The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings may need a little time to feel each other out when they meet in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.
Not only have the Rangers and Kings not played each other in more than six months, they haven't met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since New York's 3-1 series victory in the best-of-5 first round in 1981. Their only other playoff meeting was in 1979, when the Rangers swept a best-of-3 preliminary-round series.
The Rangers and Kings concluded their two-game season series before Thanksgiving, with each team winning in the other's building. The Rangers came to Staples Center for their second game of the season and left with a 3-1 victory that featured a 160-foot shorthanded goal by New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the third period on a clearing attempt that bounced past the pad of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The Kings got a measure of revenge Nov. 17, winning 1-0 at Madison Square Garden. Since-traded backup goaltender Ben Scrivens outplayed New York's Henrik Lundqvist by stopping all 37 shots he faced, making rookie Tyler Toffoli's second-period goal stand up for the win.
Center Mike Richards set up both Kings goals against Lundqvist and the Rangers this season. Center Brad Richards had two of New York’s three goals against Los Angeles; Rick Nash assisted on each.
The series features two of the NHL's top goaltenders. Lundqvist is 3-4-1 all-time against the Kings, allowing 20 goals in eight games. Quick, a native of Milford, Connecticut, about 60 miles from Madison Square Garden, is 2-1-0 in his career against the Rangers, allowing six goals in his three appearances.
Each team has one player who spent a substantial part of his career with the other.
Kings forward Marian Gaborik, who leads all players in goals in the playoffs, spent nearly five seasons with the Rangers before being dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL Trade Deadline last spring. The Blue Jackets traded him to the Kings in March.
Rangers forward Brian Boyle was the Kings' first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2003 NHL Draft and spent pieces of his first two NHL seasons with Los Angeles after turning pro. The Rangers acquired him at the 2009 NHL Draft, and he's spent the past five seasons in New York.
Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo, who's serving a 10-game suspension, was acquired from the Kings at midseason.
The Rangers are 66-44-16-1 all-time against the Kings in the regular season. The teams have played each other nine times since 2003, and Los Angeles is 5-2-2 in those games, including an overtime victory in Stockholm, Sweden, on the first weekend of the 2011-12 season. The teams have split their past 12 games in Los Angeles, where the series will begin Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
The Kings are in the Final for the second time in three seasons and the third time in franchise history; they won their first Stanley Cup in 2012 by beating the New Jersey Devils in six games after New Jersey had eliminated the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers have won the Cup four times, but this is their first trip to the Final since 1994, when they beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to end a championship drought that dated to 1940.
The Rangers and Kings each accomplished something that had never been done before in Stanley Cup history to get this far. Each team won back-to-back Game 7s to get through the first two rounds; no team that had to go seven games in each of its first two playoff series had won in the third round.
The Kings, of course, won a third consecutive Game 7 on Sunday, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime to advance to the Cup Final.
After winning its conference final in six games, the Rangers have played 20 games. The Kings have played 21. The record for one playoff season is 26, a mark set by the 1987 Philadelphia Flyers and matched by the 2004 Calgary Flames. The most games ever played by a Cup winner is 25, by the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes and 2011 Boston Bruins.
Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist