In case you haven’t heard, the NHL playoffs has been an amazing ride.
A day away from game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the marquee matchup that NHL execs must be salivating over is about to take place. The New York Rangers versus the Los Angeles Kings. America’s top two markets face off in a series to end one heck of an NHL season. This is JUST the Stanley Cup Finals that the NHL needed.
The Kings return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the 2nd time in 3 years. Needing only 12 games to get this far in 2012, the road in this postseason has been completely different. From round 1, the Kings managed to find themselves on the ropes repeatedly. Los Angeles began its journey by becoming only the 4th team in NHL history to win a playoff series after facing a 3-0 deficit versus the San Jose Sharks.The Kings moved on to face their cross-town rival, the Anaheim Ducks. After taking the first two contests, they lost three straight, and rallied, again, to tie the series, then win game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Kings took a 3-1 stronghold on the Chicago Blackhawks and looked for certain to be in the Stanley Cup Finals with ease. Then Patrick Kane happened. The Blackhawks rallied back to tie the series and give all they had in a game 7 overtime thriller where Alec Martinez put Chicago away to lead Los Angeles to its second Stanley Cup Finals in two years. What’s more amazing, these Kardiac Kings beat the top three A-list teams in the Western Conference to get here, proving to be the ultimate survivors. Having won all of their game 7 finales on the road, the Kings are road survivors, at that.
The New York Rangers, by their own account, have had an amazing tale in reaching to the finals. Excluding the Eastern Conference Finals, where they handled the Montreal Canadiens in their series 4-2, the Rangers went the distance with the Philadelphia Flyers and Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team which was heavily favored to win that series.
Additionally, New York finds itself eager to win the first Stanley Cup as a franchise in 20 years after winning only its 2nd conference championship ever. The spirit of Brian Leetch and Mark Messier rides high with the Rangers. The appeal of both markets, as well as their storylines to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, is just what the NHL needed. This matchup will likely go down as one of the most watched Stanley Cup finals ever. Both teams have a great deal of appeal. Both are scrappy and battle-tested with stars to whom even casual fans can gravitate. The NHL has been waiting for a big payday to market the game’s appeal to American fans more. This is it for the NHL. The day has come. The NHL has a marketing opportunity to reel in more fans and push the game to the higher popularity it deserves. Especially after the regular season and playoffs we’ve had.
It’s New York vs. L.A.
The stages are set and the cities where the lights never go out are ready to shine. It doesn’t get much better than this for the NHL.