New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings: Stanley Cup Finals Preview


After a thrilling Game 7 in the Western Conference Final that saw the Los Angeles Kings de-throne the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the stage is now officially set for what is poised to be one of the most exciting Stanley Cup finals in recent memory.

The greater New York area is abuzz with excitement, as the Rangers are making their first Stanley Cup appearance since 1994, a year that many consider to be a peak year in New York Sports history (along with 1969, when the Jets and Mets won the Super Bowl and the World Series, respectively).

Los Angeles continues to show an absurd amount of resiliency. After coming back from a 3-0 deficit in their opening series against the San Jose Sharks, they subsequently beat both the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks on the road in Game 7’s. In the latter, LA came back from 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 deficits to win 5-4 on an OT game-winning goal by

D Alec Martinez

C Tyler Toffoli

D Alec Martinez.

With the series set to begin on Wednesday, June 8th at 8pm from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Empire Writes Back decided to dissect a few important factors in this matchup, to try and get a better idea of who has the edge in this series:

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Speed kills, and the Kings proved in their series against the Blackhawks, widely regarded as one of the fastest teams in the NHL, that they can skate with almost anybody. However, the emphasis lies on “almost.” Speedsters Carl Hagelin and Chris Kreider, along with the rest of the Rangers, skated circles around their conference final opponent Montreal, and finished their series in 6 games, allowing them to get some much-needed extra rest. Not only did the Kings have to play in an extra game, but the 7th game of the Western Conference Finals had to be settled in overtime. The Rangers have the fresher legs, and they are arguably the faster team regardless of the circumstances.

Advantage: New York Rangers


No one can question the toughness of the Rangers, who watched C Derek Stepan take a vicious hit from RW Brandon Prust in Game 3 of the ECF, only to return in Game 5 following surgery to repair his broken jaw (he even made an immediate impact). But the Kings are a grizzled, veteran team filled with big-bodied bruisers from top to bottom, starting with Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar, all the way down to Tyler Toffoli and Dwight King. While the Rangers are the shiftier team, few can argue that the Kings have a slight edge as far as grit is concerned.

Advantage: Los Angeles Kings



Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals proved to be yet another big game showing for Rangers net minder Henrik Lundqvist, but his shutout was made possible by an outstanding performance from the Rangers blue liners. Led by the young Ryan McDonagh, the Rangers defense has been a stalwart in these playoffs. The best part about their defense is the depth. Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, and Anton Stralman are all tough defenders, and even Kevin Klein, a third line defenseman, has played well since being acquired from the Nashville Predators earlier in the season. The Kings also feature a stout defense, led by Drew Doughty, but proved to be vulnerable in their Game 7 win against the Blackhawks. Doughty, while not directly responsible for any of the goals, found himself with a poor -2 rating in the clincher, despite the Kings scoring a whopping 5 even-strength goals. The Rangers depth gives them the edge over LA.

Advantage: New York Rangers

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    The goaltending matchup is easily one of the most exciting aspects of this series. On one side, you have Jonathan Quick, who continues to be a blessing for the Kings (particularly in the playoffs). Quick is the owner of a 12-9 record during this year’s playoffs, to go along with a .906 SV% and a 2.86 GAA. His 59 GA is the fewest of any goaltender in this year’s playoffs. On the other side, Henrik Lundqvist has been a brick wall for the Rangers in net, coming up huge in Game 7’s against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as in Games 2 and 6 against Montreal. His record sits at an impressive 12-7, and both his SV% (.928) and GAA (2.03) are better than Quick’s, and rank among the Top 2 in the 2014 playoffs. One factor that might play an important role: Experience. Quick was masterful against the Rangers’ cross-Hudson rival New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup finals, taking home the Conn-Smythe Trophy (NHL playoff MVP). While Lundqvist has shined the brightest on some of the biggest stages, the Cup Finals is a whole different animal. It remains to be seen if that will make a difference in this series. I could probably pick a definitive favorite in this matchup, but then I would have to sell my soul.

    Advantage: Even



    In his first year with the New York Rangers, Alain Vigneault has been immeasurably better than his predecessor John Tortorella, who was fired from Vigneault’s previous job as Canucks head coach after one tumultuous season. He has pushed all the right buttons to get the Rangers to the brink of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, something they haven’t done in 20 years. However, his counterpart, Daryl Sutter, has done an equally admirable job behind the bench. For the second time in 3 years, Sutter has led his team to the Cup finals against all odds (See: Los Angeles winning the Stanley Cup as an 8 seed in the 2012 NHL playoffs). The experience factor probably plays a little bigger role in the coaching matchup, as Sutter has been there before, whereas Vigneault is in unchartered territory. Both of these coaches are outstanding, but I think Sutter has the slight edge.

    Advantage: Los Angeles Kings


    Needless to say, the above categories illustrate just how evenly matched this series is and will be. Neither team has a glaring advantage in any aspect of the matchup, while neither team is at a disadvantage. I think this matchup will ultimately come down to home ice. Both teams have played exceptionally well on the road (especially the Rangers) but neither team has played in an environment as raucous as the Staples Center or MSG. I think the Rangers take one in LA, but the Kings will eventually regain home ice. In the end, I think the Kings will prevail (Note: While I may appear biased as a Devils fan, I hate the Kings just as much as the Rangers):

    My prediction: Kings in 7

    My not-so-bold prediction: Buckle down. This is going to be an insane series.


    Here are a few other predictions from some of EWB’s finest:


    James McDermott (Editor): Kings in 6

    Matt Tomaszewsky (Staff-writer): Rangers in 7

    Gavin Ewbank (Staff-writer): Rangers in 6

    Yes, the Kings might be the favorites to win this series after taking down some of the best teams in the NHL to get through the Western Conference, but the Rangers are playing well, too, right now, and really seem to be playing behind Martin St. Louis since the passing of his mother. I have Rangers in 6, winning it at home in The Garden.

    Paul Ciullo (Staff-writer): Rangers in 7

    The Kings might be the deeper team, but I think Henrik is going to steal them a couple of games.

    Carson Coudriet (Staff-writer): Rangers in 6