The dust settles in the West in fitting fashion. Yet another Game 7 won by the plucky Los Angeles Kings in OT to close out the defending champs. If you saw it you’ll agree, that was a game for the ages.
And so with that, the Rangers can now prepare for a specific Stanley Cup opponent. Here are a few thoughts/predictions, by key categories, as we look forward to the East-West matchup.
Clear advantage to the Kings here. Kopitar (24pts) leads the post season in offense. Carter (22), Gaborik (19), Williams (18), Doughty (16), and
Toffoli (13) all appear in the top 20 scorers before any Ranger (St. Louis @ 16th with 13 pts) is mentioned.
And all this from a team that struggled to find the back of the net in 2013-14. The Kings had an aggregate of 206 goals for; the fewest of any NHL playoff team. This group has found their touch and its paying obvious dividends. Gaborik especially with a league-leading 12 goals. No single trade deadline pickup has had a stronger impact. The Rangers have not yet faced a team with as robust an offense as the Kings. The Murderous Monarchs move on to Manhattan.
Make no mistake; King Henry is an important part of the explanation as to why the Rangers are still playing in June. Lundqvist’s .928 SV% and his GAA of 2.03 best Quick’s numbers in both categories.
Question is though, as between Quick and Lundqvist, in the context of a single seven game series, who will rise to the occasion and deliver?
To that end, there’s a lot to like in Quick. He has more deep playoff experience and he is one who will raise his level based on the moment. Lundqvist’s game has looked fallible at times in the post season. See Game 5 of the ECF – four goals on just 19 shots. Neither will play perfect hockey but Quick will play better.
The marathon that is the Stanley Cup is the toughest in all of team sport. And for that reason, it takes a healthy measure of character to be the last team standing. One noteworthy statistic tells the tale here. No other NHL team has been to seven games in all three prior series and still made it to the Finals. Does this leave the Kings out of gas for the fourth and final round? Maybe. But I doubt it. LA has played just one more game than its Eastern opponent. Fatigue should be a non-factor.
I’ve never experienced it but I can only imagine the buzz inside the Kings’ room right now. Having come out on top in three seventh games has to leave you with a serious case of “this is our destiny.”
Your Stanley Cup Champion comes out of the West once again in my estimation. LA in six; this talented group will not be denied.
See you around the rink.