The 2014 NHL season may come to a close on Wednesday, which is unfortunate for hockey fans—unless, of course, you’re a supporter of the Los Angeles Kings.
Behind a terrific performance by Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, the Kings won Game 3 by a score of 3-0 on Monday and now hold a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Rangers with the chance to sweep New York in Game 4.
A championship sweep is rare, as noted by ESPN’s Darren Rovell:
The Stanley Cup Final has gone 14 straight years without a sweep, easily trumping the active streaks of the NBA (7) & MLB (1).— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) June 10, 2014
The Kings recorded just their second shutout in Stanley Cup Final history, as Quick saved all 32 shots that came his way in his best game of the playoffs. The team is one win away from its second championship in three seasons, and that’s what Quick is focused on, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).
"We did a lot of things the right way," said Quick. "Now we get ready for the next one. The fourth one is always the most difficult."
Fox Sports 1 host Mike Hill was thoroughly impressed with the goalie’s performance:
Quick has been brilliant!!!— Mike Hill (@ItsMikeHill) June 10, 2014
As was ESPN:
Still unconfirmed, but Jonathan Quick may have been trained by ninjas.— ESPN (@espn) June 10, 2014
Heading into Game 4, the Rangers face a daunting task. Only four teams in league history have come back to win a series after being down 3-0, including one occurrence in the Final. But it can be done, as the Kings showed by winning four games in a row to shock the San Jose Sharks in April’s quarterfinals.
Will the Kings hoist the Cup on Wednesday?
But New York shouldn’t look too far ahead. The task appears far more challenging that way. As hard as it may seem, the Rangers must take it a game at a time and focus on Wednesday's Game 4.
The Rangers know they have the ability to play with the Kings, as Los Angeles didn’t hold a lead in regulation in either Game 1 or Game 2. The series could conceivably be 2-1 New York, but credit the Kings for grinding out two overtime victories and a shutout.
Henrik Lundqvist entered the Stanley Cup Final with the best save percentage of any goalie in the playoffs; however, he has not been as sharp against the Kings, allowing 11 goals in three games. Even so, as Game 4 looms, he can draw positives from the fact that two of the three goals allowed Monday came from fluke deflections.
Despite being up 3-0, the Kings are not guaranteed a Game 4 victory. They were up 3-1 over the Blackhawks, but Chicago was able to win two straight games and force a Game 7. The Rangers will be a tough out and play like the desperate team they are.
The New York offense will find the net like it did in the first two games, and Lundqvist will regain his impressive form from the previous three rounds, doing just enough to keep New York’s season alive. For the first time all series, the Rangers will get a lead and hold it.
Final Score: Rangers 2, Kings 1
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