Hollywood vs. Broadway. Tinseltown vs. Rangerstown. The Los Angeles Kings vs. the New York Rangers for all the marbles. The Kings-Rangers Stanley Cup Final was supposed to happen in 2012, but the New Jersey Devils had different plans. Two years later, the Kings and Rangers finally meet up in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Kings have some serious firepower with their forwards. Four Kings players — Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams – are in the top five for scoring in these playoffs. Kings coach Darryl Sutter has four deep lines that he rolls all the time. Coming into the playoffs the Kings were the lowest scoring team to qualify for the tournament, but they have flipped the script in the first three rounds. Young players like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have contributed while role players like Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis do so many of the little things in order to win games.
For the Rangers, they don’t have the firepower the Kings do up front. Alain Vigneault loves to roll four lines, much like Sutter and his Kings squad. The Rangers have had success with depth up front, however. Every Rangers forward has recorded a point during the playoffs. Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Derek Stepan and Rick Nash have led the way. The biggest advantage for the Rangers’ forwards is that they are quicker with players like Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Derick Brassard.
On the back end, the Kings have the best defenseman in the game right now in Drew Doughty. Doughty has been a force the entire playoffs, recording 16 points, the most among defenseman in the postseason. He also logs an astonishing 27:50 minutes a game. Jake Muzzin has enjoyed an awesome offensive postseason, tied for the league lead among defensemen with five goals. Alec Martinez, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are steady presences on the back end for the Rangers, but they are not the quickest group.
The Rangers also have a stud defenseman in Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh struggled early in the playoffs, but he erupted in the Eastern Conference Finals, recording 10 points in six games. McDonagh and Doughty are much similar players, as their coaches ask them to log heavy minutes and play in every situation. Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Anton Stralman and Kevin Klein have proved to be great in their own zone while occasionally getting involved in the offense. The Rangers’ defensemen move the puck well but have not faced a physical team like the Kings this postseason.
The goaltending battle actually falls into the Rangers’ favor in this matchup. While Jonathan Quick is the best goaltender in the world, he has not had the greatest postseason. Quick has a rather pedestrian 2.86 goals-against-average and a .906 save percentage. Henrik Lundqvist has been remarkable in the playoffs, posting a a 2.03 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Both goalies are phenomenal, but the Rangers have the slight edge right now.
Both the Kings and Rangers have good special teams. The Kings’ power play is converting at 25.4 percent and killing penalties at a 81.2 percent rate, good for fifth and ninth in the league during the playoffs, respectively. The Rangers’ rebounded from a horrible power play stretch where they went 0-for-36, but they are still only converting 13.6 percent of their power plays, tenth in the NHL. The Rangers’ penalty kill has been amazing, ranking second among playoff teams at 85.9 percent.
Sutter and Vigneault are coaches with contrasting styles, but each has still found a way to get results. Sutter hammers home a defense-first style and loves his teams to play physical. Vigneault wants his team to play a puck possession game, wanting the team’s creativity to shine. Sutter has the edge because he has won a cup while Vigneault fell one game short back in 2011.
The Kings are the favorites going into the Final series, but they have played some very taxing series. The Rangers have a little more rest, but they have still played a lot of games. This will be a long series, with the Kings having the edge on paper. As we all know, however, the games are not played on paper. This series is going to be fantastic.