Last night is one that will never be forgotten for 27 players (11 Kings and 16 Devils), those who played in their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals game. Some, such as 36-year-old Bryce Salvador and 35-year-old Willie Mitchell, waited a long time for the experience. Others, such as 21-year-old Jacob Josefson and 22-year-olds Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Slava Voynov, are getting an early-career test. All of them, most likely, had some pregame butterflies. Even Jonathan Quick, who rarely allows for any public expression of his emotions, talked about dealing with the hours in advance of Game 1…
QUICK: “There were a lot of nerves going throughout the day. My (afternoon) nap wasn’t as good as it usually is. Your head is kind of racing a little bit. You just want to get out there and play. You’re excited about it. Everybody loves the game, and to be playing in it, at this stage, it’s pretty exciting.’’
Did the coaches notice the jitters? It’s tough to say, given that there were other factors involved, especially for the Kings, who were coming off an eight-day layoff. The building, as previously noted, was warm, which might have made players look a little different than they might otherwise. Darryl Sutter talked about how his players felt, and the Devils’ Peter DeBoer talked about the pre-series distractions and how he felt his players dealt with them…
SUTTER: “Our guys said today they felt sluggish (in Game 1). If that was nervous, then so it was. Our guys felt they could play better. That’s a good thing. I’m sure the other team is saying the same thing, too.’’
DeBOER: “I think when they dropped the puck last night. I don’t think there’s any avoiding the distractions that go with playing this time of year. Lou (Lamoriello) addressed our entire group after the conference final on exactly what you’re talking about, based on his experiences, trying to limit as many of those things as you can. But there’s no avoiding them. I thought we did a good job. But the reality is, you know, until the puck drops and the games start, this is a different situation you’re dealing with. You have to handle it the best you can.’’
Even for players with previous Finals experience, it’s a tense time. Most reviews of Game 1 included the observation that it was a “feeling-out’’ game, particularly since the teams had little first-hand experience playing against each other. Jeff Carter, who played in the Finals two years ago with Philadelphia, said he expects that to change in Game 2 on Saturday.
CARTER: “I think it’s kind of expected for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. You had guys who hadn’t been there before, so I expect the next game to be ramped up a little more.’’