2014 Stanley Cup Finals: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings
The New York Rangers face the Los Angeles Kings in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals beginning on Wednesday night in California. Here's a preview of the series that will decide which team wins the NHL championship:
How They Got Here:
The New York Rangers (45-31-6) advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals by outlasting the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in the first round, coming back from a three games-to-one deficit to upset the second-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in round two and skating by the fourth-seeded Montreal Canadiens in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8) topped the San Jose Sharks in seven games in round one, came back to beat the top-seeded Anaheim Ducks in seven games in the second round and then knocked out the defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks in overtime of the seventh game of the Western Conference finals.
For New York To Win the Stanley Cup, It Must...
Take Advantage of Fresh Legs: The Rangers have been resting since wrapping up the East on Thursday. The Blueshirts will have had nearly a full week of rest before taking the ice in Los Angeles on Wednesday night. New York's fresher legs could easily help the Rangers take one of the first two games and skate back east with home-ice advantage.
Support Henrik Lundqvist: Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist leads all playoff netminders with a .928 save percentage. New York has killed off 21 of 23 penalties (91 percent) in front of its dapper goaltender. If the Rangers can continue to clear the crease in front him, King Henrik might be able to add a Stanley Cup to his Olympic gold medal and Vezina Trophy.
Get Production From Rick Nash: After being a non-factor in the first two rounds of the playoffs, New York winger Rick Nash scored three goals in the Eastern Conference finals. He'll need to be productive for the Rangers to top the Kings in the series.
For Los Angeles To Win the Stanley Cup, It Must...
Win The Center Battle: Kings' centers Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards are better than their Rangers' counterparts Derek Stepan, Brad Richards, Derick Brassard and Dominic Moore. They'll need to outplay them in this series to bring the Cup back to the West Coast.
Stop Martin St. Louis: Acquired at the trade deadline from Tampa Bay, right wing Martin St. Louis has become an inspirational leader for New York. The Rangers have rallied around him since his mother, France St. Louis, passed away unexpectedly on May 8. Los Angeles must neutralize his effect on the New York attack.
Find The 2012 Jonathan Quick: Even though he already has a Conn Smythe Trophy, Kings' goalie Jonathan Quick has been a liability at times during the 2013-14 playoffs. If he can play at the level he did in 2012, when he helped the team win its first Cup, L.A. can capture another title.
2014 NHL Stanley Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1 at Los Angeles: Wednesday, June 4, 8 p.m. ET; NBC
Game 2 at Los Angeles: Saturday, June 7, 7 p.m. ET; NBC
Game 3 at New York: Monday, June 9, 8 p.m.; ET; NBC Sports Network
Game 4 at New York: Wednesday, June 11, 8 p.m.; ET; NBC Sports Network
*Game 5 at Los Angeles: Friday, June 13
*Game 6 at New York: Monday, June 16
*Game 7 at Los Angeles: Wednesday, June 18
* — if necessary