Hockey belongs to Canada, but the NHL and its fans would benefit greatly if the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. It may be enough to make folks stateside care a little bit more about what happens on the frozen pond.
Hockey purists will not care about the bandwagon fans who'll jump on board, but the league would benefit. When the league benefits, the sport prospers.
What hockey fan wouldn't love more games on network television and more genuine exposure for the sport?
Obviously, if you're in New Jersey or Phoenix or an out of place Coyotes or Devils fan, I don't expect you to share this sentiment. This is for the American hockey fan without a passionate rooting interest in either Conference Finals series.
If the two largest media markets in the country are represented in the Stanley Cup Finals, it would be a huge deal. It's not just about the cities, though; each of these teams have compelling stories.
The Kings are the eighth seed, but they've played like an elite NHL team throughout the postseason. It seems as though the young nucleus grew up in time for the postseason. They began by ousting the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round.
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have been phenomenal. They have combined for 24 points in 10 postseason games. That's right—The Kings have only played 10 playoff games.
They dispatched Vancouver in five games and then swept the St. Louis Blues and their great goaltending in the second round.
What can't be ignored is the fact that Brown is a New York native. He was born in Ithaca so he would be competing against the prominent team from his home state. Furthermore, an American captain who leads his team on an unlikely Stanley Cup run is more than just noteworthy.
For American hockey fans, it should be celebrated.
Wait—the celebration can go even further. If the Kings and Rangers meet in the postseason, it would pit two American captains against each other as the Rangers' captain, Ryan Callahan, also hails from New York.
The same would be possible if the Devils won the East, as Zach Parise is from Minnesota. But Parise and the Devils don't bring the New York effect, and no story is bigger than a New York story.
Henrik Lundqvist has been perhaps the best player in the entire postseason. His goals against average of 1.57 is the reason the Rangers are still alive in the playoffs. He produced another beauty on Monday night, shutting out the Devils.
Great goalie play is a necessity for a complete hockey experience. Lundqvist has helped hide the Rangers' scoring woes as the team has only scored 32 goals in 15 games.
Can Lundqvist continue to carry his team? Will someone step up offensively or will the weight prove to be too much for him?
This is just another compelling story and another reason for American fans to root for the Rangers and the Kings for the Stanley Cup Finals.
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