his game.
The Kings have barely been able to muster a lot of Kings-style hockey in the final. Maybe they’ve done so in three of the nine periods played through two overtimes. Maybe. The pace has been more Ranger than King. The style, except for the occasional period, has been more East Coast than West.
Jarret Stoll, the very smart Kings player, is not just intelligent in the manner in which he plays: He’s bright off the ice and worried about his team with a two-game lead.
He probably has reason to be worried.
“Are we playing good or are we not?” asked Stoll, knowing the answer as he spoke. “Right now we’re doing a lot of things that aren’t in our game, haven’t been in our game for years here. We’re getting away with it I think right now.
“Don’t get me wrong, we did a lot of good things to come back. Down 2-0, down 4-2. Resiliency to come back and battle and push and pull everybody into it, battle for that tying goal and the winning goal again. It’s just how we’re playing. We’ve got to be honest with how we’re playing. We know we’ve got more.”
The combination of honesty and resiliency has to concern the Rangers at this point. They have attacked the Kings with more vigor and bite than was anticipated coming in. They’ve exposed some defensive flaws in the Kings. Styles make fights — and this so far, this has been wildly unpredictable and surprisingly entertaining.
But predictable? I could have seen the Kings winning the first two games. But couldn’t have predicted how it happened.
Going into Game 2, the Rangers were 10-0 when leading after two periods in the playoffs. This was their first collapse of the post-season.
Going into Games 1 and 2, the road team had been the better team in overtime in the playoffs. The road teams were 14-9 heading into this series. Now it’s 14-11. The Kings have the top four scorers in the post-season up front — Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams, Marian Gaborik — all with 20 points or more. The Rangers’ top scorer up front is Martin St. Louis with 14 points.
And how close was Game 2, controversial goal aside?
There were 110 faceoffs, Los Angeles won 56, Rangers won 54.
There were 101 hits, New York with 51, Kings with 50.
There were 40 blocked shots, 20 for each team.
And the puck possession game Los Angeles is so famous and adept at has only been evident on occasion — but certainly not in any consistent way.
“We’ve played close to nine periods now and for the most part I’ve liked a lot of things about our game,” said coach Vigneault. “Our guys are trying real hard. We’re going to continue to try.
“I mean, both games we had opportunities. We didn’t get it done. We’re going home in front of our great fans. We’re going to be ready for the next game.”
It is a chance for Henrik Lundqvist to be the difference, a chance for Jonathan Quick to play better. It’s almost as though the series begins now.
Or ends now.
At this point it’s impossible to know.