TORONTO – After a gruelling three rounds, the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings will face off in the NHL’s Stanley Cup finals.
The “comeback Kings” played 21 games (the maximum amount), playing three Game 7s (on the road no less) in the first three rounds. They’re the first team to play all three Game 7s on the road, let alone win.
The Rangers weren’t far behind, playing to Game 7 in their first and second rounds before eliminating the Montreal Canadiens in Game 6 to make it to the finals.
The series will mark the first time since 1981 that the cities of New York and L.A. will meet up in a championship series – it’s happened seven times before, but never in the NHL.
While the Rangers and Kings have met in the playoffs twice before (in 1979 and 1981), neither time was in a Cup final. New York took both series.
For all those hockey fans north of the border still lamenting the absence of a Canadian team in the finals, both teams are well represented by Canadian players. The Kings’ roster features 14 Canadians to 13 on the Rangers.
The Stanley Cup finals begin on Wed. June 4 in L.A. (scroll down for the full series schedule).
The Canadian Press’ Stephen Whyno has compiled five things to watch in the Stanley Cup final between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings:
Thanks to a favourable schedule, the Rangers get six days between the end of their Eastern Conference final victory over the Montreal Canadiens and the start of the Cup final. Meanwhile, the Kings go from beating the Chicago Blackhawks on the road Sunday night to playing Wednesday back home in Los Angeles. New York’s best chance at making this a series is pouncing on a tired opponent in Game 1. If Los Angeles is just rolling along, it could be a short series.
The Kings have 14 players back from the team that won the Cup in 2012, including goaltender Jonathan Quick, who captured the Conn Smythe Trophy. The Rangers have just two players in Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis who have even appeared in a final. Having a championship core together, especially with Canadian Olympians Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter leading the way, could give Los Angeles an edge. Then again, the Kings didn’t have much experience when they won two years ago.
Anze Kopitar is well-known in hockey circles as a star. He’s a Selke Trophy finalist because of his stellar two-way play and also leads the Kings in scoring in the playoffs with 24 points in 21 games. On the West Coast in a market that’s not hockey-crazy 11 months out of the year, the Slovenian sensation has been playing amid relative anonymity. The Cup final spotlight should give Kopitar some much-deserved exposure for more casual fans.
The most memorable move at the 2014 NHL trade deadline has paid major dividends for the Rangers, as Martin St. Louis is tied as their leading scorer through three rounds. Even if Ryan Callahan re-signs with the Tampa Bay Lightning and even though the conditional second-round pick became a first because the Rangers made the Eastern final, it’s worth it. In Los Angeles, Marian Gaborik is proving to be a steal as the Kings’ leading goal-scorer with 12 in these playoffs.
With a Vezina Trophy and Olympic gold and silver medals on his resume, Henrik Lundqvist has long been considered an elite goaltender. But this is his first trip to a Stanley Cup final in his ninth NHL season. Lundqvist has a playoff-best .928 save percentage and is the major reason why the underdog Rangers have a chance at winning this series.
*x – if necessary
With files from The Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2014