LOS ANGELES - On the question, "Is it good to have had a few days of rest during the grueling playoffs, or is it good to just keep rolling with the postseason momentum?" the answer from the Rangers and Kings was "Yes." Each side believed it was in the best possible position, for a different reason.
Kings captain Dustin Brown, whose team had little time off after a draining overtime win in Chicago Sunday night, said, "I like the rhythm, personally. I think it's a personal preference from player to player. When you have an emotional series like we had against Chicago and you win the way we won, it's important to use that. That emotional energy, you can apply that to the next round."
On the other hand, the Rangers had a respite after knocking off the Canadiens last Thursday. They were certain that was energizing.
"We just got to rest and we got our work in on the days that we needed to," Brian Boyle said before the game. "[We] had some good practices, a little bit longer than what we're used to in the playoffs. We had some time off, when we came back to practice, I think the mind-set was there."
Alain Vigneault agreed, saying in his pregame session with reporters, "We've been waiting here for five days for puck drop. Guys are real focused and there's a lot of energy in our room, and we're looking forward to it."
Judging from the start of Game 1, both sides were right.
The play was crisp, with five minutes of continuous action. The Rangers jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Benoit Pouliot and Carl Hagelin. But those only put the Kings in their comfort zone. They have been bouncing back from two-goal deficits all through the playoffs, including Game 7 against the Blackhawks. Sure enough, by early in the second period, they had drawn even at 2-2 and eventually went into overtime.
Either way, openings can be deceiving. Pouliot had only to think back to the fall, when the Rangers looked shaky at best.
"The beginning wasn't easy. But we kept calm. We were patient and it turned around pretty quick after that and it's been good ever since for the whole team, I think," he said. "It's been a process. New coach, new players. It's always like that. Now we're here in the Finals. It's been a great ride. It's been awesome."
The ride is only starting.