What is there left to say about a Stanley Cup Finals series that might be headed towards its first sweep in 16 years? The Los Angeles Kings, one of the most stacked team in a very long time that the NHL has seen, just need to keep doing what they’re doing. The New York Rangers? Down 3-0, it’s hard to say if they’re that motivated about heading into game 4 with the goal of trying to keep this one going a little bit longer.
While the first two games of this series were nail biters with impressive comebacks from the Kings after early Rangers leads and ended in overtime, the third game was a hammer in the face for the Rangers. They weren’t bad, at least not early on, but no matter what they did, Jonathan Quick and his stick were there to stop them. And every mistake or turnover was punished by the Kings, who made the most of their few opportunities, once again enjoying some interesting bounces off of Rangers skates.
But this isn’t luck, at least not entirely. You can’t go through an entire postseason on luck alone. The Kings are slow starters, but their poise, confidence and execution is simply in a completely different level compared with the Rangers, who might need a bounce or two heading their way, but there’s more than just luck involved in how the puck has been going. Henriq Lundqvist is supposed to be the better goalie, but he has been disappointing in this series.
Martin St. Louis, who was so impressive against the Penguins and the Canadiens has hardly been mentioned in the finals. Rick Nash has been blanketed, completely disappearing from anything meaningful the Rangers are trying to do. On the other side, the same key players who have made big plays all through the playoffs are rising up for the Kings – from Jeff Carter, probably the leading candidate to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, to Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik or Anze Kopitar, all keeping the level we saw from them since midway through the series against the Ducks.
What can the Rangers do to give themselves some sort of lifeline? Combining the approach from the first periods in the first couple of games with the kind of pressure they put on the Kings in game 3 during the third period. There’s no other way. Hanging back and waiting for openings all game long doesn’t work out because the Kings have the guys who can finish well in tight spots, while attacking without thinking about some caution has been disastrous.
Two overtime games means these finals haven’t been so one sided as the 3-0 number might suggest, but it’s hard to say the Rangers have been the better team in any of the games. Scoring when in one on one situations is part of being a good team and clutch player. The Rangers have simply failed in those tests again and again, unlike their opposition, oozing confidence and a sense that it’s almost over.
The Kings have proved that mental tests and challenges are nothing to them, hurdling above them with ease. The Rangers have been less of a problem than expected, but it’s still not over. The kind of focus and resiliency we’ve seen from them since losing to the Blackhawks in game 1 of the Conference Finals is needed now to finish things off, against a team that’s fading away quickly, but any sign of a lifeline given to them will provide a spark that might change the series.