Tonight the Stanley Cup Finals will kick off in Los Angeles as the Kings host the New York Rangers. With the series rapidly approaching, we’re less than two hours from puck drop now, a lot of poeple have been speculating about what we are about to see, I’d like to take a look back at what we’ve already seen from these two teams.
The Rangers and Kings have taken very similar paths to end up going head to head for a chance to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Rangers had home ice advantage in round one, a luxury the Kings have not had this postseason until now, and were opening round favorites against their division rival Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers remind me of the Kings quite a bit because of their physical style., but not so much in terms of ability. The Flyers do not possess the depth of talent Los Angeles enjoys, nor do they have the goaltending. Both backup Ray Emery and Steve Mason performed admirably, but they are not the caliber of Jonathan Quick. The Rangers escaped the first round with a game seven victory, as the team’s alternated wins throughout the series.
The Rangers seemed to turn a corner in their second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins after trailing 3-1. They brought their collective game to a level that was not seen prior in this playoffs, or regular season for that matter, to dispatch of the Pens in game 7. A lot has been made of the Rangers ability, and character, to perform with their backs against the wall in that series, but the Kings are the only team that can outmatch them in this department.
The Kings were down 3-0 to a San Jose Sharks and rallied to pull off four straight wins, including a road victory in game 7 (they have won game 7 on the road every series so far this postseason), to topple the Sharks, a team that recorded 111 points in the regular season in the loaded Western Conference, two more than Pittsburgh managed during the regular season.
The Kings, again, went seven in round two, this time against the Western Conference’s best team, the Anaheim Ducks. Their victory was far less dramatic, they didn’t trail 3-0 this time around, but did rally from a 3-2 series deficit to overcome the Ducks.
The Rangers took on the Montreal Canadiens, who defeated the President’s Trophy winning Boston Bruins in round two, in a six game series to win the Eastern Conference. They were clearly the better team during the series, and if not for the heroic efforts of a third string goaltender named Dustin Tokarski, who replaced Carey Price after Price was injured early on, the Rangers may well have made even lighter work of the Habs. The Rangers were very effective in shutting down star defenseman PK Subban, which they will have to replicate against another of the league’s best d-men, Drew Doughty.
The Kings faced defending the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western final. Chicago is an extremely talented team who likes to play a fast paced end to end type of game, very similar to the Rangers in that respect, and very much in contrast to the way the Kings would rather play. Again the Kings prevailed, winning at the United Center in overtime of game seven to advance to meet the Rangers, who had punched their ticket three days earlier.
If you compare the road’s here, frankly, there’s no comparison. The Kings have had a far tougher task getting through to the Final than the Rangers. The question is does that mean they are more battle tested or more worn down?
The answer is both. They are more battle tested than the Rangers, they played three Stanley Cup caliber teams en route to the finals, the Rangers, realistically, played one. Taking on, and defeating, top echelon teams takes a lot of energy, and the Kings have expended a lot of it over the 21 games it has taken them to get to the finals.
What may come back to haunt the Rnagers is that they weren’t able to eliminate the Flyers and Canadiens quicker. Those were two series where the Rangers were decidedly the better team, and it took them seven and six games to advance. Instead of playing 18 games this postseason, they’ve played 20, only one less than the Kings. I don’t think one game is much of a factor, although they did get a gift from the schedulers by getting an extra three days off despite playing only one game less.
To beat the Kings, who are deserved favorites, The Rangers will have to take advantage of the way they got here, playing two relatively calm series against the Penguins and Canadiens, rather than the bruising style that the Kings employ.