It's time. The 2014 Stanley Cup Finals kick off tonight with the Kings and Rangers doing battle at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. As far as market size and media exposure goes, the NHL could not have asked for much more than this, although a Chicago-New York battle might have been even bigger. The match-up on the ice looks to be a good one too. After watching the first three rounds of the playoffs, these are definitely the best teams in each conference.
This is not the first time the two have tangled in the postseason, but this time it's for all the marbles. They first met in 1979 with the Rangers winning two games to zero in a best-of-three preliminary round match-up. The last time was in 1981, with the Rangers winning the preliminary round meeting three games to one. That series was famous for its brawl-filled game two. During the 2013-14 regular season, the teams faced off twice, with the Rangers getting the best of the Kings by a 3-1 count in Los Angeles on October 7th. Former goalkeeper Ben Scrivens and the Kings posted a 1-0 shutout win at Madison Square Garden on November 17th in the rematch.
Nothing has come easy for Los Angeles his postseason. The Kings have had to go the distance in all three of their series against the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, unbelievably taking the trio of game-sevens on the road.
The series will feature a stellar goaltending duel between two of the league's best in Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 24 points, while Jeff Carter has contributed 9 goals and 13 assists to put himself in contention for the Conn Smythe Trophy. The Rangers spark plug and leading scorer is Martin St. Louis with 13 points. Defenders Drew Doughty and Ryan McDonagh have each had stellar postseasons for their respective clubs that also have them in the running for MVP honors.
This is the Kings third trip to the finals. Los Angeles lost to Montreal in 1993 and won their first Stanley Cup in 2012 against the New Jersey Devils. New York is making its eleventh appearance since entering the league in 1926. The Rangers captured Lord Stanley's chalice in 1928, 1933, 1940, and the last time they played for it, in 1994.
New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings 8 p.m. NBC