When the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers face off in Game 4 on Wednesday, it might be the last chance to watch this wild Stanley Cup Final.
Prior to Game 3, L.A. had not led for a single second of this championship series, yet found itself up 2-0—a product of two multigoal comebacks that resulted in overtime victories.
The Rangers conceivably could have come away with both games on the Kings' home ice, but instead returned to Madison Square Garden winless in an extremely tight matchup.
In front of a New York crowd, the Kings severely outplayed the hosts in every facet of the game en route to a 3-0 trouncing in Game 3. Jonathan Quick bested Henrik Lundqvist, L.A.'s skaters neutralized New York's speed and the Kings moved to within one game of the Cup, pushing the Rangers to the brink of elimination.
After the SCF started in such a close and exciting fashion, is it about to turn into an unlikely sweep?
|2014 Stanley Cup Final Schedule|
|Game 1||June 4||Kings defeated Rangers, 3-2||--||--|
|Game 2||June 7||Kings defeated Rangers, 5-4||--||--|
|Game 3||June 9||Kings defeated Rangers, 3-0||--||--|
|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|
Game 4 Odds (via Odds Shark): Los Angeles Kings at New York Rangers (11-5)
Vegas doesn't think the Kings will hoist the Cup just yet, giving the Rangers the edge to stay alive a little longer.
Down 3-0 in hockey, they're not quite dead yet. Four NHL teams have overcome that deficit to win their respective series—first the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1942 Stanley Cup Final and most recently the Kings in the opening round of this postseason.
The odds of the Rangers coming back are incredibly slim—Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight adjusts New York's chances of doing so to a paltry 6.1 percent, which is more favorable than the historical rate at which these miracles occur—but this series has already shown us that New York has what it takes to win a single game.
Despite his struggles in this series, Lundqvist always gives the Rangers a strong chance.
The past two losses have not treated King Henrik well. He allowed eight goals on just 59 shots against, and while a few pucks have snuck past him after unlucky bounces off skates or teammates, he needs to to stand stronger in net to deny L.A.'s formidable scorers.
What he has done lately does not inspire confidence, but let's acknowledge the small sample size and remember what goalie we're talking about here.
Even with his recent defeats, the perennial Vezina Trophy candidate has been one of the best guys between the pipes this postseason.
Lundqvist's 2.20 goals-against average and .922 save percentage are both second-best amongst goalies who played in more than one series. As a point of comparison, Quick has allowed 2.69 goals per game and compiled a .910 save percentage.
Lundqvist has been the lesser netminder in this Final, but on any given night, he can take over this series. That means the Rangers always have a chance to win.
Furthermore, Lundqvist's impact reverberates across the roster when he's on.
With just about every King skater putting constant pressure on the net, the Rangers have had to redouble their defensive efforts in order to aid their goalie.
But when Lundqvist is standing on his head and turning L.A. away, two-way play becomes less taxing and New York can focus more on attacking Quick.
When the Rangers do, the talent gap doesn't seem so strongly in the Kings' favor. They have outplayed the Rangers in this Final, but New York has proved its speed can give L.A. problems.
Guys like Carl Hagelin, Martin St. Louis and Mats Zuccarello can weave through the Kings defense and beat it to pucks, allowing the Rangers to gain possession in L.A.'s zone and keep the puck in for repeated attacks.
They couldn't capitalize on their chances in Game 3, but the strategy has proved effective in this series.
Quick isn't quite as good as Lundqvist, but he'll lock New York down at least one more time this Final, while the Kings' skaters will ultimately overwhelm their Ranger counterparts.
At the Garden in Game 4, however, the Rangers do hold the advantage—if only for now.