GAME 1: Rangers and Kings Set to Begin Battle for the Cup
Head Coach Alain Vigneault may have said it best, when asked what his response would be if someone told him in October that his team would be playing for the Stanley Cup in June.
“I probably would have said ‘What are you smoking?'”
Yet here the Rangers are on this fourth of June, preparing to take the ice tonight (8:00 PM NBC) against the Los Angeles Kings, the right to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup on the line.
The Rangers enter the Final as a huge underdog, at least in the minds of most of the media. This, however, is nothing new to the Blueshirts. They were underdogs against Metro Division Champion Pittsburgh in the second round. Had it not been for an injury to Carey Price, they were also viewed by many as the lesser team in the Eastern Conference Finals against Montreal.
Vigneault, to his credit, has not been dissuaded.
“Even though a lot of people aren’t going to give us a chance, I like our chances. I like our group. I like our focus. I like the way we compete.”
It goes without saying that both teams have played a lot of hockey to this point.
The Kings have emerged victorious in three Game 7s this post-season, most recently Sunday night in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
Four of the top ten players for total time on ice this post-season also belong to the Kings, with Drew Doughty leading the way with 584 total minutes. The closest Ranger to that total is Ryan McDonagh with 503.
The Rangers have played 20 games to this point, the Kings 21. Both teams won back to back Game 7s in rounds one and two, until this year no team had advanced to the Final after completing that feat.
While fatigue may be an issue for both teams, its between the pipes where the Rangers will have their true advantage.
Sure, they’ll use all the speed they’ve got to try to take advantage of a tiresome Kings team, but for the Rangers to steal a game or two in Los Angeles, they’ll need Henrik Lundqvist to be Henrik Lundqvist.
That shouldn’t be a problem for the all-world goaltender, who’s more determined than ever to achieve the one thing that’s alluded him thus far in his career.
Lundqvist (2.03 GAA, .928 sv %) will be the true x-factor in this series. If he continues to play the way he has all post-season, the Rangers will have a real shot at escaping L.A. with at least a split and home ice. He’ll have his hands full with the Kings, who’ve fired 645 shots on net this post-season, the most out of any playoff team.
The Rangers are completely healthy for one of few times this post-season. John Moore is still serving the second half of his two game suspension from his hit on Dale Weise in the previous round. Forward Dan Carcillo had his suspension reduced from 10 games to 6 yesterday, but still won’t be eligible to return until Game Four at the earliest.
Jonathan Quick apparently suffered a scare yesterday in practice
But it’s nothing to be concerned about
Thanks Darryl Sutter
Full Tilt Forecast
How many story lines can we count coming in to tonight? Marian Gaborik, the leading goal scorer this post-season, against his former team. The Rangers being dismissed by nearly every major media outlet. New York attempting to win its first Stanley Cup in twenty-years, Los Angeles trying to win its second in the last three. This should be a series for the ages, and one that will have some length to it.
As for tonight? I think the extra rest benefits the Rangers, at least for Game One. Henrik Lundqvist stops over 30 L.A. shots and the boys in blue steal Game One.
Final Score: Rangers 3 Kings 2