It is now the beginning of June, the busiest time of the year in regards to one thing, crowning a sports champion.
Outside of the inevitable NBA Finals, this year’s Stanley Cup Final will witness two teams from the two biggest cities in the country play each other for the right to be called the 2014 Stanley Cup Champion.
It is not a secret that the Kings are favored to win the cup despite being a No. 6 seed. They clearly have exposure & experience in the playoffs: they won the cup in 2012 and came up just a little short last year in the Western Conference Finals to the eventual Stanley Cup winner Chicago Blackhawks.
The New York Rangers haven’t been to the Stanley Cup Final, let alone win it, since 1994. They certainly have a mix of veterans in Henrik Lundqvist, Dan Girardi, Mats Zuccarello & the newly acquired Martin St. Louis who can match with a high-caliber squad like the Kings.
1) Have a goalie who is at full health – Jonathan Quick has earned his schillings once again this postseason. During elimination games, Quick is 7-0, has allowed an average of 1.71 goals per game & has a SV % of 0.95. The Rangers can’t win if they can’t score.
2) Keep the hot stick in Gaborik’s hands – Kings right wing Marian Gaborik has scored 12 times this postseason in just 21 games. Nobody else even has 10.
3) Be fully rested – the Kings have played the maximum number of games one can play in a single postseason & have traveled 14 times in the last month and a half. Each series has been a grind, the Kings have faced elimination against each opponent including the defending champion Blackhawks & the Anaheim Ducks, the team with the best record in the NHL this season, and have left everything they possibly have on the ice just to get to the finals.
1) Maintain their strong defense & goaltending – the Rangers allowed the second fewest goals (193) during the regular season in the Eastern Conference behind the Boston Bruins (177). In the postseason, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has allowed 2 or fewer goals in 14 out of 19 playoff games that he has started.
2) Get on the board first – the Rangers are 11-3 this postseason when they scored first. If they can get to Quick early in the game and take the crowd out of it, they have a much better shot at winning.
3) Continue getting production from Martin St. Louis – the 5’8 right wing has maintained consistency since being traded from Tampa to New York especially in the playoffs. In 20 playoff games, St. Louis has scored a team-leading six goals including one during a power play and has received seven assists.
The Rangers & Kings faced each other twice during the regular season and split. They both have some of the most elite goaltending in the NHL and players like St. Louis & Gaborik who step up and know how to perform when it matters.
The first game will take place tonight in Los Angeles’ Staples Center at 8:00 pm ET.