The Stanley Cup Final starts tonight and everyone has an opinion about it. We thought the Canes Country Round Table should also chime in, so here goes nothing!
Cory Lavalette - Editor
Not only do the Los Angeles Kings already know how to win a Cup, they have the horses to do it. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are all legitimate top-pairing defensemen, but none are Drew Doughty. Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards have done this before back when they were Lightning teammates, but so have Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams — Mr. Game 7 even did it back with the Hurricanes in 2006.
backers and believers have turned to Henrik Lundqvist
, arguably the most consistently good goaltender of his era, as the presumed difference-maker in the series. And while the Swedish netminder deserves the check mark ahead of Game 1, it's easy to forget that the guy in the other net, Jonathan Quick
, was a Conn Smythe winner just two seasons ago.
Both coaches are good. Complementary players on both sides provide a blueprint of how to win in today’s NHL. Even Columbus castoffs Marian Gaborik and Rick Nash will have a say in who hoists the Cup this year. But the end of the day, the Kings have Doughty. They have the thoroughbreds up front to match New York shift for shift. And the goaltending difference isn't enough to tip the scales in the Rangers favor. Kings in 6.
Brian LeBlanc - Editor
Looking at the fancystats, the Rangers have every right to be in this series: similar possession numbers to the Kings, a significantly higher scoring clip at even strength (63% goals for at 5-on-5 close), an all world goaltender playing out of his mind over the last couple of weeks. So why am I calling for the Kings to win the series relatively easily?
Simple: the Kings are well equipped to score goals, and should this series become a shooting gallery, their chances of winning go up substantially.
The Western Conference Final is a great example. Defense, for the most part, was optional for both teams. The Kings and Blackhawks
combined for a ridiculous 51 goals, and depending on who you listen to, Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford could have easily been replaced by Swiss cheese and increased their respective teams' chances of winning. But, again, the stats favor the Kings in a shootout of a series. They've scored 73 goals in 21 games, 15 more than the next closest team and 19 more (in just one more game) than the Rangers.
The Rangers are a good team - and maybe a little better than the Kings at even strength - but the Kings are a potentially historic offense: they stand a good chance of being the highest-scoring playoff team since the 1993 Gretzky-led Kings, which was also the last team to score 90 goals in a playoff season (which is also in play here). There's no reason to think that the offense will suddenly run dry, and even if it cools down a little they're still looking at scoring well over 3 goals per game. That sort of offense can overcome goaltending in the opposition net, no matter who it is. Kings in 5, with Drew Doughty winning the Conn Smythe.
Jamie Kellner - Editor, Phoblographer
I've picked both the Kings and the Rangers in every round so far, and they obviously did not let me down. Declaring one over the other for the SCF has been a chore. I really think this series could go either way and I'll be satisfied with either outcome.
Everything tells me the Kings have the advantage, but if there is one player who I think can steal a series, it's Henrik Lundqvist. The Kings are stronger. The Rangers are faster. Darryl Sutter knows how to navigate the playoffs with patience and adjustments. The Rangers have played one less game and have rested more days. The Kings have "That 70s Line". The Rangers have the heart-tugging story lines around Dominic Moore and Martin St. Louis.
The Kings have won three game sevens this post-season, all on the road. The story book ending would be for that final game seven to be a win at home. But it will be another game seven road win, and the King who will steal the crown is King Henrik, and he'll be rewarded with the Conn Smythe. Rangers in seven.
Jeff Berrier (Packpride17) - Contributor
I’m picking the Los Angeles Kings to hoist the Cup in 7 games over the New York Rangers. While both teams are very solid top to bottom, I believe the Kings are the better team and are playing better right now. But Henrik Lundqvist is "The King" for a reason and he keeps the series close, even stealing a few games for the Rangers. But as the series wears on, the bigger Kings simply wear down the Rangers and Mr. Game 7 (Justin Williams) shows up again with 2 goals in the deciding game. While I think Lundqvist should win the Conn Smythe for his heroic performance, the award ends up going to Anze Kopitar.
C-Leaguer - Contributor
That western conference finals was one for the ages. I think I could have watched that series go on for about 8 more games. Chicago and Los Angeles put on a clinic of great hockey. Early on, the headlines started to come in that the Western Conference Finals would be the true match for the Stanley Cup, with the Finals merely a formality.
The same thing was written in 2006 about the Eastern Conference Finals. What happened in those finals? Well, the Canes went up 3-1, but the series went to 7 games and the Canes won 3-1 with a late empty net goal by Justin Williams. A few bounces the other way and Edmonton would have hoisted the cup. I bring this up to illustrate the point that in a sport like hockey, where scoring is relatively low, that even a few bounces can make the difference in who wins and who loses a 7 game series.
On paper the Kings are the favorite. They have the top 4 scorers in the playoffs, and with a bit of a hot streak could end up with the top 6 when the playoffs are over. They have a goalie who has won a Conn Smythe. They are battle tested. They beat the defending champions on their home ice in a game 7 that saw the Kings trailing in the third period. It seems like the Kings are the no-brainer pick.
But, I'm going with the Rangers here. This is the point where Mrs. Leaguer would tell me, "see, that proves you have no brain". She's probably right. But, let me tell you why I'm going with the Rangers.
First, goaltending. Lundqvist is a beast, and this series is how he will be judged in perpetuity. King Henrik has plenty of regular season accolades, but a Stanley Cup would turn him from future hall of famer to sure fire first ballot hall of famer and put him in the running to get his number retired in Madison Square Gardens. Think about that for a second. The thing is with the Kings being the favorite there is no pressure of Lundqvist. Imagine that. A goalie for the New York Rangers has no pressure. Maybe Lundqvist needs the pressure, but for me I think this will free him up to be a force.
Further, with goaltending, Jonathan Quick has been less than stellar, particularly of late against the Black Hawks. This isn't to say he is terrible. The Hawks have made many opposing goaltenders look bad. Jonathan Quick isn't at the same level he was at when the Kings won the cup two years ago and he took home the Conn Smythe. That means he can be beaten. Maybe it won't happen, but it can. Add to it Quick leaving practice early on Tuesday and the waters get murkier.
From there I look to Rick Nash. Nash is shooting a measly 4.23% so far in the playoffs. In spite of that the Rangers have been able to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. If Nash has any sort of bounce back it will provide the Rangers with the secondary scoring that will be needed to knock off the deep Kings.
Then there is Brad Richards. Just a few years ago reporters where camped outside of Brad Richards location on July 1 as he was the hottest free agent on the market. It may have taken a few days, but Richards ended up with the Rangers, something that was somewhat of a foregone conclusion. Fast forward to today and the potential still exists that the Rangers will use an amnesty buyout on Brad Richards. Part of this has nothing to do with his play. Part of it is the new cap recapture rules. Part of it is the fact that the type of game Richards plays means his body won't hold up but so much longer. Even so, Brad Richards can find himself unemployed in a month. Richards is playing not only to be the de facto captain of a cup winning Rangers team, but also for a job. That's a lot of motivation.
There is Alain Vigneault, who was let go from the Canucks before joining the Rangers in the summer of 2013. To say a Stanley Cup victory would be redemption for Vigneault is a bit of an understatement. While coaches don't lace up the skate, Vigneualt's time in the western conference will no doubt provide him with some familiarity with the Kings and perhaps give his team an edge they might not otherwise have.
Lastly, the Rangers have been resting since Thursday while the Kings are coming off a brutal seven game series that ended only Sunday night. Add to it that the Kings have played a full 21 game slate prior to getting here and the rest advantage has to go to the Rangers. Perhaps there will be some rust, but hockey isn't a game of repetition the was baseball is. The Rangers won't be out of sorts for a week due to the time off. Instead, they'll be rested and healthier than the Kings. To me, this is perhaps the biggest advantage the Rangers have. If they bring the battle to the Kings as hard as the Kings bring it to the Rangers then the Rangers may be able to wear down the Kings and win more games late in the series.
The pieces are there. The Rangers can win this series.
Matt Krombach - Intern
It's hard to root for the underdog in a time like this. Since 1994 the New York Rangers have not made it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The coincidence is that they won the Stanley Cup the last time they were there. We all know Tampa Bay fans are probably cheering for LA considering their departure with with Martin St. Louis. To his credit, he's 38 years old and he may not have many more opportunities to win a Stanley Cup. However, what really has me drawn to the Rangers is the story behind Dominic Moore. He took time off in 2012 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs with San Jose to aid his sick wife who had a rare form of liver cancer. After his wife's death he skipped the abbreviated season in 2012-2013. Now he is back with the team that drafted him and scored the goal that would take the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in two decades. Furthermore, I think the Rangers simply want it more. They're 20 years dry from hoisting Lord Stanley. The Kings are just two seasons removed from being champions and although they're greatly talented, it all comes down to who wants it more and which goaltender can hold the most weight on their shoulders. Rangers in 6.
Bob Wage - Editing Manager
There have been many good points made previously, from both sides.
The Kings obviously look very good. It is hard to pick against them, but I believe that Henrik Lundqvist will be the difference in this series.
How good has Lundqvist been so far? Let's take a look at some numbers:
His save percentage in the playoffs so far is .928. His goals allowed average so far is 2.03. This is compared to a .906 save percentage by Jonathan Quick and a goals allowed average of 2.86.
While Quick allowed four goals in his decisive game seven, Lundqvist was pitching a 1-0 shutout for his team. Say what you want to about Quick from two years ago, in my opinion he has not looked that great in these playoffs.
Now it is true that this is just one player and the rest of the Kings might be better, but we are talking about the most important position in all of sports. It would not be the first time the better goaltender won a series for his team, and it will not be the last.
Have the Kings seen anyone close to Lundqvist so far in these playoffs? The answer would be no.
Antti Niemi had a save percentage of .884, Frederik Andersen .899, Jonas Hiller .906, and Corey Crawford .912. The Kings will certainly need to work a bit harder now for goals.
If you think Lundqvist will cool off and return to "normal", think again. His save percentage during the regular season was .920 and his lifetime save percentage is .922.
I have not mentioned the rest of the Rangers, but they have the horses to get this done. Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, Rick Nash and company have been around the block. The defense is big and strong and the entire team will block shots on you all game long.
This should be one heck of a series but when all is said and done, look for "The King" to lift the Cup and win the Conn Smythe.