Not since the New York Yankees took on the Los Angeles Dodgers
for the 1981 World Series, have Tinsel Town and the Big Apple
squared off for a major sporting championship and for the NHL the
showdown between the Kings and Rangers is sure to mean unprecedented
The best-of-seven series which begins on Wednesday in Los Angeles
features two battle hardened teams in a compelling final rich in
Hollywood type storylines and subplots.
Both Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center will be packed
with celebrity A-list hockey fans like soccer great David Beckham
and super model Kate Upton but it is the casual hockey fan the NHL
will be focused on as the league seizes a chance to pull in new
The Rangers, one of the league's Original Six franchises, can claim
some of the NHL's most loyal supporters who have waited two decades
for another shot at the cup while the Kings, champions in 2012,
return to the finals for the second time three years.
"The past few years, we've tried to earn the respect of the league,"
said Kings forward Justin Williams. "L.A. is not just a place to
come and play a hockey game and work on your tan.
"We want to put L.A. on the map, and put it significantly on the map
with regards to hockey."
Certainly there can be no disputing the Rangers and Kings both
earned their spots in the finals.
After falling behind 3-0 to San Jose in their opening round series,
the Kings had looked poised to make a quick playoff exit but have
fought their way through to the finals by winning three
best-of-seven series against the Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago
Blackhawks that all went the distance.
In elimination games this post-season the Kings are a perfect 7-0
clinching a berth in the cup finals by finishing off the defending
champion Blackhawks 5-4 in a Game Seven overtime thriller.
"You need everybody when you get to Game Seven, you're not into the
individual part of it," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter, after
watching his team become the first to win three Game Sevens en route
to the finals. "We prefer not to get to Game Seven. Game Seven is
about winning the game, doing whatever it
The Rangers' path to the finals was no less grueling, New York
needing seven games to see off Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh
Penguins before defeating the Montreal Canadiens in six games to
claim the Eastern conference crown.
To reach a Stanley Cup Finals teams require quality netminding and
the Kings and Rangers feature two of the very best in Jonathan Quick
and Henrik Lundqvist.
Quick is a proven post-season performer having claimed the Conn
Smythe trophy as the Stanley Cup playoffs most valuable player in
leading the Kings to their first ever championship two years ago.
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At the other end of the rink, the Rangers' Lundqvist has long been
considered one of the tops in the puck-stopping business, taking
Vezina Trophy honors as the NHL's top netminder in 2012 and
backstopping Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics and a
silver at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
"When it's only two-or-three seconds left and you realize you did
it, it's an unbelievable feeling," said Lundqvist after the Rangers
cemented their first appearance in the finals since hoisting the cup
in 1994. "But what took us there is the entire team really stepped
up in key moments throughout the year, but especially the playoffs."
Having traded away their captain Ryan Callahan and with new coach
Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have emerged as this season's team of
At the trade deadline New York dealt Callahan to the Tampa Bay
Lightning for Martin St. Louis, a former-league most valuable player
and aging dynamic offensive force who became the Rangers'
When St. Louis's mother suddenly passed away during the East finals
against Montreal, the Rangers rallied around their grieving team
mate, who found comfort and solace on the ice scoring the overtime
winner in Game Four against the Canadiens to keep New York's cup
push on track.
The close-knit Rangers can find similar inspiration up and down
Dominic Moore, who scored the only goal in the 1-0 victory that
eliminated Montreal, sat out the 2012-13 season after losing his
wife to cancer while Derek Stepan played the last two games of the
series with a broken jaw and cannot eat solid food for six weeks.
Like the Rangers, the Kings added a key piece to their post-season
puzzle by acquiring Slovak Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue
Jackets at the trade deadline.
Gaborik, who had just 11 goals during the regular season leads the
playoff in scoring with 12. Only Wayne Gretzky with 15 has scored
more goals for the Kings in a single post-season.
(Editing by Gene Cherry)
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