(holy smokes guys I’m actually doing something about hockey)
What: 2014 Stanley Cup Final, the 121st time that the Stanley Cup will have been awarded.
Who: The Prince of Wales Trophy winning New York Rangers (2nd in Metropolitan Division, 45-31-6 in the regular season, 12-8-0 in the playoffs) versus the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl winning Los Angeles Kings (3rd in Pacific Division, 46-28-8 in the regular season, 12-9-0 in the playoffs).
When and Where:
- Game 1 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 4 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- Game 2 in Los Angeles on Saturday, June 7 at 7:30 PM ET/4:30 PM PT
- Game 3 in New York on Monday, June 9 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- Game 4 in New York on Wednesday, June 11 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- *Game 5 in Los Angeles on Friday, June 13 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- *Game 6 in New York on Monday, June 16 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
- *Game 7 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 18 at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT
*Games 5-7 will only be played if necessary
TV: Games 1 & 2 will air on NBC, Games 3 & 4 will be carried on NBCSN, and the three “If necessary” Games – Games 5-7 – will return to NBC. Game 1 will feature Kenny Albert as the play-by-play voice as Mike “Doc” Emrick will be away due to a death in the family — for which it goes without saying we send our thoughts to Doc and his family. Beginning with Game 2, Doc will return to the broadcast booth. Eddie Olczyk will be the analyst in the booth and Pierre McGuire will be “Inside the Glass” for the entirety of the series. NBC/NBCSN will also have on-site studio support anchored by Liam McHugh and analysts Mike Milbury, Keith Jones and Jeremy Roenick for their signature pre-game program, NHL Live.
The two teams split their regular season two-game series with the visiting team winning both contests (New York won 3-1 on Oct. 7, LA won 1-0 on Nov. 17).
How they got here:
Los Angeles Kings:
- Defeated San Jose Sharks in seven games in quarter-finals
- Defeated Anaheim Ducks in seven games in semi-finals
- Defeated Chicago Blackhawks in seven games in conference finals
New York Rangers:
- Defeated Philadelphia Flyers in seven games in quarter-finals
- Defeated Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in semi-finals
- Defeated Montreal Canadiens in six games in conference finals
Los Angeles Kings: D Robyn Regehr – Knee injury. The latest on Regehr was that he skated with his teammates prior to Game 7 against the Blackhawks. There is no timetable for his return.
New York Rangers LW Daniel Carcillo – 3 games remaining. (Side note: Carcillo played for the Kings last year, so this should be a fun chance at some revenge against his former mates. That is, once he’s eligible to return).
The head coach of the LA Kings is 55-year old Canadian Darryl Sutter who is in his third season with the Kings (98-57-24 in the regular season, 37-22 in the playoffs) and his 14th season as a head coach overall (507-377-155 in the regular season, 84-76 in the playoffs). This will be Sutter’s third trip to the Stanley Cup Final and he will be seeking his second championship after winning with the Kings in 2011-12. Sutter spent eight seasons as a Left Winger for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1979-87
Alain Vigneault is the head coach of the New York Rangers and the 53-year old Canadian is in only his first season at the helm of the Rangers. Vigneault is however in his 12th season as a head coach – just two years less than Sutter – with a career mark of 467-319-102 in the regular season and 49-49 in the playoffs. Vigneault spent parts of two seasons in the early 80’s with the St. Louis Blues.
Teams’ Stanley Cup Final history:
This will be only the third trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the Kings and they’ll be seeking their second Stanley Cup trophy, having won in 2011-12 for the first time in franchise history.
For the Rangers, this will be their 11th trip to the Stanley Cup Final as they seek their fifth NHL Championship and their first since 1993-94.
First for the Los Angeles Kings, it’s 6’1″ 218-pounder Jonathan Quick. The lefty from Milford, Connecticut is in his seventh season with the Kings and had his best season in 2011-12, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy, being named to the NHL All-Star Team and a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. His save percentage is down slightly in the playoffs (.906) from his mark in the regular season (.915) and his goals against average has increased from 2.07 in the regular season to 2.86 in the playoffs. Those slight up-ticks aside, there’s no question it’ll be Quick in goal and he’s certainly one of the best the Western Conference has to offer.
Between the pipes for the Rangers will be a man who is as highly regarded right now as any netminder in recent memory, the 32-year old Swede Henrik Lundqvist. The 6’1″ 188 pound Lundqvist is in his ninth season in goal, all for the New York Rangers, and over that time he has been one of the best in the league. A three time All-Star and six-time Vezina Trophy nominee – he won the award on just the one occasion in 2012 – Lundqvist has also been named the MVP of the Rangers each of the last seven seasons. Henrik ranks among the best goalie in the postseason for those who appeared in more than one series, posting a .928 save percentage (T-1st), 2.03 goals against average (2nd) and the one shutout (T-3rd).
The Staples Center is home ice for the LA Kings and is located in downtown Los Angeles, adjacent to the L.A. Live development. Staples Center opened Oct. 17, 1999 and has been the home of the Kings ever since. Staples seats 18,118 for hockey according to the Kings website while ESPN informs us that the Kings averaged 19,017 throughout the Regular Season and according to my calculations 18,438 in the last round.
The current incarnation of Madison Square Garden recently completed its (most recent) “transformation,” and seats just a hair over 18,000 for hockey. Located above Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan, MSG is one of the most well known sporting venues in the world. The Rangers sold averaged 18,006 during the regular season – MSG’s capacity – and reported capacity crowds for all three home games in the conference finals.
What (Else) You Need To Know:
- Many outsiders were viewing the teams in the conference finals and saying the NHL would want either New York-LA or New York-Chicago. As the western conference finals were coming to a close, speculation started to grow that league execs would most desire a Cup Final between teams from the nation’s two largest markets. However, Steve Lepore of Awful Announcing and Puck Drunk Love has pointed out time and again that a series featuring the Blackhawks would have drawn greater ratings than one featuring the Kings.
That said, it certainly makes for a great storyline for the mainstream media and the casual sports fan.
- The Los Angeles Kings are the first team to play 21 games through the first three rounds of the playoffs and reach the Stanley Cup Final. Both the Avalanche in 2002 and the Maple Leafs in 1993 went to seven games in each of the first three series, but both teams lost in the final game of the conference finals. The Kings are also the only team to play all three of those Game 7s on the road. This time around however, if the series reaches seven games the Kings will be playing at home.
- Marian Gaborik, a 32-year old from Trencin, Slovakia, will be returning to Madison Square Garden as a member of the LA Kings after having spent three and a half years as member of the Rangers. Gaborik is a three-time All-Star whose 12 goals in this year’s playoffs lead the NHL and his 19 points rank fourth.
- The Rangers’ points leader in the postseason has been Martin St. Louis. Martin’s mother France passed away unexpectedly on May 8 at the age of 63, just three days before Mother’s Day. An understandably emotional St. Louis would join his Rangers teammates on the ice the next day and lead them to victory in Game 5 of the semifinals against the Penguins. St. Louis has scored six goals and seven assists in 20 playoff games.
- The Kings have four players with double-digit assist tallies in the playoffs and the man with the most is their points leader, 26-year old Slovenian Anze Kopitar. Kopitar, a 6’3″ 225 lbs center, has scored five goals and has 19 assists in 21 games played for the Kings in the playoffs.
- Earlier I noted which three teams these two sides defeated to reach the Stanley Cup Final, but let’s dig just a bit further with the Kings and point out that the three teams they defeated were in the top seven in the NHL’s final overall standings this year.
- As Pierre LeBrun of ESPN points out, two of the stars to watch in this series will be Ryan McDonagh of the Rangers and Drew Doughty of the Kings. I’ll make no bones about it, I don’t no much about the NHL and I certainly didn’t watch much hockey in the regular season. But I do know that Ryan McDonagh was an offensive juggernaut for the Rangers in their series against the Canadiens, and Drew Doughty is really good. Hard-hitting analysis, folks.
- You don’t often find guys named “Martinez” playing hockey. Baseball and even soccer, yes, but not hockey. There is a young man with the given name of Alec, however, who is bucking the trend and suiting up for the LA Kings. Martinez’s nine points in the postseason rank third among Kings defensemen, though he ranks as low as seventh among Kings player overall in average ice-time per game. My mother is always interested in a given players’ heritage based on their last name so I did some (brief) scouring of the internet but was not able to find how far back Martinez’s roots go, nor even what country his ancestors are from. Regardless, he’ll be a key figure for the Kings.
PREDICTION: I’ve learned a lot in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. I already knew that NBCSN did a great job with their coverage and that anytime Doc Emrick is calling a game, you listen because he is amazing. As far as play-by-play guys across all sports that I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, I’d put Doc there with Dave Niehaus, Dave Sims and Vin Scully. But I did learn from all of the analysis of Eddie Olczyk, Keith Jones, and Mike Milbury that what you want to do in hockey is put one guy in front of the goalie to make sure the goalie can’t see what’s going on, and then just dump the puck towards the net and hope you get a rebound or a deflection or something. The Kings seem pretty good at doing that, and by all accounts they lead the NHL in resolve because yay intangibles. It is by no means a unique prediction, but I’m going Kings in 7