The Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers will meet in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. The best of seven series will begin on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
Regular Season Meetings
These clubs met twice during the regular season with each team winning on the road. Both games took place early in the season, with the Rangers winning at Los Angeles 3-1 in early October, and the Kings winning at New York 1-0 a month later. Henrik Lundquist was fabulous in goal for the Rangers during those 2 regular season meetings stopping 57 of 59 Kings shots on net. The Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick played in only the 3-1 home loss in October. Ben Scrivens stopped all 37 shots on goal for the Kings in the 1-0 shutout at Madison Square Garden. Scrivens was traded to the Edmonton Oilers shortly after that performance.
The Los Angeles Kings
The Kings became the first team in NHL history to go a perfect 3-0 on the road in Game Sevens during the same playoff season. They also became just the 4th team in Stanley Cup Playoff history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit in their opening round win over the San Jose Sharks. The Kings have gone a perfect 7-0 in the 2014 playoffs in games in which they were facing elimination. This will be the Kings' second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in the last 3-years. They won the Stanley Cup in 2012 by defeating the New Jersey Devils. They've now won a terrific 9 of 10 playoff series over the last 3 years.
The New York Rangers
The Rangers will be making their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 1994. They did come close in 2011 when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in 7-games to the New Jersey Devils. They've also had success over the last 3 years in the playoffs by winning 6 of the 8 series in which they've been involved. This Rangers team has been terrific on the road this season going 31-20, including 29-14 in the last 43.
The Rangers Henrik Lundquist has been terrific for the Rangers during the 2014 postseason posting an impressive 2.03 GAA and a superb .928 save percentage. Lundquist also served as the top goaltending choice for Team Sweden during the 2014 Winter Olympics men's hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia. Lundquist started 62-games during the regular season for the Rangers, posting a stellar 2.36 GAA, and .920 save percentage.
The Kings have remarkably advanced this far in the 2014 playoffs despite Jonathan Quick not being at his absolute best. That was especially evident early in the Kings opening round series versus San Jose, and pretty much throughout the Conference Finals against Chicago. However, in his defense, Quick faced the two top scoring teams during the regular season in Anaheim and Chicago, as well as the #6 scoring offense of San Jose. Quick has posted an ordinary 2.86 GAA and a .906 save percentage in 21 playoff starts. He started 49 regular season games for the Kings this season, and compiled a 2.07 GAA and .915 save percentage. Quick was also the top goaltender for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics where he made 7 starts.
Special Teams Play in the 2014 Playoffs
One of the biggest contributing factors in the Kings successful run during this postseason has been their power play. They've been able to convert on an excellent 25.6% of their man advantage situations, and the power play was especially a key ingredient in knocking off the defending champion Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. The Kings penalty killing has been average (at best) during the playoffs, as they've denied 81.3% of their opponents power play chances.
The Rangers have pretty much been the polar opposite of the Kings during the playoffs regarding special teams play. They've converted on just a dismal 13.6% of their power play chances. However, their penalty killing has been superb by allowing opponents to convert on just 14.1% of their power play attempts.
I firmly believe that the Kings are just too balanced a team right now in comparison to the Rangers, especially when considering that they averaged just 2.4 goals per game during the regular season, and are averaging a NHL best 3.5 goals per game during the playoffs. Additionally Jonathan Quick won't face the kind of sustained offensive pressure he endured in the first 3 rounds of the playoffs. The Rangers play a more deliberate "close to the vest" style, which is in stark contrast to any of the Kings first three opponents this postseason. It will be a much more comfortable matchup for the Kings versus an opponent that suits their style perfectly. The only scenario I can see the with the Rangers winning the series, or even being competitive, is if Henrik Lundquist stands on his head from start to finish. Even in that case it may not be good enough.
Free NHL: Pick: Kings over the Rangers in 5-games