June 3, 2014

Five things to watch in the Stanley Cup Finals

Stanley Cup Finals: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings

This year’s Stanley Cup Finals stretch from coast to coast with two unlikely participants.

The fourth-seeded New York Rangers defeated the sixth-seed Montreal Canadiens in six games to advance out of the Eastern Conference to their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.

The sixth-seeded Los Angeles Kings defeated the defending Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks in seven games and feature a group of players that remain from the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship in 2012.

These teams have not met in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 1981 in what then was a best-of-five first-round series.

Here are five things to watch in the Finals:

Battle tested

The Kings became the first team to advance to the Finals after winning three consecutive Game 7s, all coming on the road. In the opening round, the Kings made a historic comeback after trailing 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks. In the Western Conference finals, LA trailed nine times in the seven games. The Rangers also won back-to-back Game 7s in the first two rounds, marking the first time two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Finals that played in Game 7s in their first two rounds.

Between the pipes

The Finals feature two of the biggest names in goaltending in New York’s Henrik Lundqvist and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick. In the playoffs, Lundqvist has the highest save percentage (.928) of goalies playing in more than five playoff games. He has the lowest goals-against average of playoff goaltenders playing in more than 12 games, at 2.03. Quick is in the middle of the pack in goals against at 2.86 and save percentage at .906, but he has gone to Game 7 in every one of the Kings’ playoff series, playing in a postseason-high 21 games. For their careers, Lundqvist is 3-4-1 against the Kings, and Quick is 2-1-0 against the Rangers.

Familiar faces

Kings forward Marian Gaborik will face his former team for the first time in the playoffs. Gaborik leads the league in playoff goals with 12. The Kings’ first-round pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, Brian Boyle, plays for New York after the Rangers acquired him for a third-round pick in the 2009 draft. The Rangers and Kings were involved in a transaction this season, sending Daniel Carcillo to the Rangers, but he his currently serving a six-game reduced suspension for elbowing a linesman as he was pulled out of an altercation in the Rangers’ series against Montreal.

Special teams

The Kings and Rangers excel at at least one aspect of special teams play. The Kings enter the Finals with the fifth-best power play percentage at 25.4 percent, scoring seven power-play goals in the playoffs. Kings center Jeff Carter leads the NHL in playoff power-play goals with four and Kings defenseman Drew Doughty leads the league in playoff power-play assists with eight and points with nine. New York has the second-best penalty kill through the playoffs, fending off 85.9 percent against the man advantages. The Rangers have also scored a short-handed goal in the playoffs.

Series review

The teams have met twice this season with each team winning on the road. Kings center Mike Richards picked up two assists against the Rangers in those two games, and Rangers center and former Dallas Star Brad Richards scored two of the Rangers’ three goals against the Kings, with assists on both by Rich Nash. New York leads the all-time regular-season series 66-44-16-1.

Stanley Cup Finals

Kings vs. Rangers

Wendesday: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m, KXAS/5

Saturday: at Los Angeles, 6 p.m., KXAS/5

Monday: at New York, 7 p.m., NBCSN

June 11: at New York, 7 p.m. NBCSN

June 13: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m. KXAS/5*

June 16: at New York, 7 p.m. KXAS/5*

June 18: at Los Angeles, 7 p.m., KXAS/5*

*If necessary

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