NYR vs. LAK: By The Numbers

 

Rangers are underdogs in these Finals (photo: Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News)

Rangers are underdogs in these Finals (photo: Andrew Theodorakis/New York Daily News)

In case you’ve missed it over the last 24 hours or so, the Kings will beat the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final.  This is, for the most part, a universal opinion:

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Alright, alright.  So maybe Mad Dog Russo isn’t exactly a hockey aficionado, but you get the picture.  Pretty much everyone has the Kings emerging victorious in this series, and based on what they’ve done thus far in the post-season, it’s certainly a fair argument to make.

I find it hard to dismiss the Rangers that easily.

Sure, it’s great to look at the story we’ve seen thus far with this team.  From rallying around Martin St.Louis after the untimely death of his mother, to bearing witness to one of the better post-season goaltending performances in recent memory, the Rangers have been a fun underdog to watch.  It’s been one of those magical playoff runs you’ll always remember as a fan, no matter the final outcome.

But good fortune and heart-warming stories only take you so far.  Fortunately for the Rangers, there are plenty of statistics to back up a potential parade down the Canyon of Heros this Summer.  We’ll break down all of this fun stuff here, and see if we can’t make a few believers out of a sea of doubters.

Forwards

Pairing Jeff Carter with youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Justin Williams has proven to be effective for the Kings (Mayorsmanor.com)

Pairing Jeff Carter with youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Justin Williams has proven to be effective for the Kings (Mayorsmanor.com)

I mentioned these teams were pretty even on paper, but this is an area Los Angeles has the clear-cut advantage in.

Former Ranger great (you can use that term loosely if you prefer) Marion Gaborik leads all players with 12 goals this post-season.  Carl Hagelin and Martin St.Louis have combined for 12 goals throughout the playoffs.  Not far behind Gaborik is Jeff Carter with 9.  As a matter of fact, the Carter-Toffoli-Pearson line alone has combined for 21 goals and 48 points.  That’s more total goals than the St. Louis Blues and Detroit Red Wings combined for during their post-season stay in 2014.

Selke Award finalist Anze Kopitar also looms as a mountain of a challenge for the Rangers.  He’s set a career high in scoring this post-season (24 pts) and is a mountain of a man at 6’3.  The only comparable player the Rangers have faced thus far this post-season is Evgeni Malkin, who was a point per game player against them in the semi-finals.

As far as the bottom six are concerned, it’s pretty even.  The Rangers third line, arguably their most consistent line (Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello) tallied 12 goals to the Kings 11 from Dwight King, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams.  The Rangers third line was the better puck possession line as well, with Benoit Pouliot leading all bottom sixers with a +6.2% corsi relative percentage.

That being said, I think the gap between the Rangers and Kings top six is sufficient enough to give LA the edge here.

Advantage: Kings

 

Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will need to contain the explosive Kings offense (NorthJersey.com)

Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will need to contain the explosive Kings offense (NorthJersey.com)

Defense:

The Kings were the best corsi for team during the regular season, for all situations, at 55.7%.  While the Rangers were not far behind at 52.9%, they closed the gap during the post-season.

(via ExtraSkater.com)

(via ExtraSkater.com)

Though John Moore will miss Game One of the Final while serving his suspension from the previous round, he and Kevin Klein are the best corsi relative pairing this post-season at 5 on 5 (+6.0% and +7.7% respectively).

After a slow start to his playoffs, Ryan McDonagh awoke against Montreal.  He tallied 10 points in the series after posting only three in the Rangers previous two series against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Where the Rangers have really shined defensively is the 2nd pairing of Anton Stralman and Marc Staal.  Take a look at how they compare to all defensemen in the Final:

(via ExtraSkater.com)

(via ExtraSkater.com)

Stralman and Staal were the only pairing that started 40% or less of their shifts in the offensive zone.  They also had the third highest quality of competition at 29.3, and their average 5 vs 5 CF% was just about at 50%.  I do give Muzzin/Doughty the advantage over the McDonagh/Girardi combination, mostly because of how god awful Girardi has been this post-season (-9.2% corsi relative, worst amongst defensemen in the SCF) but I think the Rangers defensive depth will be the difference here, if only slightly.

Advantage: Rangers 

Goaltending

Will King Henrik finally get his crown? (Bleacher Report)

Will King Henrik finally get his crown? (Bleacher Report)

Here’s where I believe the true difference lies between these two teams.

It’s impossible to ignore the part Jonathan Quick played in the memorable run the Kings put together in 2012.  The Connecticut native posted a minuscule 1.41 GAA to go along with his outstanding .946 save percentage en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.  Quick was 16-4 that year, a performance that will certainly be remembered as one of the all-time greats in post-season history.

But that was two years ago.  The fact is, despite the Kings winning three Game Sevens this year, Quick has been largely ordinary and, dare I say it, average.

Quick is coming off a series in which he posted a .889 save percentage.  His GAA for the 2014 post-season, just for the record, is also approaching 3.00 (2.86).

Granted, the Chicago Blackhawks are no slouches when it comes to offense.  Their 3.05 goals per game this post-season is good for 3rd overall amongst all teams, Patrick Kane may end up becoming the best American born player of all time and Jonathan Toews set a career high in goals during the Hawks 2014 playoff run.

But I simply cannot dismiss Lundqvist and Quick as equals, not in 2014.  Not when Hank is in the midst of a playoff run that puts him in the top 25 all time (post-season only, obviously) for save percentage (.928) and GAA (2.03).

Montreal was right behind Chicago, averaging a flat 3.00 goals per game.  The Canadiens were also able to dispatch of the Boston Bruins in the 2nd round, a team that many (myself included) had already penciled in to the Cup Final.  P.K. Subban also set a career high in scoring for the Habs this regular season (53 pts).

The Rangers and Kings will finish in the top two as far as shots for are concerned, and for the Rangers to have a legitimate chance at winning this series, they’ll need Henrik Lundqvist to out perform Jonathan Quick.  A task I’m more than certain The King is up for.

Advantage: Rangers

Full Tilt Forecast:

Nine months of frustration, elation, questioning and embracing have brought us here.  The lights have never shined brighter, the stage has never been grander, especially for the Rangers in their 20th anniversary since last raising a championship banner to the rafters.  Prepare for a series full of physicality and the potential for high octane offense to be present.  When it’s all said and done, however, I think the goaltending will serve to be the difference between these two.  The New York Rangers will win their first Stanley Cup since that memorable night 20 years ago, restoring glory and a championship pedigree to a city that has been sorely missing it.

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