It has been twenty years since the New York Rangers were in the Stanley Cup finals. Back in 1993-1994 the New York Rangers won the Presidents trophy after rolling through the regular season. They went over the New York Islanders in four short games. Then the Washington Capitals were beaten in five before arguably the best playoff series ever against the New Jersey Devils. The guarantee by the Captain Mark Messier and the celebration once the cup was lifted! I was thirteen during that magical run through that season and playoff run. This years New York Rangers team didn’t roll through any series. All that matters now is they won the Eastern Conference and punched their ticket before either of the two Western Conference teams. Of the two possibilities who would the New York Rangers rather play? Who would you want the New York Rangers to play?
Thanks to the folks at extraskater.com the best statistics we have to look at are from NHL Team Advanced Stats | Extra Skater. If You are not familiar with advanced statistics, you may take a look at the “about” section on that link if you would like to learn. Alain Vineault studies these stats for his team as a whole and for how he uses each individual player. How about the Los Angeles Kings, they’re the better and bigger team in the Western Conference finals. Even If the Chicago Blackhawks complete the comeback, the Los Angeles Kings are still the better team. They may be a more complete team than the one that lifted the Stanley Cup back in 2012.
Both the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks had better “possession stats” than the New York Rangers during the regular season. The Los Angeles Kings though, had very similar offensive statistics to that of New York Rangers. The Los Angeles Kings just like the New York Rangers, often held the puck for large portions of games but still had trouble scoring…. until the Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi added ex-New York Ranger Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline. In nineteen games at the end of the regular season he put up a line of five goals + eleven assists for sixteen points. Much like the New York Rangers insufficient shooting percentage of 7.9%, the Los Angeles Kings had a shooting percentage of 7.6% during the regular season. The Playoffs started and Marian Gaborik got hot for the Los Angeles Kings and currently leads the team and the playoffs in goals with eleven in twenty playoff games. As a result the teams shooting percentage went up to an almost inconceivable 11.1%. In comparison the New York Rangers are shooting at 9.2% in the playoffs, which is a giant leap from where they were through eighty-two games of the regular season. The puck is going in for the Rangers in the post season. The LA Kings are shooting at a ridiculous rate that they won’t be able to keep up. Eventually stats always revert to the mean.
The Los Angeles Kings Leading point scorer Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown have played well on the top line with Marian Gaborik. Lets not forget Dustin Brown, he plays a hard checking game. He will hit everything in sight and drive defenseman crazy. The middle of the Los Angeles Kings lineup feature youngsters Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli who have played important minutes centered by Jeff Carter as the Kings second scoring line. Los Angeles Kings coach Daryl Sutter changes up his lines often with Mike Richards , Justin Williams playing mostly on the third line with Dwight King on the left side. However, Daryl Sutter moves his players around often to get favorable matchups. Especially on the road when the opposition has last change. Forward Jeff Carter, Defenseman Drew Doughty, and Forward Justin Williams are all over fifteen points for the playoffs. The New York Rangers currently have eight players over ten points for the playoffs but none over thirteen. Depth is a strength of the New York Rangers but the Los Angeles Kings are as deep as they come. Coach Daryl Sutter rolls all four lines effectively just the same as Alain Vineault. With both Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore on the fourth line with Derek Dorsett. The advantage goes to the New York Rangers in the battle of bottom lines but Jarret Stoll is arguably the best faceoff centerman in the league.
On the blue line the Los Angeles Kings are, to say the least a big group of defenseman. Five of six starting defenseman are over 200 pounds. The Los Angeles Kings top Defenseman and one of the teams points leaders Drew Doughty leads the way on defense with sixteen points and a plus seven rating in 27:45 average time on ice. Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Slava Voynov are the only four defenseman on the Los Angeles Kings that have played in all twenty playoff games. Of the remaining Defenseman on the Los Angeles Kings roster, slow-footed Matt Green and Willie Mitchell have been used as the Los Angeles Kings bottom pairing. They are a plus three in twenty-six games played combined but if it’s the Los Angeles Kings that get to play for the Cup. This is where the Rangers will try to exploit them. They only have three defenseman that can skate and keep up with the New York Rangers speedy wingers. The Los Angeles Kings top defense pair is always a threat to score from the blue line but none of them have the ability to shut down the New York Rangers top offensive players for an entire series. This is where the New York Rangers will have an advantage over the Los Angeles Kings if they win game seven to face the Rangers for the Stanley Cup.
In goal the Los Angeles Kings have arguably the second best goaltender in the National Hockey League. Jonathan Quick is what makes the Los Angeles Kings the tougher matchup of the two. He has forty wins and thirty losses with a career 2.25 Goals against average and a .923 save percentage in seventy playoff games with eight shutouts. Those numbers have dipped in this years playoffs with his Goals against at 2.82 and a save percentage of .906 in twenty games with one shutout. He is a big goaltender at six-foot one inch tall and 220 pounds which helps him cover the net well. He is also extremely athletic and might be the best at sliding from side to side. In the Stanley Cup finals, he will play as well as any goaltender in the National Hockey league save for save. Jonathan Quick has the ability to steal a series like he did against the San Jose Sharks, his team was down three games to none. Just as Henrik Lundqvist has stolen a couple of series in his career for the New York Rangers. In the Western Conference Finals Jonathan Quick has a pedestrian 3.02 Goals Against Average and .886 Save Percentage. If it’s an off series then so be it, but if it’s not and the New York Rangers can score at a similar rate. Who cares who wins this series, both teams present challenges.
Of the sixteen playoff teams The Los Angeles Kings (50.9% Corsi for)are fourth among teams that have played thirteen or more playoff games this year. The New York Rangers are right behind them in fifth (50.0% corsi for). Showing that both teams have taken half of all shots and shot attempts in the games they’ve played during the playoffs in all situations. Both Teams are good when the score is close but the New York Rangers scored 63.8% of the goals in close situations during their run. The Los Angeles Kings scored 52.1% of the goals during close situations. Close situations are periods one and when the score is within a goal and only tied games in the third period. The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings haven’t played since 17, November 2013. A one to nothing win by the Los Angeles Kings in New York during the regular season. The New York Rangers won three to one at the Staples Center in the second game of the season. Jonathan Quick knocked the puck into his own net on a Ryan McDonagh clearing attempt while the Los Angeles Kings were on a Power Play down two to one late in the third period.
Los Angeles Kings Coach Daryl Sutter uses a 2-1-2 forecheck very aggressively like the way the New York Rangers did under coach John Tortarella. The Los Angeles Kings like to dump the puck in and chase after it. They have the speed to close on it quickly and the size to knock a defenseman off the puck to create a turnover and possibly a scoring chance. This is why I feel the Los Angeles Kings are overall the tougher matchup for the New York Rangers. The Los AngeIes Kings have depth up front among their top twelve forwards. Their top four Centerman Include Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Jarret Stoll. That is a very formidable lineup down the middle. On Defense the Los Angeles Kings aren’t as deep as the New York Rangers. That will be the chink in their armor that Alain Vineault will need to take advantage of. Jonathan Quick is one of the best in net but without a bottom defense pairing or depth at the blue line. That will be a non factor. I also hear they play some bits of Cartman from “Southpark” during TV timeouts at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That is another reason I’m rooting for the Chicago Blackhawks to win game seven.
Rick Nash, Derrek Stepan, and Chris Kreider will have to take command of this series if the New York Rangers want a Stanley Cup in 2014!
Any questions you can get me on twitter @BlueLineBT. Your comments are also welcome. Let us know who you’d like to see play the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals.