The 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Finals are here and we have you covered with everything Aussie NHL fans need to know about the series.
What Is It?The Stanley Cup Final best-of-seven championship series to decide the 2013-14 National Hockey League champion.
Who’s In It?The 2014 Stanley Cup Final pits the New York Rangers from the Eastern Conference against Western Conference champions, the Los Angeles Kings, for a shot at hockey immortality. It’s fair to say that both teams are surprise finalists. Most thought that either Pittsburgh or Boston would represent the East, and it was theorised that Chicago or San Jose would likely emerge from the battleground that the Western Conference has become. As far as the Vegas odds makers and most hockey pundits are concerned, the Kings are warm-to-hot favourites, and it’s generally accepted – even by Ranger fans like myself, and New York head coach Alain Vigneault – that New York will have to be perfect in every facet of the game if they’re to have a chance at hoisting Lord Stanley. Los Angeles, the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, beat San Jose in seven games (after being down 0-3), their cross-town rivals Anaheim in six and red-hot favourites Chicago in seven riveting games, two of which featured overtime periods. It was one of the great playoff series in history. New York are making their first appearance in the Final since Mark Messier’s famous squad won it all in 1994, two decades ago – a moment that brings great warmth to the hearts of all Rangers fans, including mine. Their playoff run included a victory in seven games over Philadelphia, a seven-game series against Pittsburgh (they were down 1-3) and a controversial six-game win over an undermanned Montreal Canadiens team.
When Is It?Game One takes place Thursday morning, Australian time, from Staples Centre in Los Angeles. Games Two and Three are in New York, at Madison Square Garden. Game Five is back at Staples, Game Six in New York and Game Seven, if necessary, shifts back west to Southern California. Game 1: Thursday, June 5 NY Rangers at Los Angeles Game 2: Sunday, June 8 NY Rangers at Los Angeles Game 3: Tuesday, June 10 Los Angeles at NY Rangers Game 4: Thursday, June 12 Los Angeles at NY Rangers Game 5: Saturday, June 14 x-NY Rangers at Los Angeles Game 6: Tuesday, June 18 x-Los Angeles at NY Rangers Game 7: Thursday, June 19 x-NY Rangers at Los Angeles *x – if necessary
How Can I Watch It?FOX Sports Australia is broadcasting the entirety of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final in high definition, beginning with Game One on Thursday morning at 10.00am, Australian time. The game will also be available to stream via Desktop, Mobile or Tablet on NHL Game Center. In America, the host broadcaster is NBC, whose commentary team features hockey’s pre-eminent play-by-play man, Mike “Doc” Emrick, alongside analyst and former Stanley Cup winner Eddie Olczyk and the incredibly-polarising Pierre McGuire, reporting from between the benches.
Players To Watch:Jonathan Quick: Where the Rangers were aided by the series-ending injury to Montreal’s star goalie Carey Price in the Eastern Conference Final, they will be hindered by the presence of Kings net-minder Jonathan Quick in the Stanley Cup Final. Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy for Playoff MVP when LA last won the Cup, in 2012. As he goes, so do the Kings. In the Western Conference Final, there were some periods where he didn’t look all that good, as Chicago scored multiple goals in quick succession, but the Team USA Olympic net-minder is still one of the top goalies in the League, and made big saves when it was absolutely necessary. He will not make things easy for the Rangers. A Kings win might net him another Conn Smythe Trophy to go with a second Stanley Cup title in three years. Henrik Lundqvist: At the opposite end of the ice, waits the King, Henrik Lundqvist. New York’s best player will have to be absolutely superb in net for the Rangers if they are to have any chance of shutting down a Kings team chock-full of offensive firepower. Lundqvist has won everything a player can win, including Olympic Gold with Sweden in 2006 and silver this year in Sochi. The only thing missing from an impressive resume is the ultimate prize, a Stanley Cup championship. If New York win, it will be because of Lundqvist, and, in that scenario, you can just about pencil him in for Conn Smythe Trophy honours, too. Marian Gaborik: A trade deadline acquisition for Los Angeles, the Slovakian sniper, a former Ranger star, is enjoying an unbelievable purple patch of form. He leads the entire League in playoff goals, the spark for a Kings squad that was the lowest-scoring of all those who made it into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fast forward three rounds, and they are the highest-scoring team. Gaborik is emblematic of that. No one saw this post-season domination coming. Least of all New York fans who suffered through seasons of Gaborik appearing unstoppable one game, and missing in action the next. Martin St Louis: Undoubtedly, the feel-good story of these playoffs, St Louis came over from Tampa Bay to New York at the trade deadline, the All-Star forward was rocked by the death of his mother during the Pittsburgh series. His tragic situation has galvanised the Rangers, bringing them back from one-game-to-three deficit against the Penguins, and now they’re in the Cup Final. Importantly, St Louis knows what he’s doing in this arena: he won Lord Stanley in 2004 for Tampa, alongside current NYR teammate, Brad Richards. A proven playoff performer, St Louis is a guy who absolutely has to stand up for New York if they’re to have any chance of pulling off an unlikely victory. Jeff Carter: When it comes to scoring, the Kings have what amounts to an embarrassment of riches, and Jeff Carter just about tops them all. The centrepiece of what has been dubbed ‘That 70′s Line’, Carter, with young line-mates Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, represent what might be Los Angeles’ most dominant line. It seems that one of these three has been able to conjure a goal whenever the Kings have needed it badly. It’s not a stretch to think that Carter and co will attract the attention of the Rangers’ top defensive pairing. Not that it seems to matter: these guys can apparently score on anyone at any time. Just ask Chicago’s All Star defencemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The Carter-Toffoli-Pearson line gave them fits. They figure to do the same to New York’s corps of defencemen.
Who Wins?As much as I hate to say it, the Kings look the goods here. They simply have too much firepower, guys on every line who’ve scored clutch goals all throughout these playoffs. I worry about New York’s chances of keeping four lines quiet for the entire series. No other team’s been able to do it, including some pretty good ones, like Chicago and San Jose. The Rangers certainly aren’t a bad team – there’s no such thing in the Stanley Cup Final – but I’m just not sure that they’re deep enough to match the Kings’ own goldmine of talent. With that in mind, Los Angeles in six. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to hold out hope for a miracle.
[button size="large" style="primary" text="Shop Kings Gear" link="http://ussportsdownunder.com/store/category/nhl/los-angeles-kings/"] [button size="large" style="primary" text="Shop Rangers Gear" link="http://ussportsdownunder.com/store/category/nhl/new-york-rangers/"]