Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Stanley Cup Final Preview

Well, if you would have asked me what the cup final would have been, I'd bet my life that I wouldn't have picked LA against the New York Rangers. It's 'The King" vs. the Kings. Broadway vs. Hollywood.

Lets take a look at how these two teams got to the cup final, first starting with LA. The Kings were close to being out after four games against San Jose in the first round, but would become only the fourth team in NHL history to rally from down 3-0 to win the series and stun San Jose and their hungry fan base. .Goaltender Jonathan Quick would have a very slow start to the series, but would catch his 2012 form by series end, putting the entire NHL on alert that the Kings were coming.

The second round had them facing the other in state rival, the Anaheim Ducks. In another series where they would have to go the distance, the Kings would have to win game 7 on the road once again to have a date with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. They would do just that in another grinding series against another division, and in state rival.

Finally, for the Western Conference Final. This rematch from last year against the defending champs, Chicago. Chicago would get themselves in a hole early, and this time it would be LA who would have the commanding series lead going up 3-1. However, it looked as if Chicago would get the momentum advantage by rolling off two straight wins to force a game 7 at home. It had looked as if LA's season was about to come to an end, but with roughly seven minutes left in regulation, Marian Gaborik would put a rebound into the back of the net and tie the game. The Kings would get their third road game 7 win of this playoffs, the first team in NHL history to do that, and they became four wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley once again.

Now for the Eastern Conference Champions, the New York Rangers. This is another team with a world class goalie that almost nobody picked to make it out of round two, or even round one. This is a team driven
by a couple of individual players stories, Dominic Moore on ESPN E:60 and Marty St. Louis losing his mother right before Mother's Day. Winning the first round against Philly in seven games, the Rangers knew they would have their word cut out for them if they could get by Pittsburgh in round two.

Round two saw the Blue Shirts playing Sid the Kid and an inconsistent goalie they call Flower. This series would turn out to be a great match-up and played pretty evenly throughout, even though the Rangers would find themselves in a 3-1 hole going into game five in Pittsburgh. The King would start to play like The King and New York found themselves in a spot they haven't been in in quite some time, the Eastern Conference Finals.

In an original six match-up, the Rangers would find themselves with home ice for the first time in the playoffs. Their opponent? The Montreal Canadiens. Montreal was Canada's only hope in these playoffs to win the cup this season, and Canada hasn't seen a cup champ since Montreal won it in 1993. New York would have something to say about that and would send the Habs packing. It would be New York's first trip to the cup final since 1994. I wonder what happened that year?

As for what I'd expect out of this series, speed and physicality. The Rangers will bring a lot of speed to the series, much more than the Kings saw in the entire playoffs so far. As for the physicality, LA will bring it with their big defensive core.

Who to watch:
For LA, they have many weapons who can put the puck in the net, but pay close attention to Marian Gaborik, the playoffs leading goal scorer, and that 70's line (Carter, Toffoli, and Pearson). This line has been on fire and will need to be kept in check.

For the Rangers, one must always watch the speedy Carl Hagelin. With his quick feet and quick release of the puck, he is always a threat. There are also the likely suspects in Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, and Derek Brassard. Even though Nash hasn't done much in these playoffs, he will always be a threat when he is on the ice.

Finally, for who will win the Cup. It's simple. It comes down to what goalie is playing better in the series. You have two of the top three goaltenders in the world going head to head, Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick, and the one that breaks first will likely mean the series. Here's the thing though, even if one of them breaks, both teams still have very reliable back-ups as well.

My pick is the New York Rangers in six games. The cup gets hoisted in the most famous arena in the entire world, and the Blue Shirts come home with their first cup in 20 years.

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