For the New York Rangers, down 3-0, it all comes down to Wednesday night’s game four (8pm EST). The Los Angeles Kings, winners of the 2012 Stanley Cup, have seemed unstoppable and are looking to sweep the Rangers for the first time since 2007. History is on the side of the Kings no doubt as only three previous times has an NHL team overcome a 0-3 deficit.
It may not seem that way, but the Rangers haven’t played that poorly over the course of these finals. In fact they actually had chances to win both games one and two but let 2-0 leads slip away late. Ultimately, the failures late in the game cost New York two vital and winnable games as both were lost in overtime.
While the results didn’t go the Rangers’ way, the silver lining is that the team can play well enough to compete with and beat the Kings. Their problem has just been playing at that level for a full 60 minutes and three or more periods of hockey.
The Rangers are suffering from what looks like fatigue and break down. The team has excelled in the first period of all three games and have started with two goal leads in two of those games. Each time however, they have allowed the Kings to get back into it, giving up easy goals and offering sloppy defense.
If New York fails to make history as just the second team to come back from this kind of deficit in the finals, they will remember game two especially. The Rangers entered the third period with a two goal lead after getting four past Jonathan Quick (pictured), a feat in and of itself. But whereas the Rangers weren’t clutch, Quick was. He didn’t allow another goal to land in the net for the Rangers and watched as the Kings evened the game with less than 10 minutes left in the final period.
It was the defense and the goaltending of New York that came up short as Henrik Lundquist gave up the game winner in the second overtime. Kudos to Lundquist though because he did stop 39 of the 44 shots fired at him.
Where there’s a Quick, There’s a Way
The Kings’ Stanley Cup victory, second in three years, will largely be because of Quick, who right now is probably the best goaltender in the league.
During the regular season, Quick had a save percentage of 92% with a 2.07 GAA. Over his career, those numbers are just a shade under that at 2.28 GAA. Once again, his career save percentage is 92%. In the playoffs in recent years, he has been even better, leading the Kings with a postseason 2.24 GAA and 93% shots saved. He also has an incredible nine shut outs in just 74 games which averages out to one in every eight.
His shut out in game three was just another example of Quick’s prowess. He has been at his best late in games and continues to stifle the Rangers at every turn. There is no reason to expect this to change and even if he does allow a few goals to slip in, it probably won’t be enough for the Rangers to do the impossible.
The Rangers lost their offense and clearly, the Kings have found it. Offensively the Kings averaged just 2.4 goals a game which was good enough for eighth worst in the NHL. They converted just 15.1% of power play opportunities which was also seventh worst in the league. Typically, those aren’t qualities you find in a Stanley Cup champion team. But with a league leading GAA of two and a penalty kill of a tick over 83%, what the Kings lacked in offense they made up for it in defense. It is like they say, defense, no matter the sport, wins championships.
No doubt LA has the defense but somewhere along the line in this postseason they have found their offense as well. In 2012, this was a team that effectively won the cup because of their high powered offense and fortunately for them, it seems they have gotten it back just in time to send the Rangers home, tails between their legs.
Since facing elimination in game six of the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Kings have scored 45 goals in 11 games which averages out to over four goals a game.
The Rangers meanwhile, who fell in the middle of the pack offensively during the regular season, have scored just 36 goals in 12 games since facing elimination in their conference quarterfinals. It is an impressive 3.2 goals a game, one more goal than they averaged during the regular season, but it hasn’t been enough, especially considering LA’s shut down defense.
Where’s the Power Play?
Both teams didn’t exactly have great power play numbers during the regular season but for the Rangers especially, the power play this postseason has been nearly non-existent. The team has scored just once in 14 attempts.
The lack of scoring with the extra man has been detrimental to the Rangers’ hopes of winning the Stanley Cup as late in games, the team has not converted with opportunities. Of course some of that credit has to go to Quick, who has excelled, but at the same time, New York has failed to come up with the big goal when they need it most.
Los Angeles Kings vs New York Rangers Game 4 Betting Picks
The Kings went from the brink of disaster after falling 0-3 in the first round, faced elimination again in the second and also in the third. They are the first team to have faced elimination in every round en route to the Stanley Cup. And of course now, it is theirs to win.
I fully expect the Kings to bring this home but I think they will do so at home. There is no way the Rangers allow LA to sweep them, especially at Madison Square Garden. That would deflate the franchise more than it has been in a long time.