It’s been a long wait for the New York Rangers to finally get back on the ice again. Their wrapped up their series a bit quicker than the Los Angeles Kings, and got a bit more rest heading into the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, and have probably had a bit easier of a road getting there unlike their West Coast opponents, doing something no one has done before.
The Kings had the most difficult route possible to get to their second Cup finals in three years. They won all three series in 7 games, with game 7 always being on the road. They came back from being three games down against the San Jose Sharks in the conference quarterfinals, back from 2-3 down against the Anaheim Ducks and survived dropping a 3-1 lead against the Chicago Blackhawks to stun the Chicago fans in overtime in the final game.
The Rangers didn’t have the easiest of series against the Montreal Canadiens, winning 4-2, but it looked like it was theirs to win all along. But the Rangers had two 7-game series as well, something people tend to forget. They beat the Philadelphia Flyers in the quarterfinals as the teams traded wins and the Rangers won 4-3, and they came back from 3-1 down against the Pittsburgh Penguins to make it out of the conference semifinals.
Each team might have this feeling of “destiny” being attached to them. The Kings with their incredible record in game 7’s, as Justin Williams continues to defy logic with his superiority when it’s the biggest game on the line. The Rangers have come together even more closely through Martin St. Louis and the death of his mother before the series with the Canadiens, as they won the first two games in Montreal to take control of the series and never let go.
Jonathan Quick had a huge overtime against the Blackhawks in that game 7, but the more dominant of the two goalkeepers has been Henriq Lundqvist, having a fantastic postseason, getting rid of the demons that usually chased him around when visiting the Bell Centre in Montreal. However, no one conceded less than the Kings during the regular season, and there’s a good chance that the scoring mayhem we saw in some of the Western Conference Finals games won’t show up again in this one.
The Power Play issue was big for the Kings in most of their series against the Blackhawks, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle one of the best penalty kill units in the league with the Rangers, denying a goal on 85.3% of the time during the season. If this series will really be about very few goals and excellent goalkeeping, making the most of the 3-4 times of having a player advantage might decide which way the title goes.
The Rangers haven’t been to this stage since 1994, when they won the Cup. The Kings probably feel a lot more comfortable due to their success over the last three seasons, although not everyone on this team has tasted the success from two years ago. Maybe their most important player in this offseason, Marian Gaborik, came in the middle of the season and has scored 12 goals in the playoffs. If there was any question about which teams is more hungrier, being previously named champions doesn’t make an iota of a difference.