Stanley Cup Final Preview
Time to drop the puck on this baby! Kings and Rangers has a lot of people in not just the hockey world but the sports world buzzing about the final. The 2 biggest markets in North America battling for the Cup, but don’t be fooled. This won’t be the ratings bonanza (did you know there is still a Bonanza on 8th street in Saskatoon?! I wonder if they have the swirl ice cream…) that many are telling you it’ll be. The ratings will be good, but Chicago would have been much better than LA for the league. More star power, and more of a hockey mad market with the Hawks. Anyway….
First off, wow. What a freaking final 3 games that was with the Hawks and Kings. It won’t be the last time we see those 2 go at it for a shot at the Cup. Both are setup to be great for a number of years to come. I’m not so sure that we have seen the best showdown yet between those two teams.
But the Hawks are out, and we are left with the Kings and the Rangers. I’m kicking myself with my predictions back in April when I correctly picked the Rangers to get here. And I WOULD have had the Kings! If you go back and read it I left in my reasoning for taking the Kings over the Sharks, but in the end I went with a gut feel and took the Sharks. Kings would have beat the Ducks, always had the Ducks losing in round 2, and I don’t take teams to repeat so I would have taken the Kings over the Hawks like what happened. True story. But the fact is, I took the Sharks over the Kings and for the Sharks to get here. Maybe they would be had they known how to close out a 3-0 lead. But to be fair, 3-0 leads aren’t easy to hold….
I loved the Rangers all along though. Veteran team, well rounded team, amazing goaltender, great coach, all they needed was the Bruins to get bounced before they met them which is exactly what happened. But now they’re in trouble.
This Kings team might be impossible to beat right now. Elliotte Friedman made a great point after the win on Sunday that this might be the greatest run to the Cup in the history of the league. No team has ever made it to the final while playing the maximum amount of games (21), let alone winning all 3 game 7’s on the road. They’re heavy, they’re fast, they’re disciplined, they have a great goaltender themselves, and they’re also very well coached. Remember back in the 2000’s when Sutter’s couldn’t win in the playoffs? Man those were the days…
Going a little off track for a second, I have to rave about the player Jeff Carter has become under Daryl Sutter. In Philly, the 2010 run in particular, Carter was a perimeter guy and he played nice. I recall a guy who would smile or laugh a lot after scoring, and played a real laid back game. He was a lot like Joe Thornton in that way. But now, he plays with intensity, uses his speed better than ever, and while he is a shoot first guy he has figured out how to elevate his linemates game. He now really reminds me of Mike Modano, but will likely never be as good as Modano was defensively. He doesn’t have to be though when surrounded by guys like Kopitar, Richards and Stoll.
Ok, this series. Obviously by now you have figured out I think LA is going to take it. This is what the Rangers must do to win this series.
1) The Rangers MUST win game 1. The Kings could come in a little wore down from the series vs the Hawks and lacking intensity. The Rangers have to bring their A game tonight. If they don’t, this could be done quick. The Kings get another 2 days off after this one and will win game 2.
2) They MUST get this to 6. Now this kind of ties into the first one, but they have to find a way to get this to a 6th game. That game would be at MSG, and the Kings would be starting to feel the affects of playing not just all the games in this playoff season, but over the last 3 seasons. Despite only playing 1 less game than the Kings to this point, the Rangers haven’t had anywhere near the grind in their series that the Kings have. So get it to game 6 at home and they’ll have a shot.
3) Rick Nash MUST show up. This guy has been a no show offensively now in 2 playoffs with the Rangers. If he doesn’t start to figure it out and start dominating like he is capable of doing, the Rangers could be dusted quickly. The Rangers don’t matchup with the Kings at all down the middle, they can be matched between the pipes and on the blueline, they’re going to need all hands on deck in this series to have a chance and that then means Rick Nash has to start living up to his hype.
4) They MUST hope the Kings are completely gassed. The last 3 games with the Hawks were so good because it was clear that both teams were simply running on fumes. If they have nothing left, obviously the Rangers can steal it.
Having said all this, I don’t believe much of that will happen. Even if the Rangers take the first game, the Kings won’t be phased at all. They’ll get serious traffic in front of Lundqvist, their size will cause a lot of problems for the Rangers D down low despite having a good blueline, and I think Jonathan Quick will be at his best. Rangers take the first one tonight, but after this I believe it’ll be all Kings.
Kings in 5
Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups