Stanley Cup Final: Preview
The days have gotten longer, the sun has shone brighter, and beaches are starting to open up. It’s June, ladies and gents, and you all know what that means- the Stanley Cup Finals are upon us. Representing the Western Conference, the big and powerful Los Angeles Kings. Representing the East, the pesky New York Rangers. Both teams have been on the brink of elimination in this postseason, and both have overcome adversity to earn the right to play for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Kings and Rangers are built in a similar manner and play very similar game-types when they are at their peak. This will make for some interesting stretches of hockey. All signs point to a high energy, high intensity, low scoring and extended (meaning 6 or 7 game) series. Let’s take a closer look at the matchup between these two clubs.
Both the Kings and the Rangers roll four complete lines. Talent wise, it’s clear that the Kings hold an edge. Their first two line combinations boast serious speed, ice-vision and scoring ability and are not to be taken lightly. Kopitar has solidified himself as a top 5 center in the league, and former Ranger Marian Gaborik is on a rip roar through the postseason, potting 12 goals in 21 contests. When these forwards are clicking it seems they can almost score at will which causes matchup nightmares for defensive pairings.
On the other end, the Rangers too roll four very complete lines, but they do not boast quite the same effective offensive star power. Most of their victories have been tight, and scoring has been spread across the entire team throughout this post-season run. On one hand, it’s great to not have a “go-to guy” because opponents won’t have just one target to shut down. In the same light, it is a bit of a downer not to have a “go-to” guy because in some situations a player with serious offensive prowess is just needed to step up and take a game over.
Both the Kings and Rangers forward corps play sound defensively, but this playoffs it seems the Rangers forwards have done it more consistently.
The defensive corps of the Rangers and Kings are eerily similar. A young, budding two way defenseman leading a group of veterans and one young, sometimes brilliant, most of the time steady but learning defenseman.
The Kings’ star blueliner is Drew Doughty, a big boy who can skate with a purpose, defend unbelievably well, pass with precision and fire laser-like shots. His supporting cast included Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, among other names, and his youngin to watch is one Slava Voynov. This is a d-corps that boasts muscle and finesse but in certain areas lacks just a bit of speed.
The rangers stud defenseman is none other than Ryan McDonagh. The young man is tied for the team lead in points this postseason with 13, but he brings much more to the table than point production. He skates hard and fast, he lays hits and most importantly he comes up in the clutch with great defensive plays. His group of veterans includes Dan Girarid, Kevin Klein, Anton Stralman and Marc Staal. His youngin was John Moore, but he’ll be out of at least game one due to a suspension he earned in game 5 of the ECF.
If the Rangers have one advantage on LA’s defense, it’s speed. LA can hit hard and has some speedy guys, but almost every Ranger d man has a step on the Kings’ d core. This could be the difference in the series.
In this Stanley Cup Final we will see two of the best goaltenders in the world face off.
Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick carried his squad to a cup in 2012. This postseason has had a bit of a different look. While he has been clutch when needed, he has had a few tough games and has struggled to find consistency for stretches of time. He is still an all-world netminder, and I believe he will elevate his play knowing who is starting on the other end of the ice.
Henrik Lundqvist has earned himself many individual accolades, but they are all for naught in his mind. He wants to add a Stanley cup to his resume, and for the first time in his career he is just 4 wins away from this accomplishment. Unlike his opponenet, Lundqvist has been center-stage in the Rangers run to the Cup Final, singlehandedly carrying the Blueshirts out of a 3-1 hole to the Penguins and stealing game 2 of the ECF against Montreal in the Bell Centre. Don’t be surprised if Henrik shifts into his highest gear for this series. This is as close as he’s ever been to glory, he’ll be on another level for this one.
Being that the Kings have made it through three games 7s on their run and have been one of the most dominant teams of the last three seasons, the Kings are the favorites in this matchup. They have the experience, the skill and the drive to succeed, and they absolutely deserve a Stanley Cup to cap off their run. Don’t count out the New York Rangers, though. Not a particularly flashy team, this group has put together an impressive resume as well. The East and West play different styles, but once these two teams feel each other out Hockey fans will be in for a real treat. I believe it may be one of the best defensive matchups of the last few Finals the NHL has seen. In my mind these two teams are very, very close. If the series ends early, I would say it would be the Kings doing. I can’t shake the feeling that this matchup goes the distance, easily 6, probably 7 games. If that happens, I can’t tell you who will win, but I can tell you that a Stanley Cup Final game 7 featuring Jonathan Quick, Justin Williams, Henrik Lundqvist and Brad Richards is one hockey game nobody should miss…
Is it Wednesday yet?