Stanley Cup final: the prediction

- June 4th, 2014

It all comes down to this, two teams enter, one leaves with the shiny silver mug and the other heads into the off-season with nothing but pangs of regret.

Hockey can be a cruel game sometimes and no more so than coming up anywhere between one and four wins short of capturing the Stanley Cup.

That distinction will fall on either the Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8, 100 points, 6th in West) or New York Rangers (45-31-6, 96 points, 5th in East), who open the 2014 Stanley Cup final tonight at Staples Center.

The Kings enter as a heavy favourite in the eyes of many after surviving three consecutive Game 7s, all of which were won on the road by a club that has become the definition of a playoff-hardened group.

Los Angeles deserves full marks for reaching this point, how can you not appreciate the fact they came back from 3-0 down in the opening round against a very good San Jose Sharks club.

If that wasn’t enough, knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champions, erasing a third-period deficit for good measure, is no simple feat.

So you can’t blame most of the experts for crowning the Kings (pun intended) before this series even begins.

With a Stanley Cup winner like Jonathan Quick in goal, a future Norris Trophy winner in Drew Doughty leading the way along with the likes of Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar, it’s hard not to believe the Kings are destined to complete the journey by raising Lord Stanley’s mug for the second time in three seasons.

However, there’s a part of me that just can’t help but wonder if the Kings — despite all the resiliency shown this spring — might not be able to close this out.

I understand why Kings head coach Darryl Sutter says that if given the choice of one goalie in a winner-take-all game he’d go with Quick, but there have been some anxious moments for him during these playoffs.

And the man standing in the crease at the other end of the ice, Henrik Lundqvist, could end up being the biggest difference-maker in this series.

Lundqvist, who led Sweden to a gold medal in 2006, is sick and tired of hearing about how he might not have what it takes to win the grandest prize.

There’s little doubt that Lundqvist is going to have to be the best goalie in this series in order to give the Rangers a chance — and some feel even that might not be enough.

But it’s not just Lundqvist that gives the Broadway Blueshirts a fighting chance.

All season long, Alain Vigneault has been playing a four-line game, allowing his top players to stay fresh.

While it’s tough to match the likes of Kopitar, Carter, Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards down the middle, the Rangers have Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Brad Richards and Dominic Moore.

It’s obvious the Kings play a more physical style but the Rangers ability to push the pace could create some problems in the defensive zone for L.A.

Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi are going to have to be top-notch, while Marc Staal and Anton Stralman will need to hold the fort likely against that 70s line with Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

McDonagh is playing at a similar level to Doughty after needing a good chunk of the opening-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers to find his game.

Not only is he good defensively, he’s been chipping in with points and is a quiet leader in the Rangers’ room.

To me, this series hinges on Rick Nash, a power forward who has been doing the little things throughout the playoffs but now needs to provide the type of offence he was brought in by the Rangers to do — come through with big goals.

With his speed and ability to get to the blue paint, Nash could be the guy who finds a way to push the Rangers over the top in a series that few expect them to win.

And with Marty St. Louis so close to capping an emotional journey after what has been a tumultuous past few months, I’m willing to put my 11-3 record (1-1 last round, missing the Kings) on the line while taking the Rangers to upset the Kings in six nail-biting games.

Enjoy the series and don’t be afraid to share your picks here as well.

Categories: Hockey

Subscribe to the post

Leave a comment

 characters available