And then there were two. With the Kings thrilling 5-4 overtime victory over the Blackhawks last night, the Stanley Cup Final has been set with the Rangers heading to Los Angeles for Game 1 on Wednesday night.
As I’ve said a few times recently, the Blackhawks were the team I was rooting for because of their inferior goaltending. I felt that both teams were better than the Rangers on paper, except between the pipes. While the Rangers would have had a huge advantage in the goaltending department against Chicago, Jonathan Quick is one of the few goaltenders in the league with the capability to neutralize Henrik Lundqvist.
Having said that, up until this point, Quick hasn’t lived up to his normal expectations as he’s posted a less than pedestrian .906 sv% and 2.86 gaa through 21 games this postseason. The last two playoffs Quick averaged a .940 sv% and 1.60 gaa.
The Kings will be a huge favorite in this series. And they should be. They’re big. They’re fast. They have championship pedigree. And it’s an even year, which means Marian Gaborik has been a beast (playoff leading 12 goals).
The Kings also have a maniac on their blueline named Drew Doughty. His reaction to the Kings overtime winner last night is all you need to know about the intensity level he’s going to bring every night…
Another thing they have is miles on them. The Kings have played 21 games, 65.25 periods and 1306.18 minutes of playoff hockey, compared to the Rangers 20 games, 60.5 periods and 1210 minutes (H/T Full Tilt Rangers). Anyone who watched last night’s game could visibly see the wear and tear the Kings marathon playoff, including three Game 7 wins on the road, is having on them physically and mentally. Now they have to deal with a flight back to Los Angeles and two days of practice before the Final gets started. Meanwhile, the Rangers are rested, healing up and ready to go.
20 years ago, an underdog Canucks squad took a President Trophy winning Rangers team to a seventh game, so if you don’t think the 2014 Blueshirts can take out the 10th best team point-wise in a seven game series you’re crazy.
While the two games mean absolutely nothing, the Rangers split the two contests against the Kings earlier this season. A 3-1 win on October 7th and a 1-0 loss on November 17th.
October 7th, 3-1 Rangers:
After a season opening loss to Phoenix, the Rangers had four days to get ready for Kings and it showed as they put forth one of the few bright spots of their nine game nightmare road trip to start the year. Brad Richards had two goals, while Ryan McDonagh scored a wacky full length goal after Jonathan Quick lost his stick, his balance and the puck as it somehow defected off his blocker and into the net essentially clinching the victory for the Rangers. So how insignificant is this win to the upcoming Finals match-up? Arron Asham and Taylor Pyatt were in the line-up for the Rangers.
For my recap of the game, click here…
“…if this is the type of hockey we’re going to be treated to from the Rangers all season, I’m officially pumped. Skating, hitting and offensive pressure. But more than that, I was impressed with their battle level against a big, strong Kings team.”
November 17th, 1-0 Kings:
Current Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens had the 37-save shutout of the Rangers at MSG. Dan Carcillo was pointless for the Kings with one blocked shot and two hits. So yeah, this game will have zero bearing on what’ll go down the next two weeks.
For Neil Fowler’s game recap, click here…
“A big attribute to tonight’s loss was the Kings’ dominance in the faceoff circle. Anze Kopitar was a ridiculous 18-22. LA Kings centers not named Mike Richards were all over 60% win rates.
Add Ben Scrivens to the long list of backups who turn the lights out on the Rangers offense. To be fair, Scrivens has been fantastic since Quick went down to injury. Tonight’s win propels the backup netminder to lead the league in shutouts with 3.“
This is the match-up we all thought we were going to see two years ago, but Adam Henrique and the Devils had other ideas. I’m expecting one hell of a Stanley Cup Final, as both teams are better and deeper than in 2012, plus Lundqvist vs. Quick. Strap yourself in Rangers fans, this should be fun.