For the first time since the Los Angeles Dodgers upended the New York Yankees in six games in the 1981 World Series, North American professional sports will witness a true east coast-west coast showdown as the Los Angeles Kings host the New York Rangers beginning Wednesday.
The Rangers have been waiting since Thursday, May 29 when they finished dispatching the Montreal Canadiens in six games to earn their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Final since their historic 1994 championship run.
Henrik Lundqvist turned aside 18 Canadiens shots as the story of Ranger depth continued to unfold with Dominic Moore getting to play hero in the deciding contest. New York has eight players with 10+ points in their march through Philadelphia in seven, Pittsburgh in seven, and Montreal to claim the Prince of Wales Trophy. With five players having scored five or more goals, and 11 having put three or more pucks past opposing goalies the balance in the lineup has aided solid defensive efforts. Defenseman Ryan McDonagh is tied with trade deadline acquisition Martin St. Louis for the team lead with 13 points, with St. Louis and Carl Hagelin's six goals apiece tops on the team. Meanwhile Lundqvist continues to put up spectacular postseason numbers, with a 2.03 GAA second best and .928 SV% best in the playoffs.
For Los Angeles it's been another record-breaking run through the Western Conference, though nearly the antithesis of their dominance as an eighth seed in their 2012 championship season. By defeating Chicago in game seven to seal a series for the ages winning the Clarence Campbell Bowl, the Kings have become the first team since the Dallas Stars (from 1998-2000) to play hockey in June for three consecutive seasons.
Alec Martinez's overtime winner clinched the Kings third consecutive road game seven triumph of the playoffs, becoming the first team in league history to do so. After becoming the fourth team in league history to dig out of an 0-3 series hole in the first round against San Jose, then rallying past the Ducks in seven, the Angelenos are 7-0 in elimination games this postseason. Long known for their defense, it's been superlative offense that has propelled the Kings this year, with nine players accruing 10+ points and six netting five or more goals. Anze Kopitar leads the playoffs with 24 points and 19 assists, Marian Gaborik's 12 goals are tops with Jeff Carter tied in second with nine tallies and second in points with 22. Drew Doughty is having a Conn Smythe-caliber playoffs as well, leading defensemen with 12 assists and 16 points while shouldering an average 27:50 of ice team which is best amongst players who advanced beyond the second round. Perhaps the only question shockingly enough is the play of Jonathan Quick, whose .906 SV% and 2.86 GAA are far more mortal than his MVP-earning form of 2012.