The Stanley Cup Final is set and it’s a match made in TV heaven. The two biggest markets in the USA square off in what will likely be a ratings bonanza.
New York. Los Angeles. Somewhere Gary Bettman is smiling while a paid butler makes it rain. This matchup is probably all he ever wanted.
This is a matchup that many analytics types had predicted from the get go (one even made over $3,000 from a $75 bet on twitter dot com).
The Kings led the league in puck possession, and got even better after acquiring Marian Gaborik. They were the fourth best POP team in the West and seventh in the entire NHL. But in their last 25 games they were second to only Boston in the entire league.
The Rangers were a Stanley Cup dark horse going in, quietly being the sixth best possession team in the league. They were right behind the Kings as the eighth best POP team, but also the fourth best in their last 25 games of the season (behind Boston, Los Angeles, and San Jose).
Coming in to this playoffs, POP was at 56-19 in accurately predicting series outcomes. This year it’s stumbled to an 8-6 record through three rounds after going 1-1 in Round 3 (POP over the last 25 games is 10-4 and was 2-0 in Round 3).
Five of those six losses came in a seventh game against a road team. A bounce the other way and that record would be a bit more respectable.
In case you missed them, here’s the other round previews I wrote:
And here’s what I think will happen in the final.
The Stanley Cup Final
Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8) vs. New York Rangers (45-31-6)
Los Angeles: Sure wasn’t because of Jonathan Quick who was not very good at all. It helped that Corey Crawford was much worse though. The shoddy goaltending combined with the immense talent the two teams possessed made for a wild and entertaining series, the best of the this playoffs so far. It came down to one lucky bounce in overtime to win it all. But the Kings won Round 3 the same way they won the other two, by battling back when down, and suffocating the other team when they were up. The Kings are a resilient and relentless bunch.
New York: Well for starters, they got to play the Canadiens instead of the best team in the league. And if that wasn’t enough good fortune, they got to face the Habs’ third string goalie because of an injury to Carey Price. They drove play against a weaker team throughout the series culminating in the most dominant 1-0 victory I’ve seen in like three months.
How can they win the Cup:
Los Angeles: That they got here at all is a feat on its own. Three game sevens. All on the road. All against arguably the best teams in the West. Two huge comebacks. They deserve to be here with the way they’ve played and the way they’ve persevered. And they can win the Cup handily if they continue to play the way they have, because at times they look downright unstoppable. They’re the deepest team in the league, especially down the middle and that’ll be a huge factor in this series.
New York: The Rangers path has been a bit of the opposite, one good team they got lucky with sandwiched between two pretender teams. It’s probably one of the easiest paths to the Cup I’ve seen. But the Rangers haven’t made it look that way. They haven’t looked exceptional throughout the playoffs, but it’s been enough to get by. They have pretty good depth as well, but centre-ice is their downfall and the Kings will eat them for lunch down the middle. The only conceivable way the Rangers win the Cup is if the goaltending battle is as lopsided as it looks. Lundqvist has the ability to steal this series and he just might if Quick plays like he did in Round 3.
The Nerd Report:
The Rangers only real edge is on the powerplay, but that’s not how it’s played out during these playoffs where the Kings have exploded converting on 25.4 per cent of their powerplays, while the Rangers have only managed a measly 13.6 per cent.
As mentioned before, Los Angeles is the better POP team and they’ve been exceptional since acquiring Gaborik who’s potted 12 goals in these playoffs.
The Rangers are no slouches though. They’ve been really good since they made a blockbuster of their own acquiring Martin St. Louis, who has been good but not great so far as a Blueshirt.
Everyone’s picking the Kings, and it’s difficult to argue why you wouldn’t. They’ve overcome a lot to get here and were 100-1 longshots to win the Cup when they were down 3-0 to San Jose. But now they’re here as heavy favourites for the first time this playoffs.
Despite what Vegas thinks, I think this series will be a lot closer than most people think. The Rangers are an elite team in this league, whether some Canadiens fans want to believe it or not. And with Lundqvist in one end and Quick at the other, anything can happen.
Here’s to hoping the better team wins (not because I bet on them to win the Cup after they beat San Jose, no way).
Los Angeles Kings in 6