I suppose this is what I get for abandoning my April pick for the Cup for a spurious reason, but given that the series went to G7 OT, I feel pretty okay about getting it wrong, especially since I still have that tiebreaker in my back pocket. The Habs…sigh. Let us not speak of that prediction again.
Last series of the year. I think we all know how these picks are going to go, but let’s go through the motions, anyway.
Stanley Cup Finals
(10) Los Angeles vs. (12) NY Rangers
Playoff History: Prior to the division-based format being adopted in 1982, the Kings and Rangers actually met twice in the preliminary round, with the Rangers taking five of six total games. Nothing really to write home about, besides this nasty piece of business.
|1979 PRE||1981 PRE|
Finals History: The Kings were mediocre to terrible for years upon years, noted only for the exploits of the Triple Crown Line, until acquiring Wayne Gretzky in 1988, and making their first Stanley Cup Final five years later. While Marty McSorley’s fateful illegal-stick penalty is credited for their failure in that series, Destiny was simply on Montreal’s side that year – an NHL-record ten straight OT victories gives that impression. 2012, on the other hand, saw Destiny on their side, as they went 16-4 (including ten straight road victories, an NHL record) to become the fourth 1967 expansion team to win the Stanley Cup. Oh, and also they were puck-possession monsters who couldn’t buy a goal until the playoffs that year. That helped.
The early Rangers, built by Conn Smythe, were a powerhouse, winning the Stanley Cup in just their second full season of existence, and making four other appearances in the Finals within ten years. (For his part, Smythe was sacked before the first drop of the puck. He got his revenge by winning the first of his ten Stanley Cups with the Leafs over those same Rangers.) After their 1940 victory, the Blueshirts suffered the longest Cup drought in NHL history, at 54 years, before Mark Messier and his New York Oilers held off the Cinderella Canucks.
Season Series: Was two games. So this is for entertainment (?) value only, not predictive value. Both games were won by the road team in regulation (3-1 NYR, 1-0 LAK), with LA enjoying a decided score-close possession advantage (59.5% CF in 62.5 minutes, 96.2% PDO).
Doogie Says: Despite my flippancy in the comments of the previous post, this certainly is a series that can go either way. LA has the distinct advantage in possession over the full season (though it’s been much closer since the Rangers pulled out of their early-season nosedive), and put up similar numbers to New York against far better teams in the playoffs to date. I like LA’s top end forwards a bit more, and expect them to give the Rangers’ D a lot more trouble than Montreal’s did. Fatigue, which proved to be irrelevant in the last series, should be even less so here: the Rangers have played 20 games, LA 21. They’re both tired, though surprisingly, not suffering from many obviously debilitating injuries. One area for concern is that LA’s PK wasn’t able to limit chances the same way as New York’s has this playoff (that was true in the regular season, too, though quality of competition may again be a factor). Of course, the biggest bugaboo is goaltending: LA’s is decidedly worse than New York’s. I’ve never been a big believer in Jonathan Quick: prior to getting hot in 2011-12, he was on the verge of having his job stolen by Jonathan Bernier, and outside that one regular season (and two absurd playoff runs), he’s not really distinguished himself in any positive way. Meanwhile, Henrik Lundqvist has been consistently one of the best goalies in the NHL since the 2005 lockout. Now, is the difference between, say, .915 and .925 all that much in the grand scheme? No, but it might just be enough for the Rangers to steal a tight series if they can keep up in other areas of the game, and they’re frankly the only other Eastern team besides Boston I really figured might be able to hack it in a Final. I didn’t see much of them prior to the Montreal series, but they were stiflingly aggressive in that one: outside of Games 2 and 5, they were adept at pinning the Habs in their own zone for long stretches, retrieving the puck, then doing it all again. Given that “stifling aggression” has been the hallmark of the Sutter Kings, it should be interesting to see how the tactics, matchups, and overall chess game play out between two very good coaches. I have no reason to abandon my pre-playoff pick of Kings in six, but I’m not really going to hang my head over it if the Rangers win, because they’d certainly be worthy champions.
Gerard Says: Kings in six.
Matt Says: Given that this went up without any comment, one might think it’s more Game Theory at work, however, I did figure that it would be the Rangers in six prior to knowing Doogie’s pick. I had two main lines of thought on this, the first being that while the Kings have a good top line, the Rangers have 3 producing lines, if that makes any sense. I questioned whether or not that puck to the collarbone was going to put Quick below King Henrik, and lets face it, it’s been what, 20 years now for the Rangers?
Plus, you can’t beat this…
But, after 15 hours of driving, I am exhausted.