The Stanley Cup Finals are upon us and what do you know the Los Angeles Kings will face off against the New York Rangers. Back in the first round of the post season there were very few that thought the Kings would make it to this point in the playoffs.
Well, after a reverse sweep of the San Jose Sharks, three game sevens on the road and exacting some revenge and getting rid of the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final the Kings have a chance to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years.
In order for the Kings to win their second championship in franchise history they will have to go through the Rangers. The series is set to kick off later tonight and is sure to be some great hockey. Here are five things to watch for in the Stanley Cup Finals.
1. Jonathan Quick Versus Henrik Lundqvist
The Stanley Cup Finals usually bring together the World’s top hockey players. This year the Finals bring together arguably the top two goalies on the planet in Quick and Lundqvist. Quick has a Stanley Cup title, a Conn Smythe and an Olympic silver medal to his name. Lundqvist has had all of the success on the international stage with both a gold and silver Olympic medal, but will be making his first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This series will likely come down to which goalie outperforms the other. Both goalies can steal a game for their team. Some may argue Lundqvist has shown he can do that for his team while Quick has seemed shaky during these playoffs.
Can Quick rebound to his Conn Smyther form, or will Lundqvist finally get his success in the NHL?
2. That 70s Line
There isn’t a group of players that has gotten more attention as a group than the combination of Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, also known as ‘That 70s Line’ because of their numbers all being in the 70s. Against the Blackhawks the three burst onto the scene accounting for 11-goals and 23 points in seven games.
But overall the three have been remarkable during the playoffs. Carter is second in points with 22 behind only Anze Kopitar who has 24. Toffoli has tied a Kings playoff record for points scored by a rookie at 13. Pearson isn’t far behind with 12 points.
The three will have to continue their dominate play, either together or separate, in order for the Kings to hoist the Cup again.
3. Fatigue In The Final Sprint
The Kings played a total of 20 games when they won the Cup in 2013. Up to this point they have already played 21 games during these playoffs. The Kings went the distance against San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago and played a decisive game seven in every series.
The Rangers are right behind the Kings having gone to game seven in the opening two rounds but eliminated the Montreal Canadiens in six games last round. The Kings have played two games since the Rangers won the Eastern Conference. When the puck drops for game one of the Finals the Rangers will have had five days off compared to the Kings’ three.
4. Martin St. Louis’ Spirited Play
There has not been a more touching story line than that of St. Louis and these playoffs. When looking at the box score and results you will just see a player leading his team to victory and scoring plenty of big time goals. St. Louis leads the Rangers with six goals and 13-points.
But what the box score does not tell you is the trials and tribulations that St. Louis has gone through since the playoffs began. St. Louis’ mother died three days before Mother’s Day, in the middle of the Ranger’s series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Since that day St. Louis has not missed a game, scored the opening goal of a game just three days after his mother’s death, and has won a game in overtime for the Rangers.
5. Defensive Playmaking
The Kings’ defensemen have been a difference maker up to this point of the playoffs, none more than Drew Doughty. Against the Blackhawks Doughty had three goals and seven points while averaging 29-minutes of ice time. Altogether Doughty has four goals and 16-points to this point of the post season.
Outside of Doughty, Jake Muzzin has five goals and 11- points, Alec Martinez has four goals and nine points and Slava Voynov has two goals and seven points. That is 11-goals scored by defensemen and some of them have been timely at that. Both Doughty and Muzzin have scored a game winner, while Martinez has scored two, including the goal that eliminated the Blakchawks and sent the Kings to the Finals.