After an entire postseason of unpredictability, the Stanley Cup Final has brought more of the same.
NHL fans have witnessed two games where the New York Rangers have jumped out to an early lead only to see that advantage dissipate in the final period. As a result, the Los Angeles Kings hold a 2-0 advantage while not leading a second of regulation in the series.
With Game 3 getting underway on Tuesday night, the Rangers have a chance to regain some momentum after falling behind. But following two monumental collapses on the road, New York needs to win both games on home ice to avoid allowing the Kings to potentially take the series in Game 5 at home.
Before the third matchup officially gets underway, let's take a look at the players that will need to lead the way during the rest of the series.
Justin Williams, RW, Los Angeles Kings
During his career, Justin Williams has never been the star of a team. Whether he was with the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes or the Kings, the 32-year-old has always been a great role player on good teams.
Now, with the Kings needing a player to step up, Williams has done just that during the postseason. Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Sports points out just how special Williams' series has been:
Williams has 23 points in 23 games. He doesn’t lead the Kings in goals or points for the postseason, but it’s clear he’s their biggest impact offensive player at this point. He has 12 points in his last eight games, including three assists in Game 2. He’s also a plus-13. As of right now, he’s the MVP.
Scoring a game-winning goal in overtime in the opener might have been a huge moment for most players, but Williams has made a career out of coming up big in those situations.
Mark Armstrong of WTVD in Raleigh, who covered Williams with the Hurricanes, provides his thoughts on the 32-year-old winger:
Justin Williams. Man - what a career. The guy always shows up when it means the most.— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) June 5, 2014
If Williams can simply continue his production from the first two games and potentially add another clutch goal, he has a shot at taking the Conn Smythe Trophy with a series win. On a team loaded with talent like the Kings, that's a pretty big accomplishment for any player.
Mats Zuccarello, LW, New York Rangers
Mats Zuccarello emerged as a star for the Rangers this season, but he hasn't quite had the same success in the postseason.
One of the Rangers' leading goal scorers during the regular season, he has just one goal and one assist during the Stanley Cup Final. Expect that to change as the series shifts to New York.
Who will win the series?
Following the Game 2 loss, Zuccarello spoke about the team's performance, per Randy Miller of NJ.com:
"We’ve been hurting ourselves a little bit," Zuccarello said. "Doing some mistakes, and they find a way to hurt us when we do that. I think we’ve more been beating ourselves than them beating us.
After one of his best games during the playoffs thus far with his only points of the series, Zuccarello watched his team wilt down the stretch in the heartbreaking loss. Given his speed and scoring ability, Zuccarello will break out again for the Rangers in the Final.
Whether or not his offensive ability will be enough is another story entirely.
Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings
Throughout the playoffs, Jonathan Quick simply hasn't been himself. But after allowing a total of six goals during the first two games in the series, Quick came up with clutch saves to stave off the Rangers.
Greg Beacham of the Associated Press provides a look at how different this Final is for Quick:
Jonathan Quick gave up 7 goals in 6 games during the 2012 Stanley Cup finals. He's given up 6 goals in the first 100 minutes this year.— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) June 8, 2014
But rather than hanging his head thus far, Quick has kept his team in games and been resilient enough to earn wins. Despite allowing a staggering six goals in the first two games, the 28-year-old has yet to give up a point in the third period or overtime.
Defenseman Willie Mitchell referenced Quick's leadership throughout the season, per Andrew Knoll of the New York Times:
He may be the best teammate I’ve ever had. He’ll do anything for you. He’s not a goalie who sits there, and when you make a bad play, he looks up like, Hey, what the heck are you doing? He’ll tap you and be like, Man, I should have had that one. ...
It could easily be the other way with us down, 1-0, and frankly it almost should have been, but our goalie played so well.
Pretty overwhelming praise for a guy who had a .895 save percentage in Game 2. That's how special Quick is for the Kings.
While he hasn't been a brick wall for Los Angeles during the series to this point, Quick is expected to play much better moving forward. With a goalie as masterful as Henrik Lundqvist on the other side, he'll need to be on top of his game in every matchup moving forward.
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