Los Angeles Kings vs. New York Rangers
Season series: Tied, 1-1.
Difference makers: Kings C Anze Kopitar doesn’t just lead these playoffs in points (24) and assists (19), but likely has been the best defensive forward through the first three rounds. If he’s not the front-runner to win the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, it might only be because teammate Drew Doughty, who leads all defensemen with 16 points, has been typically brilliant. New York G Henrik Lundqvist, who has set a franchise record with 42 career playoff victories, will have to be at his best to make an upset possible, but that’s hardly out of the question. Although Rangers D Ryan McDonagh wasn’t much of a force for the first 10 or 11 playoff games, he has been excellent since and put up 10 points in six games against Montreal in the Eastern Conference final.
Special teams: Los Angeles has a lethal power play with a success rate of 25.4 percent and C Jeff Carter (four man-advantage goals) as the top trigger man, but New York’s penalty-killing, which ranks second in the playoffs with a success rate of 85.9 percent, is formidable. The Rangers have been ordinary at best with the extra man, converting 13.6 percent of their opportunities, although the Kings defense hardly has been airtight while short-handed (81.2).
Noteworthy: New York’s biggest edge in the series will be having three more days of rest than the Kings, who barely survived a seven-game classic against Chicago. … The Kings are the first team in Stanley Cup history to reach the final by winning three Games 7 on the road. … If strength down the middle really matters, the Kings — with Kopitar, Carter and Mike Richards — have a significant edge, although New York’s lines are well-balanced. … New York LW Rick Nash scored three times in the Eastern final after being shut out during the first two rounds. … This is the first time Los Angeles will have home-ice advantage in these playoffs. … Travel hasn’t been as big an issue for the Kings as it might be in most springs because their first two series were contested inside California, against San Jose and Anaheim. … Los Angeles is 7-0 in elimination games this spring, and New York is 4-0, including three victories against the Penguins. … Rangers C Dominic Moore has two of his team’s 12 game-winning goals in these playoffs. That matches his total from his past 157 regular-season games. … Kings RW Marian Gaborik, a former Ranger, leads the playoffs with 12 goals after getting just 11 in the regular season. … New York D Dan Girardi has blocked 50 shots, second most in the league. … Los Angeles is the first team in playoff history to reach the final after playing the maximum 21 games during Rounds 1-3. … New York is 10-0 when leading after two periods. … If the series goes seven games, keep an eye on Kings RW Justin Williams. He has played in seven of them, piling up seven goals and seven assists. … None of the top eight faceoff men in these playoffs will compete in this series. … Both teams won in the other’s building in the regular season. … Doughty (31) and McDonagh (26) rank first and third in the league in giveaways.
Who will win: Kings in six. Because they shouldn’t have to play seven in every series, right?