Cup finals preview: Kings-Rangers


The New York Rangers will write quite the story if they can capture their first Stanley Cup in 20 years.

Because unless you're been living under an Eastern rock this past year, you know that the Los Angeles Kings are favorites, surviving the journey in the much deeper Western Conference -- aka Big Boy hockey.

The Kings beat San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago to get here, three of the top seven teams in the NHL's overall standings this year.

This is not to disrespect the Rangers at all, they beat the teams they were handed, but those teams don't compare to the A-listers L.A. had to go through.

But where the Rangers may have an edge is that they've been sitting at home waiting for the Western Conference finals to end, getting an extra three days rest, as the Kings failed to close things out in Game 6 at home and had to travel to Chicago and pull out a thrilling Game overtime 7 win.

Where is L.A.'s energy level now? They've played the maximum seven games all three rounds to get here, all three series physically demanding.

New York played one less game, but the Rangers had a nice break before the Cup finals and haven't played as much of a physical brand of hockey.

The series features two of the game's top coaches in Alain Vigneault and Darryl Sutter, different in style but similar in their ultimate result: pushing the right buttons to get the maximum out of their lineups. And they share an important quality: They both have a great feeling for their benches and are excellent at in-game adjustments.

Sutter got the best of Vigneault in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs, the No. 8 seeded Kings beating Vigneault's No. 1 seeded Canucks in five games.

The NHL can only salivate at the marquee matchup it has here, New York and Los Angeles, two big-time markets putting hockey on center stage.

Now it's up to the Rangers to show they can hang with hockey's royalty, the Kings having played the most playoff games of any team in the NHL over the past three years, looking for their second Cup title in that span.

Spotlight On

Rangers: Ryan McDonagh

This is a chance for the Rangers star blueliner to prove he belongs in the same conversation as Kings stud Drew Doughty, the Conn Smythe favorite at this point of the playoffs. McDonagh was incredible in the Eastern Conference finals, putting up 10 points (two goals-eight assists) in six games versus Montreal and playing a key role in the lone goal by Dominic Moore in Game 6. McDonagh's closing speed on attackers is sensational. Now on the national stage, more people will realize what a special player this 24-year-old is.

Kings: Drew Doughty

For my money, there is no better defenseman in the world. He was the best player at the Sochi Olympics and is proving once again that he loves the big stage, playing the best hockey of any player in these Stanley Cup playoffs. Hockey fans in the East who don't get to see him play much are in for a treat. If the Rangers thought handling P.K. Subban was a challenge, get ready for a whole new level. Drew Doughty is the bomb. Plain and simple.

Hero In Waiting

Rangers: Rick Nash

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