Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stanley Cup Finals Preview/Predictions

1) Here we are, right where the NHL and Gary Bettman want the NHL annually. With two big market teams about to fight it out for Lord Stanley's Cup. We went in to the benefits of the exposure Monday so we won't rehash that part of the equation but suffice to say this IS going to be a BIG series exposure-wise for the league. Expect A and B-list celebrities to attend games in NY and LA. That all said there is the matter of some games to be played as well. So here is our break down of the series.

2) First off the folks (mainly in NY) who are bemoaning the Kings being favourited are forgetting that they had to beat 3 dam good teams to get here. Yes, it took 7 games each time (Amazingly winning a Game 7 on the road each time) but they had to beat cross state rivals San Jose, Anaheim (both who had well in excess of 100 point seasons) and the defending Cup champs in Chicago. None of those are small feats.  On the other hand the Rangers beat the Flyers. (The 3rd worst team point-wise in the playoffs) who didn't even have their #1 goalie all series.  They to their credit did beat the Penguins and no one should diminish the feat of coming back 3-1. However beating the Habs who were without their starting goalie was NOT a great accomplishment.  Ranger fans, think you'd be here if Talbot was your starter last series?   

3) Starting in net we believe its a toss up. In fact if you exchanged the jersey from each teams' goalie it would be difficult to tell them apart. They play the exact same deep in your crease style.  While Quick hasn't been as good as he was 2 years ago when the Kings won their Cup, he has been good/great when the team needed him most. As we started above, none of the 3 teams the Kings beat were pushovers and no one would have been shocked to see any of them in the Finals. Lundqvist has been sharp throughout the post season especially playing amazing in the Penguin series come back.  Quick does have a ring, but we'd say overall no edge to either team here.

4) On the back line there is no Ranger who can match Drew Doughty's star power. He's a monster at both ends of the rink, but especially adept at being the team's PP QB.  However after Doughty there is a considerable drop off. Not that any of the other defenders are slouches, but none of Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov and Willie Mitchell are all star callibre. Meanwhile the Rangers can put Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Anton Stralman out there and combined are a slightly better unit. Edge Rangers.

5) On offense the Kings have a clear advantage. Unless Nash awakens significantly,  and St. Louis continues to score big goals they will have trouble keeping up with the Kings 'O'. They can boast multiple dynamic offense units, led by the Kopitar- Gaborik duo. The Rangers simply don't have a player in the likes of Dustin Brown and Justin Williams who seem to score big goals every time they are needed.  Add a young hot shot like Toffoli and Pearson and you can see the ranger defense and Lundqvist will have their hands full. Advantage Kings

6) Intangibles:   Both teams are riding high. Any team that can survive 3 series, whatever the competition, have to feel a sense of confidence. However, the Kings have the edge that they have been here before and won't feel any sense of awe on the big stage. They also have come back so often that they don't get down/worried if they are behind in a game or series. That 'swagger' as some are calling it can't be underestimated.  Advantage Kings

7) Overall, the only way the Rangers will have a shot to beat the Kings 4 times is if they play a very simple, tight checking game, are opportunistic,  have great special teams and get stellar goaltending from Lundqvist. They may be able to pull that of once or twice, but don't believe they have the overall team to be able to win 4 games. 
Prediction: Kings in 6

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