Two teams, One champion, One cup
Many feats were accomplished during the 2013-14 NHL Playoffs. Including the Detroit Red Wings, who made the postseason for the 23rd consecutive time as new members of the Eastern Conference, and the Columbus Blue Jackets, who won their first ever postseason game on April 19, by defeating Pittsburgh, 4-3. However, the biggest news came when the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks were dethroned by the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals.
After upsetting the favored Blackhawks, the Kings earned the right to play in the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three years. Two seasons ago, the eighth seeded Kings entered the playoffs as heavy underdogs. However, they went on to beat the Western Conference’s top three seeds (Vancouver, St. Louis, and Phoenix). LA completed their miraculous run by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in the franchise’s 44 year history, beating the New Jersey Devils in six games.
The Kings finished third in the Pacific Division, tallying 100 points. In the first round of the playoffs, LA overcame a three game hole to beat the San Jose Sharks in four straight. Round two brought the Anaheim Ducks and the Kings gained a two game lead. After the Ducks won three straight, the Kings regrouped and won out. The Kings took a three games to one lead against the Blackhawks, but they came back to tie the series. The Kings came from behind to win the deciding game seven in overtime at Chicago’s United Center.
LA’s opponent in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals will be the New York Rangers, a team who is making its first finals appearance since 1994. That year, the Rangers were led by Mark Messier, Brian Leetch, Adam Graves, and goaltender Mike Richter. Together, New York beat the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to win their first Stanley Cup title since 1940. Nowadays, this edition of the New York Rangers hopes to accomplish something that they have not achieved in 20 years.
New York tallied 96 points during the regular season and finished second in the Metropolitan Division. During the opening round of the playoffs, the Rangers defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in a hard fought seven game series. The Rangers went on to beat the talented Pittsburgh Penguins after trailing in the series by a three games to one deficit. With the Eastern Conference Championship on the line, the Rangers defeated the Montreal Canadiens in six games.
If the Kings want to win, they will have to put their high scoring offense, which scored 72 goals during the playoffs, into action. In particular, LA’s “70’s Line”, which consists of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson, have all combined for 47 points in the playoffs. They will look to continue their damage on Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who has a .928 save percentage while allowing just over two goals per game in postseason play.
On the other side, the Rangers have eight different players with ten or more points during the playoffs. New York’s top two playoff scorers include the ageless Martin St. Louis and the young phenom, Derek Stepan, who each have 13 points through 20 games. St. Louis, Stepan, and the rest of the Ranger players will have to perform as a team offensively in order to overwhelm Kings Goaltender Jonathan Quick and take the pressure off of Lundqvist.
One more seven game series will decide a champion after four victories. Who will hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end of this series? We will find out soon enough as game one will take place at the Staples Center in LA on Wednesday at 8 p.m.