Stanley Cup Final Preview: One King to Rule Them All

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time ever two teams that played seven games in the first round are in the Stanley Cup Final.

King Henrik Lundqvist and his battalion of New York Rangers take on the Los Angeles Kings to decide who hockey's divine ruler will be. Neither can live while the other survives. The series pits a team built around a world class goalie against a team built around a world class centre and defence man.Who will prevail? Watch the games to find out.

Olivier Bouchard's preview of the Final en francais. Translations for stats can be found here.

Los Angeles Kings

Regular Season Record: 46-28-8

Playoff Record: 12-9

Starting Goalie Stats (Regular Season and Playoffs): Jonathan Quick .911 all situations.

Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar w/ 24 points

Manitoba Connection: Mike Richards is from Kenora, which is practically Manitoba.

SBNation Blog: Jewels From the Crown

A Chat with Robert from Jewels From the Crown.

Jonathan Quick struggled mightily in the Western Conference Final. Do you think he can rebound in short order or are the Kings going to hope that their offence comes through against Lundqvist?

A lot has been made of Quick’s poor play this postseason and rightly so, yet I’d expect his save percentage to start climbing back to career norms at some point and it could very well climb very fast in the Stanley Cup final. Yay, clutch narratives! But truly goaltending is voodoo and thus I have no idea what’s going to happen. However, I do believe that the Kings are formidable enough to win the series with Quick continuing to be subpar.

What matchups will you be watching for over the course of the Final?

I’ll be really interested to see how AV matches the Rangers defense to LA’s forward corps. I’d assume we’d see McDonagh and Girardi hard matched to the Kopitar line. But the d-pair that scares me the most is Stralman-Staal who have posted excellent underlying numbers while seeing similar minutes as their top pair. They’ll see a lot of time against the speedy Pearson-Carter-Toffoli line, which was the Kings’ most effective line in the Western Conference Final.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty have long been underrated. Do you think that playing in the Final against the Rangers in two big media markets finally give them their due?

I hope so. I think they are starting to get their due thanks in large part to Quick, who has stolen the limelight in recent playoff runs. Now that the Kings are winning in spite of Quick, people are finally taking notice of LA’s two best players. Then again Quick could run hot in the Final and swoop the Conn Smythe away because the hockey media is horrible.

Besides Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov which other Kings defencemen should fans watch for?

Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin. They are largely unheralded young guys who are not your prototypical big, gritty backenders. They move the puck well and add some scoring punch . They are also among the league leaders in possession numbers year-in and year-out. And if that isn’t enough, Alec Martinez wears a sombrero while playing hockey sometimes and Jake Muzzin’s eyebrows are one of the strangest wonders of the world.

*editors note: there were links to Martinez in a sombrero and Muzzin's eyebrows that got lost when moving the text from a word document. Look them up and you won't regret it.

Besides Marian Gaborik, what has changed for the Kings offensively?

After the Kings came back from the Olympic break they began to play a noticeably different style offensively. This was shortly before the acquisition of Gaborik and continued on afterwards. It seems like the staff took some time to re-evaluate the team’s offensive struggled to start the year and decided that they were dumping the puck in too much. We track zone entries over at JFTC and noticed a huge jump in there post break numbers. Gaborik helped, but the Kings were making a concerted effort to make this adjustment even before Gaborik.

Finally, if the Kings win the Cup who does Dustin Brown hand it to first?

Marian Gaborik has been one of the most prolific goal scorers in the NHL over his 13 year career. He’s never lifted the Cup. He’s also a free agent at the end of the year, so my hope is it’s him and he signs a new contract on the spot.

New York Rangers

Regular Season Record: 45-31-6

Playoff Record: 12-8

Starting Goalie Stats (Regular Season and Playoffs): Henrik Lundqvist .924 all situations.

Leading Scorers: Martin St. Louis and Ryan McDonagh w/ 13 points

Manitoba Connections: Alain Vigneault (Head Coach, Manitoba Moose), Scott Arniel (Assistant Coach, Manitoba Moose), Justin Falk (Defenceman, Snowflake, Manitoba).

SBNation Blog: Blueshirt Banter

A Chat with Mike from Blueshirt Banter:

Besides Henrik Lundqvist out-dueling Jonathan Quick, what is the other key matchup for the Rangers that would help them win the series?

MM: It’s hard to give you just one so I’m going to pick two; the Rangers penalty kill and which team gets more out of its bottom six. The Rangers were able to more or less shut down the Subban-driven Habs’ power play and that made a big difference in the series. Penalty killing has been a strength with the Rangers for several years now and this year, under Alain Vigneault, it remains a strength of the team.

The Rangers have relied heavily on big contributions from their bottom six including players like Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle. The Rangers "third line" (the Brassard line) has been its most consistent throughout the season and postseason. If they play their hearts out and chip in with some offense it will take the pressure off the top six forwards to score every night. If the Rangers depth outclasses the Kings depth it will go a long way towards the Rangers winning four games before the Kings do in the Final.

Daniel Carcillo’s suspension was just reduced from 10 games to 6 games. Does this news affect the Rangers lineup at all or will Carcillo most likely be scratched after he is eligible to return?

That’s hard to say because Dorsett has been in the lineup for some big games and hasn’t done much to hurt his case. Just like Carcillo, Dorsett is prone to taking a very idiotic penalty every now and then but most people feel that Dorsett is simply the better hockey player. Carcillo has gained a bit of a cult following for his heroics in the Stadium Series games and the series against the Flyers but unless the Rangers are losing and want to shake things up, I don’t think we’ll see Carcillo back in the lineup. Dorsett’s game has elevated of late. Going to be hard to take him out of the lineup unless he does something stupid, which he is very much capable of doing.

Two of the Rangers coaches are former head coaches of the Manitoba Moose. How are Rangers fans liking Vigneault and Arniel?

Alain Vigneault has had an amazing first year as the head coach of the Blueshirts. Early on in the year, when the Rangers were struggling, there were already some fans moaning about how they missed Tortorella because the growing pains of changing to Vigneault’s style were very apparent. Obviously, things have smoothed out quite a bit since the start of the season. I think that most Rangers fans find themselves applauding the coaching job Vigneault has pulled off in his first year in New York which is not a very easy place to coach. Vigneault has embraced the team speed the Rangers have with some of their young players and has turned it into part of the team’s identity. They’re a fun group to watch.

Arniel is a slightly different story. Most Rangers fans would agree that the power play looks better than it did a year or two ago but it still needs to be better. Much better. However, the Rangers don’t really have the tools they need for a great power play. There is no great puck-mover or big shot on the blue line and so those duties have fallen to the cement-footed Brad Richards. The power play could be better but that is not entirely Arniel’s fault. I don’t think anyone is upset that we have Arniel behind the bench, how could we be given where the team is right now?

The Rangers power play has been abysmal this postseason. Is this because of bad luck or a bad system?

As I brought up earlier, it’s mainly because the Rangers simply lack the right tools for a dynamic power play. I also firmly believe that a lot of those tools play in the wrong areas on the man advantage or are used in the wrong way. The Rangers have some truly elite playmakers including Martin St. Louis, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello, and Derick Brassard but that is not enough to get the job done. They also have a serious dearth of right-handed shots among their skilled forwards. The lousy power play is lousy for a lot of reasons but I wouldn’t hesitate to throw bad luck and bad system into that group. I’m not sure what it is going to take to fix it but I doubt it will get fixed in time to be a deciding factor in the Stanley Cup Final.

We’re all just hoping it gets hot again at the right time.

What are three things that the Rangers have to do to give themselves a chance to win?

Stay out of the box and avoid offensive zone penalties (looking at you Benoit Pouliot).

In order for the Rangers to win they’ll need to out-work and out-hustle the Kings, a team known for working hard and hustling. In a lot of ways these teams feel similar not only in their style of play but the way that they are built. They were even more similar prior to the Ryan Callahan trade. I’m still convinced that Ryan Callahan and Dustin Brown are the same person. On paper, it feels like the Kings simply have more talent so the Rangers are going to have to try to have more heart. If they play Rangers hockey they have a chance to win. It’s just a question of whether or not the Kings will overwhelm them with their style of play.

Hank has to steal a game or two… or three. Lundqvist has to outperform Quick in order for the Rangers to win the Cup for the first time in 20 years. The Rangers could get it done with an average Lundqvist if their shooting percentages all suddenly increased by 10% but I don’t see that happening against Quick.

Finally, who will be the first to lift the Cup if the Rangers win?

It should be Hank, but I believe that the de facto captain of the team right now is Brad Richards. If he gets to do it, it will still likely be the last thing he does as a New York Ranger. It’s a curious thing to not have a captain but as Rangers fans we have grown used to it by now. Richards is often the guy that talks for the team so I’m quite sure he’d be the first guy to come over and lift the greatest trophy in all of professional sports.

AIH Writers Predictions

Teams Arby Cara Truck Swervin' Jacob Justin Daniel Garret Geoff Ben
Los Angeles Kings LA in 5 LA in 6 NY in 6 LA in 7 NY in 6 LA in 5 LA in 6 LA in 6 LA in 5 LA in 7
New York Rangers LA in 5 LA in 6 NY in 6 LA in 7 NY in 6 LA in 5 LA in 6 LA in 6 LA in 5 LA in 7
Right So Far 5 8 10 6 N/A 7 7 8 N/A 3

*Some predictions were lost on my email for the Conference Finals. The records do not show the lost predictions (or Garret's late one).

Thanks to Robert and Mike for sharing some information on their teams. All stats from NHL.com.

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