LOS ANGELES -- There is no fast way to develop speed on skates, although you can gain a step if you really try. That, at least, is the opinion of the Rangers, who are quick to say that if they are to win the Stanley Cup, speed will carry them.
To a certain degree, they consider it an acquired skill. "I think so,'' said Martin St. Louis, one of the swiftest skaters on an up-tempo team. "You're talking about probably a small improvement, but every inch matters in this league. We all try to get faster or stay fast. It's the biggest asset, I think, in this game."
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It certainly is a huge asset for the Rangers, and it is no secret. "I think the biggest thing for us is make sure we don't give them the opportunity to use that speed," Kings center Anze Kopitar told reporters after practice Friday.
But if it is such a weapon, how do you get a step ahead and stay that way?
"I think you develop your speed at a young age, through your teenage years. But when you get to this level, you've still got to try and stay on top of that," St. Louis said. "You've still got to try to get faster or keep your speed."
He does that, he said, with "just a lot of work away from the ice."
Carl Hagelin, arguably the fastest Ranger, scored on a shorthanded breakaway in Game 1 and later said, "Absolutely, I think any player can get faster. I know, myself, I've been working on my speed since I was 10 by running and doing quickness [drills] in the summer and always going 100 percent in practice. It's definitely an attribute that you can improve."
Then again, not everyone would want to pay the price he did at the University of Michigan, traipsing up the aisles of the massive football stadium known as the Big House.
"I think there were 72 steps, 74 steps maybe. That's part of the summer testing with [coach] Red Berenson. He wants you to run up and down, all the way around the stadium, and he wants you to do 15 sprints as well. A lot of guys were puking," he said. "It gave you leg strength and you got mentally stronger from it, too."
As much as the Rangers transformed their entire postseason by rallying around St. Louis after the death of his mother, they won the Penguins series also because Chris Kreider returned from an injury and brought another burst of speed.
Their game is reminiscent of an old baseball saying: Power comes and goes, but speed comes to the ballpark every day.
Center Derick Brassard said, "It's fun to watch guys like Kreider or Hagelin, St. Louis, [Ryan] McDonagh, guys who skate like that. Just for us, it's fun to watch on the ice. It's pretty hard to defend for the other team.''
Reserve goalie David LeNeveu can only imagine what it is like to be in the opposing net with Rangers forwards getting there in a hurry. "You've got to be going 100 percent to get back to that puck," he said. "If somebody gets behind you, you're toast."
That said, Kings coach Darryl Sutter still was slow to concede anything. "They're a fast team, we're a fast team," he said. "The puck goes faster than the feet do."