While many of you are gearing up for the World Cup, the NBA Finals and the dog day of Major League Baseball, the best series in all sport gets underway this evening. The Stanley Cup Finals are actually the culmination of the best playoffs in professional sports and they open tonight in Los Angeles as the Kings host the New York Rangers.
Not since 1981 when the LA Dodgers and NY Yankees hooked up in the World Series have teams from the two cities squared off in a professional championship. My how times have changed since then…
As the series gets going, I’ll offer my views on tonight’s games as well as my pick for the Stanley Cup Champions.
New York Rangers +1.5 (-220)
Los Angeles Kings -1.5 (+180)
We know the story about the Los Angeles Kings going seven games in their first three series. This means the Kings have played the maximum amount of games they could have to this point. What cannot forget however is that the New York Rangers have played 20 of a possible 21 games with their first two series going the distance against Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh.
The reason I point this out is that a lot of folks are suggesting that LA will have tired legs. Yes, they played more recently than did the Rangers but these clubs have essentially played the same amount of games in the 2014 playoffs.
As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, if LA was traveling to New York for games one and two I could see giving the Rangers the edge but returning home will provide an energetic boost for the Kings.
Both of these teams have excellent goalies and I expect that both will be instrumental in terms of whose team comes out on top. Through 20 games, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist has a save percentage of .928 while the Kings’ Jonathan Quick is at .906. Both net minders have a shutout in this year’s playoffs.
Offensively, the Kings boast four of the top five scorers in the playoffs with Anze Kopitar leading the way with 24 points. In order to find the Rangers’ top point getter so far you’d need to go to number 16 where Martin St. Louis resides with 13 points. Where the Rangers make this up is with defense. New York has allowed 45 goals through 20 games while the Kings have surrendered 60 goals in 21 games.
When the teams are at equal strength, the Rangers have given up 30 goals while the Kings have coughed up 42.
One of the reasons the Rangers have struggled offensively is that they have been pretty bad on the power play. New York is scoring PP goals just 13.6% of the time while the Kings are at a much more respectable number of 25.4% on their power play. The Rangers hold the edge in in terms of penalty killing 85.9% to 81.2% but in order to win this series the Rangers have to be better when they have the man advantage.
In most cases you have to like defense and that favors the Rangers. You also have to like goaltending and that favors the Rangers too. I had the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals from the start and I’m not wavering. I like their offensive firepower just too darn much. Take them to win tonight and take the OVER which is at five.
Keep an eye on… NY Rangers are 7-2 straight up in their last 9 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Los Angeles’s last five games when playing at home against the NY Rangers… NY Rangers are 4-1 straight up in their last five games on the road… Los Angeles is 4-2 straight up in its last 6 games.
The Pick: Kings in Six games