Stanley Cup Final: Matching up the Rangers, Kings

6/4/2014

By Sam Carchidi

By Sam Carchidi

The Philadelphia Inquirer

(MCT) — The New York Rangers have the speed, the Los Angeles Kings have the size.

The Big Market Series marks just the third time the teams are meeting in the playoffs, and the first time since 1981. This is their first matchup in the Finals, which start Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The Rangers will be aiming for their first title since 1994, while the Kings will be trying to capture their second championship in three years. The teams split their two regular-season games, with each winning on the road.

Los Angeles became the first team to win three Games 7s _ all on the road _ en route to reaching the Finals. The Kings started their improbable playoff trek by losing their first three games to San Jose.

New York, which overcame a three-games-to-one deficit to jolt the Penguins in the second round, played 20 of a possible 21 games to get to the championship round.

Here is a look at the matchup:

THE OFFENSE

The Kings' top two lines have flourished in the playoffs.

Former Ranger Marian Gaborik, acquired from Columbus in a trade-deadline deal, leads the NHL with 12 goals in the playoffs. He has combined with linemates Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown for 21 goals and 55 points.

Center Jeff Carter (nine goals, 22 points in the playoffs) has combined with young wingers Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli for 47 postseason points.

By comparison, the Rangers' top two lines have combined for 34 and 33 points. Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan and defenseman Ryan McDonagh lead the Blueshirts with a modest 13 points apiece.

Ex-Flyers Carter, Justin Williams (18 points) and fourth-line center Mike Richards (eight points) have made key contributions for the Kings, who lead the NHL by averaging 3.48 goals per game in the playoffs.

The Rangers are averaging 2.7 goals per game. They will get a boost with the return of enforcer Dan Carcillo, who is now eligible to play in Game 4. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reduced Carcillo's suspension from 10 games to six on Tuesday. Carcillo was suspended May 23 after he appeared to elbow linesman Scott Driscoll twice during the Montreal series.

Edge: Kings.

THE DEFENSE

Both teams have excellent defenses that are anchored by stars _ the Kings' Drew Doughty, and the Rangers' McDonagh.

New York has the edge defensively, but the Kings' defenders have scored 15 goals _ nine more than New York _ in the postseason.

New York has the second-best goals-against average in the playoffs (2.25), while the Kings are ninth at 2.86.

Edge: Even.

THE GOALTENDERS

The Finals match two of the best goalies on the planet: New York's Henrik Lundqvist and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick.

Lundqvist, known as the King, is making his first Finals appearance in his nine-year career. He was actually outplayed by the Flyers' Steve Mason in the first round, but he has been his old steady self throughout the playoffs with a 2.03 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage.

Quick is more athletic than Lundqvist, but he was not at his best against the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals. Overall he has a 2.86 GAA and a .906 save percentage in the playoffs.

It should be noted that Quick was the main reason the Kings had the league's best GAA (2.05) during the regular season.

Edge: Rangers.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Kings have clicked at 25.4 percent on the power play, placing them fifth among the 16 playoff teams; the Rangers are 10th at 13.6 percent.

Conversely, the Rangers' shot-blocking penalty kill has been superb, successfully killing 55 of 64 (85.9 percent) to place second in the NHL. L.A. is ninth, at 81.2 percent.

Edge: Even.

THE PICK

The Kings have more offensive depth and will find a way to win another Game 7 _ this time, at home. The Kings beat the King. In seven.

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