The 2014 Stanley Cup Final pits two of America’s greatest cities against one-another in an epic clash of flash versus substance. The Kings pride their game on explosive offense while the Rangers’ staple is lock-down defense anchored by their stud between the pipes, Henrik Lunqvist.
Both teams are on missions to prove themselves. For the Kings, they want to prove that 2012 was no fluke and that the roster they have now has the potential to win multiple championships in years to come. For the Rangers, it is all about heart. They have been riding an emotional roller coaster all-post-season and are out to win their first Stanley Cup since 1994.
How they got here:
The Kings have shown a flare for the dramatic in the playoffs. All three of the Kings’ playoff series thus far have gone to Game 7, making L.A. the first team in NHL history to reach the Stanley Cup Finals after winning three Game 7s all on the road.
The teams they played were no scrubs either. The Kings had to go through the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals, where they nearly blew a 3-1 series lead. After losing back-to-back overtime thrillers in Games 5 and 6, the Kings yet again found themselves one golden-goal away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in Game 7, which of course, they won.
The Rangers had a far different road to the Stanley Cup Finals than the Kings. After being down 3-1 in their second-round series against the Penguins, the Rangers went on a three-game win streak to steal the series from the Penguins. From that point on, the Rangers have been playing their best hockey of the year; as they went on to beat the Canadiens in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rangers forward Martin St. Louis has been the emotional leader for New York when his mother tragically passed away just days before the Rangers’ pivotal Game 5 against the Penguins when they were down 3-1. The team and fans rallied around him and ever since, the Rangers have been unstoppable; by virtue of their 7-2 record since the tragedy.
How they stack-up:
As mentioned earlier, Los Angeles against New York is more than a match-up of two unlike cities; it is a clash of two unlike teams. When the Kings won it all two years ago, they were a defensive-minded team who would rarely give up a lead after taking it.
However, the Kings have bolstered their roster to mold it into an offensive juggernaut while also adding plenty of experience. This offensive firepower and playoff experience has put them right where they want to be.
The Rangers are a team unlike any that the Kings have faced so far in the post-season. Lundqvist is the best goalie that the Kings will have faced in the playoffs. New York is also a very good road team, which they will need to show since the Kings have home-ice advantage. The Rangers are 7-3 on the road and will look to improve that recordif they want a chance to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to New York.
While the Rangers have the best goalie in the league, the Kings have no slouch between the pipes either. Jon Jonathan Quick is not only a tremendous goalie, but also has the Stanley Cup Finals experience to back it up. Considering most of the players on the Rangers’ roster have never been in the Stanley Cup Finals, that experience may get under the skin of New York.
Keys for each team:
For the Kings, the key is physicality. The Rangers have made it this far by being one of the most physical teams in the league and playing smothering defense. However, they are abysmal on the power play. What does this mean for the Kings? Be as physical as possible. Even if their physical play puts them in the sin bin a lot, it should not make a big difference unless the Rangers drastically improve their power play.
For the Rangers, puck control is a top priority. The Kings are too good offensively to allow them to hold onto the puck for long periods of time. As good as Lundqvist is, the Rangers cannot afford to let L.A. pepper him with 30-40 shots per game. The Rangers need to keep Quick on his toes and not allow him to get comfortable.
I am a person who roots for not only the underdog, but also the heart-warming story. With everything that the Rangers have been through this post-season, including the tragedy of St. Louis’ mother, it would be something special to see New York win its first Cup in 20 years. The last two times that the Kings and Rangers faced in the Finals, the Rangers have won. Although this statistic has little to no meaning whatsoever now, I am using it to justify my otherwise crazy prediction: Rangers in six.
Enjoy what is sure to be an amazing series, everyone.