To put the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs into one word would be extremely difficult. If you want to describe it using two words then it’d be much easier...incredibly thrilling! These last few weeks have been the most exciting post season hockey in the salary cap era, no joke. Everything from major upsets, to heart breaking injuries, game 7 overtime winners; it’s had everything and then some. And now we’ve come to the end of the road, the Stanley Cup Finals. The New York Rangers up against the Los Angeles Kings. Wednesday can't come soon enough.
Taking a quick look at these teams, from a distance it seems pretty even. However, it’s far from being even. In fact, it’s so uneven, the team you would expect to win based on who has the upper hand, is quite possibly going home feeling dejected!
Here’s how these teams match up.
If you want to know what the Kings struggled with during the regular season, 97% of people would say goal scoring from the forward position. In the playoffs, they don’t seem to be having any problems with that. Looking at the top 5 scorers of these playoffs, 4 of the 5 spots are occupied by LA’s forwards, impressive. On the other hand, the Rangers also have 4 forwards that are tops in scoring for the playoffs, except those 4 forwards are in the top 30, with none cracking the top 10, less impressive. Martin St. Louis is their top scorer with 13 points. New York has had trouble finding the back of the net but has scored some timely goals. Nonetheless, if New York had trouble scoring against the Flyers, Penguins and Canadiens, they’re in for a rude awakening in these Finals.
Defensively, both teams are strong in all areas of the game. Both defensive cores offer size, smarts, youth and veteran presence. From the start of the playoffs it’s been rare to see a brain fart or lapse of judgement from either squad. They’ve gone into each game with a set game plan and they usually executed it perfectly. Even the forwards from both teams have been forechecking and back-checking like it’s nobody’s business. Some of the best two way forwards are on each roster and they haven’t taken a shift off. The only difference in their defenses has to be the offense from the Kings D-men. They’ve put their defense to good use and by playing great defense; it allowed them to contribute offensively, an area the Rangers haven’t been able to replicate.
Finally, Henrik has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. What’s so classy about King Hank is the fact that he understands who his opponent is, Mr.Quick. Comparing their career numbers isn’t fair, Lundqvist’s are far superior, no matter how much experience he has...he’s the man. He gets respect but somehow is underestimated at the same time. When you ask the public who they believe the best goaltender in the league is, you hear Carey Price, Tukka Rask and Jonathan Quick before they utter Henrik. It’s silly, during the regular season he is the goalie you want in your nets when the game is on the line, he’s so damn clutch. Only problem is, this is not the regular season, it’s the playoffs. And in the playoffs he doesn’t look like Henrik Lundqvist, more like his twin brother Joel Lundqvist. However, in the 2014 playoffs he’s been mind-blowing; forget that one game against Montreal, he’s the Conn Smythe leader right now. Jonathan Quick has been nothing less than spectacular in his playoff career, hard to count him out. But let’s send some good luck to Hank!
Alain Vigneault was fired from the Vancouver Canucks last summer, two years after taking them to the Finals in 2011...take that Vancouver. It hasn’t exactly been a paradise for him in his first season with New York, minus the Finals appearance. He gives his players every chance possible, even when they disappoint and don’t produce or contribute (hey Rick Nash) he still has a lot of faith and confidence in his team. Every player has to love and respect that a coach has that much belief in them, probably helps fuel them during the tough times. His counterpart, Darryl Sutter, is a tough ass. He calls his players out when they stink, make a mistake or need to be knocked down a few notches. And somehow, some way, it is exactly what this Kings team needs. It’s a team full of young guns and guys who love to have fun, Sutter is like the trusting dad who will send you to your room for looking at him the wrong way. It works for this team, for these players, highly unlikely it would work anywhere else. But that’s why you see LA in the Finals once again.
This one, sadly, goes without saying.
Dominic Moore’s family has gone through some very tough times and no doubt it’s made his character stronger. Back in 2004, March 8th to be exact, his older brother, Steve Moore who was playing for the Colorado Avalanche, was blindsided by Todd Bertuzzi for an incident that happened in a prior meeting between the Avalanche and Canucks. As a result Steve suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion, Steve is still involved in an ongoing legal battle. But then something even worse happened.
Dominic wasn’t a household name before leaving the Sharks to be with his ailing wife who was diagnosed with liver cancer. After a 9 month battle, Moore lost his wife to the cancer and it seemed Moore would retire from the NHL. Surprisingly, he decided to give it another go and joined the Rangers and has been a vital part of this team throughout their playoff run.
Then there is also the tragic loss of Martin St.Louis’s mother who passed away suddenly from a heart attack on May 8th, a day before his Rangers were to take on the Penguins in Game 5 of the second round. Martin felt that his mother would want him to play the game and be with his teammates who were by his side during this tough time. Not to say that not one of the Kings players haven’t suffered any loses or tough times, but Martin’s loss during the playoffs has added sentiment, passion and drive in the Rangers.
When all is said and done, there can only be one. After much deliberation we came to the conclusion, that the 2014 Stanley Cup Champions will be………………………wait for it………………………wait for it……
THE NEW YORK RANGERS
How will they win? By playing solid, stingy defense and some of the greatest hockey Lundqvist has played in his entire career. If you’re a fan of low scoring games, tune in. Don’t believe for one second that low scoring games are boring, this will be the Finals of the decade!! Here’s the less exciting part, it’s not going to go to Game 7, BOOO, or Game 6, BOO, or even Game 5, WHAT?!?!?! Yes, the Rangers will sweep the Kings, grab the brooms, the dustpans, and be prepared to be shocked. Never will you be so entertained by a series that ends with a sweep. From 1995 to 1998, there were four consecutive Stanley Cup winners who took the Cup home by sweeping their opponent and the Rangers, who won Cup the season before this streak started, are primed to shut out the Kings.