Of course, the same team to make history in 2012 by going up 3-0 in every playoff series on the way to winning the Stanley Cup, would make history just two seasons later by winning three straight Game 7s–on the road, no less–to reach the Stanley Cup Final. If nothing else, that alone deserves a very long standing ovation. BUT, in hockey, it’s ALL about the Cup, and that means that the Los Angeles Kings have four more wins to go before they can appreciate what an absolutely incredible and inspiring couple of playoff runs they’ve had in two of the past three seasons. I will say this, though–watching this highlight will ALWAYS give me goosebumps (with a GREAT call by Kings’ longtime radio announcer Nick Nickson):
Anyway, back to the task at hand–while the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run was fueled by a suffocating defense, this current playoff run has been fueled by an offensive juggernaut. The Kings have averaged 3.48 goals per gamed during the playoffs–significantly more than any other team, and nearly an entire goal more than the Rangers (2.70 goals per game). That’s not to say that the Kings haven’t had to make some big defensive plays along the way, with Jonathan Quick having had to make some pretty big saves as well (such as the one he made with 5 seconds to go in regulation in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks), but the Kings have made this run scoring goals at an amazing pace.
So it would seem fitting, then, that the Kings would face a team–the New York Rangers–that has made its current run to the Stanley Cup Final by excelling on defense, and of course, the ‘King’, goalie Henrik Lundqvist, has been the driving force on that end. During the past five seasons, it would be really hard to argue that Lundqvist and Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick, haven’t been two of the top three goalies in the NHL. In fact, their career numbers, both during the regular season and the postseason, have been remarkably similar (the first table contains regular season statistics for both goalies, and the second table contains postseason statistics):
Goals Against Average
Goals Against Average
Had the Kings and Rangers met in the Stanley Cup Final two seasons ago, when both goalies had been dueling for the Vezina Trophy (ultimately won by Lundqvist), it would have been easy to just say that the series would come down to Quick vs. Lundqvist, and frankly, that’s where most of the focus would have been. But this match-up isn’t so easily broken down. So, as we have with past playoff series, we’ll take a close-up look at both teams and some useful statistics (regular season statistics in parentheses):
New York: Henrik Lundqvist (33-24-5 record / 2.36 goals against average / .920 save percentage)
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (27-17-4 record / 2.07 goals against average / .915 save percentage)
Playoff Performance: Lundqvist has been phenomenal for the Rangers, with a 2.03 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Lundqvist faced the teams with the 5th (Pittsburgh Penguins), 8th (Philadelphia Flyers), and 21st (Montreal Canadiens) highest goals per game average during the regular season, respectively, in accumulating those elite numbers. Quick, on the other hand, has had fairly pedestrian numbers thus far, with only a 2.86 goals against average and .906 save percentage. Of course, the Kings have faced the teams with the 1st (Anaheim Ducks), 2nd (Chicago Blackhawks), and 6th (San Jose Sharks) highest goals per game average during the regular season, respectively. Quick has also faced 85 more shots than Lundqvist has in only one more game played.
Mats Zucarrello (19 goals / 40 assists / 5.1 offensive point shares)
Derek Stepan (17 goals / 40 assists / 4.2 offensive point shares)
Brad Richards (20 goals / 31 assists / 3.7 offensive point shares)
Derick Brassard (18 goals / 27 assists / 3.5 offensive point shares)
Rick Nash (26 goals / 13 assists / 4.3 offensive point shares)
Martin St. Louis* (1 goal / 7 assists / 0.0 offensive point shares)
*=statistics for 19 games played as a member of the New York Rangers after being traded on March 5, 2014
Playoff Performance: Martin St. Louis has been the real star of the playoffs for the Rangers, with 13 points (6 goals / 7 assists) in 20 games played. He’s been an inspirational hero for the Rangers, as his mother tragically passed away during New York’s series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers have seven other forwards who have scored between 9 and 13 points–giving the Rangers a fairly consistent, and deep, scoring attack.
Anze Kopitar (29 goals / 41 assists / 6.4 offensive point shares)
Jeff Carter (27 goals / 23 assists / 4.9 offensive point shares)
Justin Williams (19 goals / 24 assists / 3.1 offensive point shares)
Marian Gaborik* (5 goals / 11 assists / 1.4 offensive point shares)
*=statistics for 19 games played as a member of the Los Angeles Kings after being traded on March 5, 2014
Playoff Performance: The Kings’ offensive outburst during the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs has been well-documented. Whereas the Rangers have eight forwards who have scored between 9 and 13 points during New York’s 20 playoff games, the Kings have five forwards who have scored between 13 and 24 points during Los Angeles’ 21 games. The Kings also have another two forwards who have scored 11 and 12 points, respectively. The Anze Kopitar/Marian Gaborik duo has combined for an astonishing 17 goals and 26 assists. ‘That 70s line’, comprised of veteran Jeff Carter at center, and youngsters Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson on the wings, was put together by Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter after the Kings were smoked in San Jose in Games 1 and 2 in the first round–and serving as the team’s second line since, have been nearly impossible for opposing teams to contain. Since Game 3 of the Kings’ first round series, Carter, Toffoli, and Pearson have combined for 45 points (20 goals / 25 assists).
Ryan McDonagh (plus-11 plus/minus rating / 5.7 defensive point shares)
Dan Girardi (plus-6 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Anton Stralman (plus-9 plus/minus rating / 4.7 defensive point shares)
Marc Staal (minus-1 plus/minus rating / 3.6 defensive point shares)
Playoff Performance: The Rangers have been led by Lundqvist and their defense during this playoff run. Their top defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, is essentially the Rangers’ Drew Doughty–he’s young, he’s athletic, and he can score. During the regular season, he had 43 points (14 goals / 29 assists), and during the playoffs, he’s tied for the team lead in points with 13 (3 goals / 10 assists). Not only will McDonagh need to match Doughty in this series, but he will need to continue to anchor the Rangers’ defense against the Kings’ formidable attack. The Rangers have allowed the second fewest goals of any team in the playoffs, and they will have to regularly limit the Kings to 2 goals or less if they want to have a chance to win the series.
Drew Doughty (plus-17 plus/minus rating / 6.6 defensive point shares)
Slava Voynov (plus-6 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Willie Mitchell (plus-14 plus/minus rating / 5.2 defensive point shares)
Jake Muzzin (plus-8 plus/minus rating / 4.4 defensive point shares)
Playoff Performance: The Kings’ defense has been much maligned during the playoffs thanks to 60 goals allowed. Of course, we’ve already mentioned the offensive firepower of the teams they’ve defeated along the way, but this isn’t the 2012 Stanley Cup team. With their two most veteran and consistent defensemen–Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr–injured for significant stretches of this playoff run, the Kings have been a bit overwhelmed. Matt Greene, once the rugged anchor of the Kings’s defense, has consequently found his way back into the lineup and has played well enough in limited minutes, but there have been some hiccups along the way. The Kings have had to rely extensively on star Drew Doughty–who has averaged nearly 28 minutes per game–which is an astounding amount of minutes over 21 games. Doughty has excelled in all facets–defensively, offensively, special teams, leadership. The Kings need Doughty to continue his stellar play, as well as to continue to get solid minutes from younger guys like Muzzin, Voynov, and Alec Martinez. With Mitchell able to return for the Blackhawks series–limited though he was–and Regehr hoping to return at some point during this series, the Kings’ defensive corps could be at its best at the most critical time.
New York: 18.2% power play conversion rate (13.6% in playoffs) / 85.3% penalty kill percentage (85.9% in playoffs)
Los Angeles: 15.1% power play conversion rate (25.4% in playoffs) / 83.1% penalty kill percentage (81.3% in playoffs)
The Kings’ power play has been exceptional during the playoffs, with a 25.4% conversion rate. The Rangers, on the other hand, have been mediocre on the power play, with their 13.6% conversion rate ranked 10th among the 16 playoff teams. Both teams’ penalty killing has been solid. The biggest key here will be the Rangers’ ability (or inability) to stay out of the box. If the Rangers allow the Kings to have several power play opportunities every game, it’s hard to imagine that the Kings won’t continue to convert at a pretty high percentage.
During the regular season, the Kings led the NHL in Corsi for percentage at 55.7% (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots + blocked for plus shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots against). The Rangers were fifth at 52.9%.
During the regular season, the Kings were second in the NHL in Fenwick for percentage at 54.9% (shots on goal + missed shots for divided by shots on goal + missed shots for plus shots on goal + missed shots against). The Rangers were fifth at 52.8%.
These statistics, courtesy of ExtraSkater.com, show that the Kings AND the Rangers are particularly adept at maintaining possession of the puck and routinely out-shooting their opponents. During the playoffs, however, the Kings and Rangers have both been near the middle of the pack with their puck possession statistics. When the teams have skated at even strength, the Rangers have had a 48.9% Corsi for percentage (eighth among playoff teams) and a 50.0% Fenwick for percentage (ninth among playoff teams), while the Kings have had a 52.6% Corsi for percentage (fifth among playoff teams) and 51.8% Fenwick for percentage (seventh among playoff teams).
One big difference between the two teams during the playoffs, though, is that the Kings have converted 11.3% of their 645 shots (second among playoff teams), while the Rangers have only converted 9.2% of their 587 shots (eighth among playoff teams). Along with a high power play conversion rate, the Kings’ high shot conversion rate gives them another significant advantage in this series, and one of the keys to the series will be the Rangers’ ability (or inability) to limit the Kings to low percentage shots, and keep Lundqvist from facing close-range rebound attempts, odd-man rushes, and constant traffic in front of the net.
- Kings veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr, out since the series against the Anaheim Ducks, finally returned to practice before last weekend and is expected to play at some point during this series.
- This series will mark only the second time in 22 playoff series that the Kings have had home-ice advantage.
- The winner of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final has gone on to win the Cup 77% of the time, dating back to 1939 (when the Final went to a best-of-seven format).
- The 41 combined games played by the Kings (21) and Rangers (20) in the playoffs are the most combined games by any Stanley Cup Final opponents.
Secret Weapon(s)/’X Factor(s)’
New York: Martin St. Louis. It would be really easy to say that Lundqvist is the Rangers’ ‘x factor’, but he’s not–he’s their anchor and most important player. He’s also rock-solid, and his performance rarely wavers. If the Rangers hope to win this series, they’ll need St. Louis to continue his magical and emotionally-charged journey through the playoffs. Although he’s now 38, and has been in the league for 16 seasons, St. Louis can still shoot the puck like the best of them–he had 69 points in 81 combined games for the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning during the regular season, and he’s leading the Rangers in points thus far in the playoffs.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick. If the Kings’ offensive juggernaut gets slowed down even a bit by King Henrik, but Jonathan Quick falters, the Kings could be in real trouble. Just as with our assumption that Lundqvist will do what Lundqvist does, we fully expect the Kings to continue to score goals–perhaps not at the same pace, but it’s really hard to imagine them being shut down completely. With that in mind, Jonathan Quick has to be Jonathan Quick again. He is just too good to give up nearly 3 goals per game. Frankly, he shouldn’t be allowing more than 1 or 2 goals per game, at most, against this Rangers squad. If he can recapture even some of the magic he had in 2012 (or just revert back to the goalie he was during the regular season), the Rangers could be done in four or five games. In all fairness to Quick, he’s faced some very stiff competition, and the Kings have had two of their top defensemen out during significant stretches of the playoffs, but he still hasn’t looked particularly dominant at any one point.
Kings in six games.
(All times Pacific; *If necessary)
Game 1: Wednesday, June 4th at Los Angeles, 5 p.m. (NBC, CBC)
Game 2: Saturday, June 7th at Los Angeles, 4:30 p.m. (NBC, CBC)
Game 3: Monday, June 9th at New York, 5 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 4: Wednesday, June 11th at New York, 5 p.m. (NBCSN, CBC)
Game 5*: Friday, June 13th at Los Angeles, 5 p.m. (NBC, CBC)
Game 6*: Monday, June 16th at New York, 5 p.m. (NBC, CBC)