With no shortage of storylines heading into this year’s Stanley Cup Final, we’re set for a matchup of the different styles of hockey brought forth in each conference. From the Rangers, fans will see a quick passing offense, complementary defense and superb goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist. In contrast, the Kings will offer hard forechecking, great and gritty defense led by Drew Doughty and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick in goal.
Up front, the Kings have four battle-tested and playoff proven centers in Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll, and Mike Richards; whereas the Rangers only have Brad Richards, a former Conn Smythe winner, before a step down to Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore. It’s easy to point to the Kings as the highest scoring team in the playoffs thus far, at almost 3.5 goals per game, with a power play clicking at over 25% – plus dominating the faceoff circle at over 50% – it’s funny how a “defensive” team is so potent offensively. Perhaps the only comparison to the Kings’ 2012 Cup run is that Dwight King hasn’t provided the same level of offense he did then, only posting two goals and eight points now, compared to five goals and 14 points then.
That lack of production has been offset by the true coming out party for young guns Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Toffoli, arguably the best Kings player last year as a rookie against Chicago in the Western Conference Final, is tied for third in goals on the team with seven. Meanwhile, Pearson leads all true rookies with 12 points (four goals and eight assists).
On the back end, both teams have impressive defensive cores. The Rangers play more collectively as a unit, with Ryan McDonagh leading the offense from the blueline, along with Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Then you have the group of Stralman, Klein, Moore and Diaz doing journeyman’s time and filling in admirably as a unit. One area the Kings clearly have an advantage in comes via Drew Doughty’s dominance in both ends. He has the capacity to impose his will on a game, where he can dominate the other team’s No. 1 center or control the offense from the blueline. If Rangers fans are looking for an opening, it’s when Doughty isn’t on the ice, as the Kings have shown some vulnerability there.
Arguably the NHL’s two best goaltenders, Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist, will slug it out in net. While Quick hasn’t looked as invincible this post-season as in year’s past, yet he’s been clutch when needed – almost Grant Fuhr-like, in letting in goals early, but making the stops that he should not have made, or when the Kings have needed a stoppage in play late in a game. For the Blueshirts, Lundqvist has been one of the main reasons they are making their first Stanley Cup appearance in 20 years. He’s made some great saves, including a big blocker save in Game 7 vs. the Canadiens. Although stat geeks will point to Lundqvist’s better numbers this post-season,, there likely isn’t a better goalie in the world than Quick when you have to win a game.
In the end, the gravity of the LA Kings should wear on the NY Rangers slowly but surely. Television executives would love nothing more than another seven-game series, but not this time. Expect the Kings to finish off the Rangers in six games and hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, and Doughty will claim his first Conn Smythe trophy.
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