The Clarence S. Campbell Bowl and Prince of Wales Trophy have been handed out, and the 2014 race for the Stanley Cup is down to two teams. On Wednesday night the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers begin the Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center in Southern California. Before they do, here’s a look at how the Dallas Stars fared this season against the Western and Eastern Conference Champions:
STARS vs. KINGS
The Stars went 2-1 in three games this season against Los Angeles. Dallas won the only game at American Airlines Center, and split a pair of games in Los Angeles. The Stars outscored the Kings 10-9 in the three-game set, with both sides earning 5-2 wins to open the season series. The rubber match came on New Year’s Eve in Dallas, where the Stars held on for a 3-2 win. At the time, the win extended the Stars unbeaten streak to seven games to cap off 2013.
Strangely enough, in all three games the winning team surrendered the first goal.
The Stars power play went a combined 3-14 (21.4%), and the Kings power play was 2-8 (25.0%) in the series.
The Stars faced a different goaltender in each of the three meetings, falling to Jonathan Quick (27 saves/29 shots) in October, and beating Martin Jones (19/23) and Ben Scrivens (29/32) a week apart in late December. Dallas started Dan Ellis (29/32) in net for an injured Kari Lehtonen in the first meeting, and then Lehtonen (30/32 and 23/25) earned back-to-back wins in the final two games.
As they did against most teams, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin led the way offensively for Dallas. Both finished the three games with a series-high, six points. Seguin earned them evenly with a goal and an assist in each of the three games, while Benn had a goal and five assists, registering three-point, two-point, and one-point efforts.
The Kings offense was paced by a couple of their usual suspects as Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams – who finished first and third in team scoring, respectively – each had five points in the series. Kopitar had points in all three games, finishing with a goal and four assists, while Williams had three goals and two assists with a pair of multi-point games, before being held off the scoresheet on New Year’s Eve. LA’s leading playoff goal scorer, Marian Gaborik, did not appear in the series, getting acquired from Columbus at the trading deadline.
STARS vs. RANGERS
The Stars dropped a pair of 3-2 contests in the two-game series with the Rangers. Despite the similar scoreline, the games were very different. In the first meeting – November 21 at the AAC – the Stars dominated play, but New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist stole the show. He made 41 saves on 43 shots, keeping the Rangers in front and holding the Stars at bay all night long. On January 10 at Madison Square Garden, the teams went back and forth throughout the game. Despite New York outshooting Dallas 34-26, the Stars had never trailed heading into final two minutes. The Rangers fought back from two one-goal deficits to even the score, before Rick Nash broke a 2-2 tie with 1:58 to lead New York to victory. The loss was the Stars fifth of an eventual six-game regulation losing streak that opened 2014.
The road team had to weather an early storm in both games. In November, Dallas outshot New York 23-6 in the opening period. In January, the Rangers outshot the Stars 13-6 in the first. Despite that, neither home team led at first intermission. The Rangers led 1-0 after one period in Dallas, and the clubs were tied 1-1 after 20 minutes at The Garden.
The Stars went 1-6 (16.6%) on the power play in the two games combined, while the Rangers went 2-3 (66.7%). The lone Stars power play goal was their first of the season at home. It came in their eighth game of the year at the AAC.
Lundqvist was the star of the series, stopping 65 of 69 shots for a .942 save percentage. Lehtonen took both losses for Dallas, stopping 55 of 61 shots against (.902).
Cody Eakin was the most productive Stars skater, posting multi-point games in both contests. He was the only player on either team to do that, finishing with a goal and three assists. Nash led the Rangers with two goals, and was the only player in the series to score in both games. Nash struck on the power play early in the first meeting, and tallied the late game-winner in the second, bookending the scoring in the series. Similarly to the Kings, the Stars avoided the Rangers leading playoff point scorer in the regular season series, as Martin St. Louis was acquired by New York from Tampa Bay at the deadline.
In the combined five games against the 2014 Stanley Cup Finalists, the Stars finished with a 2-3 record, were narrowly outscored 15-14, and played three one-goal games.
Josh Bogorad is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission host for the Stars radio broadcasts. He can be heard 30 minutes before face-off and immediately after games all season long on SportsRadio 1310AM and 96.7FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshBogorad.