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Stanley Cup Finals open Wednesday in L.A.
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Published: 6/4/2014  at  9:27:00 AM
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Stanley Cup Finals
Game 1
Puck Drops: Wednesday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -150, New York +130, Total: 5

The Stanley Cup Finals get underway on Wednesday night as the Kings and Rangers square off at Staples Center.

These two teams played each other twice in the regular season, with each team winning on the road. Los Angeles continues to live on borrowed time this postseason, as needed overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to defeat the Blackhawks, 5-4. The Kings have had to earn everything in the playoffs, with all three of their series going to a deciding Game 7. In the first series of the playoffs, L.A. was down 3-games-to-none to the Sharks before coming back with four consecutive victories to advance to the next round. In that second-round series with the Ducks, the Kings fell behind 3-2 in the series before prevailing in Game 6 and then at Anaheim in Game 7. But now the Kings will go up against a team that has had a similar path to the Stanley Cup. New York went to seven games in both of its first two series (versus Flyers and Penguins) before defeating the Canadiens in six games. The second series saw them overcome a 3-1 deficit against Pittsburgh, winning twice in a row on the road. The Rangers will start this series on the road, where the team has had some solid success this postseason (6-4), while the Kings have been just about average at home (5-4). Neither of these clubs are juggernauts on the offensive end. The Rangers ranked 18th during the regular season in scoring (2.61 goals per game), while the Kings were even worse at 26th in scoring (2.41 goals per game). But L.A. has been much better in the playoffs with an NHL-best 3.48 goals per game, while New York has enjoyed a slight uptick to 2.70 goals per game. However, both of these teams are terrific on the defensive end, mainly the play of the goalies. The Kings allowed only 2.05 goals per game (1st in the NHL) in the regular season, while the Rangers rank 4th at 2.32 goals per game, a number that has improved to 2.25 GPG this postseason (2nd in NHL). The goalie battle between elite netminders Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist will go a long way in determining which team is going to get the victory.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist (12-7, 2.03 GAA, .928 SV Pct. in playoffs) was awful in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals when he stopped just 15-of-19 shots before being pulled, but he bounced back with an 18-save shutout in the series-clinching, 1-0 victory against the Canadiens. The shutout was his first of the playoffs after registering five shutouts during the regular season. The Kings power-play attack has been strong in the playoffs (25.4% success rate), but that will be put to the test against the second-best power play defense. The Rangers have allowed only nine power play goals in 64 power-play opportunities (85.9%). Offensively, RW Martin St. Louis (six goals, seven assists in playoffs) has been the leader during the season, and he brings championship pedigree to the Rangers. C Derek Stepan (five goals, eight assists, +2 rating in playoffs) and D Ryan McDonagh (three goals, 10 assists, minus-2 rating in playoffs) have both provided the Rangers with some great moments on the offensive end. McDonagh has also been the workhorse with a team-high 25:12 of average ice time in the playoffs. However, if New York is going to have a chance, it will have to get a much stronger performance from the rest of the offensive unit.

The Kings are led by goalie Jonathan Quick (12-9, 2.86 GAA, .906 SV Pct. in playoffs). Quick has not been at his very best this postseason, but the 28-year-old has a Stanley Cup win on his resume from 2012, and showed throughout the regular season that he is still as good of goaltender as there is in the NHL (27-17-4, 2.07 GAA and .915 SV Pct.). However, it has been the play of the offense that has made the Kings such a dangerous team. C Anze Kopitar (five goals, 19 assists, +9 rating in playoffs) and C Jeff Carter (nine goals, 13 assists, +4 rating in playoffs) are the top two point scorers in the NHL playoffs thus far. Add the fact that RW Marian Gaborik (12 goals, seven assists, +6 rating in playoffs) is leading the NHL in postseason goals, and the Kings offensive attack has been absolutely dominating during the postseason run with at least two goals in every game, and at least three goals in each of their past seven contests where they have averaged a whopping 4.8 goals per game. If Quick is able to get back to playing the type of hockey he did in the regular season, with the play of the offense, the Kings are going to be very difficult for the Rangers to beat.

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