NHL Playoffs – NY vs LA Picks
2014 Stanley Cup Final Preview – Battle of the Big Markets
The Stanley Cup playoff starts Wednesday and pits a New York teams against a Los Angeles team for the first time in Major Sports action since 1981. The New York Rangers earned the right to play for the Cup off series wins against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the Montreal Canadiens.
ODDS TO WIN 2014 STANLEY CUP
Odds to win the 2014 Stanley Cup
Rangers Series Prices +140
Kings Series Prices -160
While the Kings took seven games in each of their first three series while dispatching the Sharks, the Ducks and finally the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
The New York Rangers caught a break in the Eastern Conference Final when Carey Price was lost for the series in Game 1. Still, strong goaltending and some timely scoring helped them defeat the Canadiens in six games.
For the Rangers it is going to have to be the Henrik Lundqvist show if they hope to hoist the Cup. New York did score 20 times in the six games against Montreal but to say that the Rangers are an offensive team may be a bit of an overstatement.
Martin St. Louis is the straw that stirs the Rangers drink up front – he’s tied for the team lead in scoring (13 points), goals (six) and game-winning goals (two). He had five points (three goals, two assists) in the conference finals, including the overtime winner in Game 5 and he has been money on the power play.
Brad Richards has elevated the level of his game, Rick Nash has improved since a slow start to the playoffs and Derek Stephan has been terrific despite missing a couple of games with a broken jaw.
New York`s speed should possess some problems for the Kings in this series – quickness is one of the few advantages they have up front.
In the defensive zone, the Rangers have been terrific in the postseason and it all starts with King Henrik who will have to be THE difference maker for New York if they hope to have a chance. Lundqvist leads all playoff goalies with a .928 save percentage and his 2.03 GAA. He has given up two or fewer goals in 10 of the last 13 games and seems to save his best for the biggest moments. Need proof? In Games 6-7 this postseason, Lundqvist has posted a 4-1 record with a .946 save percentage. In two Game 7s, he’s 2-0 with a .967 save percentage.
Lundqvist and the Rangers defense held Montreal to just two goals on 23 power play chances. Ryan McDonagh has emerged as one of the game`s elite blue-liners which gives the Rangers at least a fighting chance against LA`s scorching offense.
The Los Angeles Kings entered the postseason with a typically anemic offense and a stout defense led by arguably the best keepers in the game. Something happened to this team during their 21 games – they became the most prolific offense in the playoffs and became simply average defensively!
The Kings have six players that sit ahead of New York`s top point getter thus far – Anze Kopitar has 5 goals and 19 assists, Jeff Carter has 9 goals and 13 assists, Marian Gaborik leads the playoffs with 12 goals – and he also has 7 assists, Justin Williams has 7 goals and 11 assists, Drew Doughty has 4 goals and 12 assists and Tyler Toffoli has seven goals and six assists in LAs 21 games so far. All together the Kings are averaging nearly 4 goals per game in the playoffs and are coming off a Western Final in which they scored 28 goals – insane!
Not only do a number of Kings forwards have Cup experience but they have the extra motivation of giving Marian Gaborik a Cup win against a team that traded him to Columbus in 2013. Nothing is going wrong for LA up front – the offensive advantage has to go to Los Angeles in this one.
The Kings are a team predicated on team defense – surprising when looking at the numbers posted against them in the playoffs. Jonathan Quick 23 goals against Chicago and posted a sub-.900 save percentage in the series – unflattering numbers for one of the league`s best.
But when it mattered most Quick made the saves to keep his team in the thick of it. He has a2.86 GAA in the playoffs so far – no good until you look at he teams that he has faced along the way – San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago are all top tier offenses in the NHL.
Remember – this is the same Jonathan Quick gave up just seven goals with a .947 save percentage in a six-game Stanley Cup win over the New Jersey Devils in 2012. Quick is seasoned, he is sensational, and now he is extra motivated to prove all the haters wrong!
Dave’s Stanley Cup Finals Series Prediction:
The Rangers should be the fresher of the two teams – they wrapped up their series Thursday night – LA endured three cross-country flights last week and a seven game series that ended Sunday. While I think the Rangers can take advantage of that early in the series, I expect the Kings to come on and dominate as we go deeper – the Kings seem to operate best when their backs are against the wall!
The Kings look very much like a team of destiny – absolutely every aspect of their team can beat you night-in and night-out. The Kings are certainly more battle tested – their size, their peaking offense and their experience on the biggest stage will be too much for Henrik Lundqvist and the boys to handle.
Pick: LA Kings -160 in six games.