FULLTILT BREAKDOWN: RANGERS VERSUS KINGS
The Stanley Cup Finals has a bi-coastal flavor, as two of the Unites States’ biggest markets clash for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The LA Kings climbed out of a 3-0 hole versus SJ, while the New York Rangers climbed out of a 3-1 deficit versus Pittsburgh. Both are battle tested and ready to rumble.
NYR: GF (54) – GA (45) +9 – GFG (2.70) – GAG (2.25)
LAK: GF (73) – GA (60) +13 – GFG (3.48) – GAG (2.86)
NYR: PP 13.6% – PK 85.9%
LAK: PP 25.4% – PK 81.3%
Jonathan Quick is emerging as the toughest goalie to take out in these playoffs. Last night Alex Martinez called the Kings “cockroaches” because they just won’t die. If that’s the case, Quick is the biggest cockroach of them all.
Jonathan Quick is 6-0 with 1.33 GAA, .957 save % and a shutout in 6 games in which Kings have faced elimination this postseason. #StanleyCup
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 1, 2014
Quick’s numbers when facing elimination speak volumes to the “cockroach” theory, but will it be enough? Try these numbers on for size. Quick has given up 3 goals or more 11 times, 7 of those times it was 4 or more and 3 times 5 plus. In other words, he and the Kings have had some bad games. Will the Rangers put their backs to the wall? Maybe that will bring out the best in LA.
Henrik Lundqvist is the best goaltender remaining in these NHL playoffs. At least that is a statistical truth. His goaltending has been rock solid and at times, jaw dropping. Lundqvist has faced the best the East has to offer and stoned them. He’s taken out the Flyers’ Giroux (2 goals), the Pens’ Crosby (1 goal) and the Habs’ Subban (1 goal) en route to the Finals. He and the Rangers have also put out hot power plays. He’s simply on fire with a .928 SV%.
The King is also as clutch as Quick in building his resume in pressure packed playoff games. The last 12 times Lundqvist has been faced with elimination, he is 10-2, with a 1.32 GAA and a .957 SV%. Henrik is also the “King of Game 7″, having won 5 in row with a 1.00 GAA and .971 SV%.
The numbers speak for themselves as both these goalies are the best left standing. However, Lundqvist gets the edge for more consistent performance. The King has only let in 3 or more goals 5 times (4 or more 3 times). He has had only 6 performances where he’s posted a sub .900 save percentage. It’s those kind of numbers that win Championships.
Edge – Rangers
The New York Rangers are not an offensive powerhouse. With that said, they are also no slouches. Matter of fact, in 5 on 5 play the Blueshirts are a half goal better per game than LA.
Marty St. Louis, Rick Nash and Brad Richards are your big names. Yet, they are getting contributions from all 4 lines. In game 6 of the ECF, it was the 4th line that provided the only goal to send the Rangers to the Finals.
NY rolls 4 sets of forwards and have at least 1 speedster and 1 big man on each one. It’s been that ability to keep players fresh that allows NY to punish the opposition and force turnovers. It will be exactly those attributes that will make the Rangers dangerous.
As for the Kings, they are scary. Big and strong with just enough speed from players like Gaborik to make you worry. 73 goals in 21 games is nothing to sneeze at. It is a testament to their grit and determination to score.
Anze Kopitar is the leading point getter in the post season with 24 points and Marian Gaborik leads all in goals with 12. Mix in Jeff Carter’s 22 points and “Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams’ 18 and they easily take this category. But can they score 5 on 5?
The Kings have 17 goals on the power play and now run into a penalty killing machine in NY. Without that power play, LA loses a whole 1.42 goals per game. If LA can’t get on the PP enough, will the Rangers depth in scoring actually be able to outscore this Kings offense?
Ultimately, it’s all about quick transitions and using their speed for NY. For LA, it’s a mix of size and skill that will make the difference for them. Stats say the Kings are no doubt the better team offensively and gets the nod here.
Big Edge – Kings
Drew Doughty is the key to the entire Kings defense. He is leading all blue liners in scoring with 4G – 12A for 16 points. Just like PK Subban, the Rangers will make it a point to eliminate his offensive contributions and possibly frustrate him.
Doughty has 22 PIMs this post season, so we know he runs hot. He needs to stay composed to be a factor. Good news for the Kings is that players like Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez have stepped it up and got it done.
The big question one has to ask is simple, have the Kings gone 1 or 2 games to long into this punishing post season? Can they handle the quickness and speed of the Rangers in order to win the Cup? Those answers will come as soon as game 1 on Wednesday.
The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh is the answer to the Kings’ Doughty. NY’s future Norris Candidate has 13 points in these playoffs. He plays 26 minutes plus a game against the opposition’s best. A stunning stat for McDonagh, he has only 2 minors in 20 games. Paired with shutdown partner Dan Girardi, they have the Rangers defense leading the NHL postseason with an astounding 2.26 goals against per game average.
Of course LA does have more than one line, but that’s where Marc Staal and Anton Stralman have been equally impressive. Round out the group with Kevin Klein and John Moore and this may be the best 6 defensive group in the NHL.
Considering what NY did against PK Subban, it is possible that Drew Doughty may be seriously minimized. The Rangers ability to keep opponents to the outside is key to their success, but it will be tested against a much bigger Kings squad.
However, under the tutelage of Alain Vigneault, they have found an ability to transition the puck quickly on offense. John Moore will finish his 2 game ban after game 1, but Raphael Diaz stepped right in to help shutout the Canadiens. For those factors, and the fact that the Kings defense has had some terrible games, the Rangers get the edge.
Edge – Rangers
If the Rangers have any hopes of winning this series, they need to stay out of the penalty box. The Kings power play is the best in the playoffs and NY will be facing a big group of forwards. NY must keep this 5 on 5 if they want to win, as LA has lit the lamp 17 times on the man advantage.
For the Kings, they need to stay poised. LA has taken 272 PIM’s to the Rangers 200. If they get themselves in penalty trouble, it may not hurt them immediately since NY’s power play is only operating at 13%, but it could destroy any type of flow.
NY’s PK versus LA’s PP is too hard to pick. NY’s special teams have simply stepped up whenever needed. For that, let’s call this a draw.
Edge – Even
Los Angeles is considered the heavy favorite by nearly every expert out there. They’ve comeback down 3-0 versus the Sharks and knocked off the high powered Ducks. More importantly, they took out the defending the Champs.
New York on the other hand has overcome much adversity themselves. Neither team has had home ice in any of these series. LA is the first team ever to win 3 road game 7’s to get to the Finals. The Rangers were playing below average hockey until the passing of Marty St. Louis mother. NY rallied for their team mate and have gone 7-2 since then.
Here is the biggest concern and one that no one should ignore. The Rangers have played 20 games, 60.5 periods and 1210 minutes of playoff hockey. The Kings are at 21 games, 65.25 periods and an excruciating 1306.18 of playoff action.
The Rangers have beaten back their own demons in this playoff run. They have gelled and peaked at the right time. NY has also been fortunate in surviving long enough to turn it around against Pittsburgh. They believe in each other and are playing as a team. Meanwhile, the LA Kings have also been lucky not being eliminated earlier in these playoffs. Although, three 7 game series may be 1 too many games into a long hot summer.
NEW YORK RANGERS IN 6 GAMES!