The Eastern Conference Champion New York Rangers return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years to clash against the Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Kings, making their 2nd Cup appearance in three years. Most people assumed that either Boston or Pittsburgh would represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, but after the Bruins were upset in seven games by the Canadiens, and the Rangers came back from 3-1 against Pittsburgh, that was not to be the case. Meanwhile, the Kings have been an even bigger surprise coming down from 3-0 against San Jose, 3-2 against the top seeded Anaheim Ducks, and from down 4-3 in the 3rd period to knock off the defending champion Blackhawks in overtime. The 6th seeded Kings will have home ice advantage in the series due to finishing 4 points ahead of the 5th seeded Rangers. The teams split their two matchups during the regular season.
Henrik Lundqvist has been praised as one of the elite goalies in the NHL for the past several years now, and a key factor in the Rangers Stanley Cup run. However, Jonathan Quick has one thing that Lundqvist does not: big game experience. Aside from being the starting goalie for the 2012 Champion LA Kings, Quick was also the starter for Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Sochi this year. These are two of the premier goalies in the NHL, so expect some big games and clutch saves from them throughout this series. On the offensive end, the Kings are led by Marion Gaborik, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter, who have combined for 21 goals and 65 points this postseason helping the Kings to a 3.5 goals per game average in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Rangers have averaged just 2.7 goals per game and will need Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, and company to step up big in this series.
The Kings have not only become the first team to win three consecutive game sevens to make it to the Stanley Cup Final, but they won them all on the road by coming down from 3-0 in the first round, defeating the top seed in the second round, and beating the defending champions in the third round. I think the Los Angeles Kings have the momentum and will emulate what happened in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, winning the series in six games.
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