By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor
NEWARK, N.J. -- One year ago, Boston defenseman Andrew Ference was on the very same stage the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings occupied Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Last season, Ference and the Bruins were playing the Vancouver Canucks in what turned into an epic seven-game series won by the Bruins, who were forced to win four of the final five games after dropping the first two in Vancouver.
So the memories were still fresh as Ference watched Game 1 unfold from his seat at the Prudential Center as a guest of the National Hockey League. Mental images from that series and the emotions associated with them fought for attention with the game playing out before him.
At times, he also thought about the Stanley Cup Final loss he suffered with the Calgary Flames in 2004, a seven-game heartbreaker to Tampa Bay.
But after it was finished -- after Anze Kopitar scored on a breakaway at 8:13 of overtime to give the visiting Kings a 2-1 victory in Game 1 -- Ference took the time to share some of his thoughts with NHL.com about the just-finished Game 1, as well as what we might see in Game 2 on Saturday.
NHL.com: What did you think of Game 1 in general?
Ference: There was a little surge there in the beginning, but it really took New Jersey to score to get everybody into the rhythm of the game. The third period was tremendous. Chances were great. It was good. It started slow, but, I mean, first game of the Stanley Cup Final. Between the nerves and not wanting to be the first one to make that mistake, that's to be expected.
NHL.com: Was that what it was like for you playing in the Cup Final?
Ference: No matter how much you calm yourself down, it's Game 1. I believe that Game 1 is tougher on the nerves than Game 7 is. You want to get those first shifts under your belt -- especially if you have had a couple days off. In most cases, you just finished playing against a team that you got to know intimately; you are used to going up against the same guy. Now, it is a new set of faces. You are trying to figure out on the fly what you are in for.
NHL.com: So, you were in the same boat last year as the Devils are now?
NHL.com: Yes, but after Game 1, what was the message?
Ference: It's tough to lose in OT, to get that kind of emotion sucked out of you. But at the end of the day, now is the time in the season to remain as positive as possible. Having a positive atmosphere and drawing on what you did well is a very powerful tool. One of the things we always talked about is, "So we lost; we can still be proud of the way we played. We can still draw on the things we did well to help us in future games. We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves, but it is not going to get us anywhere." Even in Vancouver, we lost that first [game] late in third period, we lost the second game in overtime, but we could still look at ourselves and say we played fairly well and draw on a lot of things. We didn't lose that belief that we could still pull it out. It's tough to swallow, but we got on with it and looked at the glass as half-full, for sure.
NHL.com: As a fellow D man, how bad did you feel when Mark Fayne missed that wide-open net?
Ference: That's one of those, you know, he is going to have a dream about that one if they lose. That's the thing -- if you end up winning the game, it's OK. When the game doesn't go your way, it is tough to swallow immediately, but it is even tougher to swallow at the end of the series if you don't end up on the right side of it. I know in Calgary, I can still vividly remember every post that was hit, every close chance that was missed -- whether it was by me or my teammates. Those are those what-if moments that are pretty tough to shake.
NHL.com: How about the Kings being 9-0 on the road in the playoffs?
Ference: It's incredible, nothing short of that. Sure, they are tight games, but they win. That's the thing -- you get into OT games and anybody can win, but you start doing it that consistently, it's a sign of a powerful team.
NHL.com: Why are they able to do it?
Ference: They obviously have the talent. It's there and I think it has been there since the start of the year. A lot of people had them finishing high at the beginning of the year and being a team that had a chance. I attribute it to their [coaching] change. I saw them when they were going through their change and we saw them after Darryl [Sutter] was there and it was a completely different team. The accountability and the consistency he demands and you combine that with the right type of players that can thrive under that atmosphere, it's a big change. You change that entire culture of what is expected from people. You start to really believe. It starts from top down. So, if a coach can come in and demand that consistency and demand accountability and really pull the most out of guys and you can back it up with results; it's huge. They are rolling now because they see what that hard work and consistency has gotten them.
NHL.com: Finally, what do you think we will see on Saturday in Game 2.
Ference: Hopefully, it picks up where the third period and overtime left off and [both teams] get over those nerves and get after it. Obviously, nobody wants to drop the first two at home. You want to get that first chink of armor against the Kings. They are 9-0, all right, their number is up tonight. You definitely hope to see that pace. If you are seeing nerves in Game 2, that's a problem.