As you may have heard, the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings will square off in the Stanley Cup Final, which begins Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
New York and Los Angeles played each other twice during the regular season, with each road team winning. Both games, however, were played before Thanksgiving.
Is there anything we can glean from either one?
“Well, my guess is probably not much,” NHL analyst Kenny Albert said on The MoJo Show. “The game here in Los Angeles was back in October, and I think the thing that stands out from that game was the goal that Ryan McDonagh scored from about 180 feet away. He was in his own zone, shot it up the boards, and it took a funny bounce and Jonathan Quick came out and kind of stumbled and didn’t get back in time. That was a 3-1 Ranger win during their rough stretch in early October, when they started the season on the nine-game road trip. And then they played the Kings in November, and it was a shutout for Ben Scrivens, who the Kings would trade (to Edmonton) in the next couple weeks.”
“So it’s probably not much you can take out of those games. It’s two teams that haven’t played each other very often over the last few years. With the lockout last year, they did not play at all.”
Still, both squads appear evenly matched.
“I think the teams are very similar,” said Albert, who covered each team’s respective conference final. “Great goaltenders, world-class defensemen – you have Drew Doughty on the LA side and Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi (and) Marc Staal on the Ranger side – and both coaches like to play four lines. They’re both so balanced.”
So balanced, in fact, that Albert thinks the series is a toss-up – despite the fact that the Kings are favored (heavily in some circles).
“I think there are a good faction of people that probably do favor the Kings,” Albert said, “but I really think it’s a pretty even series. I do. I think perhaps folks are leaning towards Los Angeles because they won the Cup two years ago and got back to the conference finals last year. But this Ranger team has a lot of playoff experience as well. This is their ninth series in the last three years. Again, I think the teams (are very similar).”
The Kings are favored, in part, because of the outstanding play of Doughty, who had three goals and four assists in the Western Conference Finals, which were riveting from start to finish.
Los Angeles and Chicago combined for a whopping 51 goals.
“It was just tremendous,” Albert said. “(It’s) incredible when you have two goaltenders who won the last two Stanley Cups who are among the best in the league in Quick and (Corey) Crawford. The amount of lead changes (was incredible). You also had 13 instances in the series where goals were scored within two minutes of each other – whether it was by the same team or one by each team. Thirteen times in seven games. It was incredible.”