The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings kicked off the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final with an intense Game 1 (Los Angeles won 3-2 in overtime), but all eyes have shifted to Saturday’s Game 2 from the Staples Center.
With the best team in both the Eastern and Western Conference going to battle in front of hardcore and casual hockey fans, there is no better showcase of what the league is about than the meeting between these two big-market teams.
Here is the full schedule, championship odds for the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals and keys to victory for each team.
|Game 1||June 4||Kings defeated Rangers, 3-2||--||--|
|Game 2||June 7||NY Rangers at Los Angeles||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
|Game 3||June 9||Los Angeles at NY Rangers||NBCSN||NBC Live Extra|
|Game 4||June 11||Los Angeles at NY Rangers||NBCSN||NBC Live Extra|
|*Game 5||June 13||NY Rangers at Los Angeles||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
|*Game 6||June 16||Los Angeles at NY Rangers||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
|*Game 7||June 18||NY Rangers at Los Angeles||NBC||NBC Live Extra|
Source: NHL.com. *If necessary.
Now that you've seen the schedule, here are the latest championship odds.
|Los Angeles Kings||2/3||-150|
|New York Rangers||13/10||+130|
Rangers Key to Victory
The Rangers must bounce back in Game 2 in order to avoid fighting from behind the whole series, and the key to winning in every game against Los Angeles is the play of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
It’s clear that New York’s top defenders Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi will be asked to shoulder the burden of protecting Lundqvist—both men combined to play 58 minutes and 37 seconds in Game 1—but the veteran netminder must be at his best all series.
Former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch talked about how the struggles of New York were not a good sign for the remainder of the series:
Rangers outshot 20-3 in the third when game was on the line. Not a good sign especially since fatigue should not be a factor.— corey hirsch (@CoreyHirsch) June 5, 2014
ESPN’s SportsCenter immediately talked the fans off the ledge, though, as they shared an interesting factoid from the Rangers last Stanley Cup victory:
Silver lining for Rangers fans: When Blueshirts won the Stanley Cup in 1994, they also lost Game 1 in OT, 3-2.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 5, 2014
Lundqvist faced an astounding 43 shots in 64:36 of action on Wednesday night, but his unparalleled play was not enough to carry New York to a victory. The Rangers must ensure that the team doesn’t waste another effort like that or the series will be over.
If New York alters its game plan slightly to incorporate a more concerted effort to play defensive hockey and protect Lundqvist, the offensive players who are stagnant right now will have the chance to capitalize on mistakes from the Kings.
The Rangers’ mindset must be to protect Lundqvist first and foremost.
Kings Key to Victory
The Los Angeles Kings won each of the first three series in the 2014 postseason in thrilling Game 7 action, and it is the chemistry that the team has built over that stretch that will be the key to another Stanley Cup.
With every player on the roster playing hard in the offensive and defensive zones (Los Angeles outshot the Rangers in the third round, 20-3), the team mindset of the Kings will be the difference in this series.
Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown spoke to reporters before the series began, per Scott Burnside of ESPN.com, concerning how well his team plays as a unit and how that cohesiveness helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final:
It's just a trust system and a belief system within this room of a result of being together for hundreds of games together and climbing the hill once and trying to do it again. We know what to expect and we expect a lot from each other. And there's times when there's not nice things said to each other and it's all in the nature of motivating each other and motivating each other to be better. When you have guys that have been together you're capable of holding each other accountable and pushing to the next level.
ESPN’s John Buccigross talked about just how dominant the Kings were in Game 1:
Kings: outshot Rangers 43-27 (including 20-3 in 3rd period) ... every King except Dwight King had at least 1 shot— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 5, 2014
Hockey fans are looking for one player to crown as the MVP of Los Angeles, but every member of the roster gives his all on each shift. There is no one player standing out more than the rest because the Kings win and lose as a team.
As long as the franchise focuses on protecting goaltender Jonathan Quick, while still maintaining the pressure the organization has become known for, the Western Conference champions will eliminate the Rangers.
*Stats via NHL.com.