After getting over the empty feeling of my hometown Chicago Blackhawks not returning to defend the championship title from last year because of the overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in a Game 7, I think I am able to give a quick prediction of who will this year’s Stanley Cup Final and hoist up Lord Stanley’s Cup; and by the way, I’m still not over last night’s Blackhawks loss completely.
We have the Eastern Conference playoff champion New York Rangers going against the Western Conference playoff champion Los Angeles Kings. The Kings will have ice advantage in the series, as the Kings finished with a better regular season record than the Rangers.
Here’s the schedule (all times ET):
(* indicates if necessary)
Game 1 – Wednesday, June 4, 8 p.m. – New York Rangers @ Los Angeles Kings (NBC, Live Extra)
Game 2 – Saturday, June 7, 7:15 p.m. – New York Rangers @ Los Angeles Kings (NBC, Live Extra)
Game 3 – Monday, June 9, 8 p.m. – Los Angeles Kings @ New York Rangers (NBCSN, Live Extra)
Game 4 – Wednesday, June 11, 8 p.m. – Los Angeles Kings @ New York Rangers (NBCSN, Live Extra)
*Game 5 – Friday, June 13, 8 p.m. – New York Rangers @ Los Angeles Kings (NBC, Live Extra)
*Game 6 – Monday, June 16, 8 p.m. – Los Angeles Kings @ New York Rangers (NBC, Live Extra)
*Game 7 – Wednesday, June 18, 8 p.m. – New York Rangers @ Los Angeles Kings (NBC, Live Extra)
This is New York’s eleventh appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, and they will seek their fifth Cup championship overall and their first one since 1994, twenty years earlier. In the first round of the playoffs, the Rangers eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games. Then in the second round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York overcame a 3–1 game deficit to win the series. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games to win their first Eastern Conference championship in 20 years. In the process, the Rangers became the first team to ever play two full seven-game series in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and still reach the Stanley Cup Final.
This is Los Angeles’s third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, seeking to capture their second Cup championship after winning it in 2012. Much of the core players from the Kings’ 2012 championship remained on the team. Los Angeles then needed three consecutive game sevens to advance to the Cup Finals (breaking the aforementioned Rangers’ game sevens record just a couple of days later). They became just the fourth team in NHL playoff history to come back from a 3–0 deficit to win a series, defeating the San Jose Sharks in the first round. The Kings then eliminated the Anaheim Ducks, and then defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. That still hurts to say the last sentence.
Here’s what I think:
I believe the Rangers are riding on an emotional high and are more connected as a team because they are paying tribute to the lost loved ones of Martin St. Louis (mother) and Dominic Moore (wife). The downside is that many of the players have not been to Cup Final in their career and the pressures of winning for the Cup-starved New York fans might be overwhelming. On the other hand, you have a very determined Kings team that has much more team experience in the Cup Final with the core of their team remaining the same from their 2012 Stanley Cup win. The Kings blistering offense only seems to be improving. In their series with the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks, the Kings have embodied a bend-don’t-break mentality and they could be the toughest foe the Rangers have faced in the postseason.
This is a classic battle between strong offense (Kings) and shutdown defense (Rangers). The Kings’ superior power play will be the difference and I predict that the Cup will head back to the West Coast.
Kings in 6.