46-28-8 (100 points)
1st Rnd: def. San Jose, 4-3
2nd Rnd: def. DUCKS, 4-3
3rd Rnd: def. Chicago, 4-3
New York Rangers
45-31-6 (96 points)
1st Rnd: def. Phil., 4-3
2nd Rnd: def. Pitt., 4-3
3rd Rnd: def. Mont., 4-2
Season Series: 1-1.
Regular season power play: Kings 15.1% (27th), Rangers 18.2% (15th).
Postseason power play: Kings 17-67 (25.4%), Rangers 11-81 (13.6%).
Regular season penalty killing: Kings 83.1% (11th), Rangers 85.3% (third).
Postseason penalty killing: Kings 65-80 (81.2%), Rangers 55-64 (85.9%).
Regular season leading scorers:
Kings: Anze Kopitar 29-41 — 70.
Rangers: Martin St. Louis 30-39 — 69.
Postseason leading scorers:
Kings: Kopitar 5-19 — 24.
Rangers: St. Louis 6-7 — 13.
After going to the limit in the first three rounds and winning three Game 7s on the road, they’re in the unaccustomed position of having home-ice advantage. The Kings have been mentally strong and adaptable: they’ve staved off elimination seven times and defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals despite being forced to match Chicago chance-for-chance much of the time. After a season-long struggle to score goals it’s remarkable to see Kings holding four of the top five playoff scoring totals: After Kopitar come Jeff Carter (nine goals, 22 points), Marian Gaborik (a playoff-high 12 goals and 19 points), and Justin Williams (seven goals, 18 points). Their defense, a strength during the season, has been weak at the third pairing but could be boosted if Robyn Regehr returns from an injury. Goaltender Jonathan Quick (2.86 goals-against average, .906 save percentage) hasn’t been as formidable as he was in earning 2012 playoff MVP honors and the Kings might need him to steal a game or two now.
Their path to the Final has been less dramatic than the Kings’ road, and they’ve had a few more days’ rest since they defeated Montreal in the East finals. Their speed should test the Kings’ sometimes haphazard defense, but the Rangers’ biggest edge might be their goaltending. That sounds odd given Quick’s resume, but the numbers don’t lie. Henrik Lundqvist has a playoff-best .928 save percentage to go with his 2.03 goals-against average, which ranks second. Martin St. Louis has become the heart of this team, which rallied around him recently following the unexpected death of his mother. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi form one of the NHL’s top shutdown defense pairs.
Helene Elliott’s prediction
West will prove to be best. The Rangers might be a little fresher as they try for their first championship since 1994, but the Kings have seemingly bottomless wells of resilience and are still hungry following their 2012 triumph. Kings in six.