Hard to believe Rangers fans were actually booing this guy during the second round just because he hadn't scored yet. The dude was getting a million shots on net. In any case, after scoring three goals in the Eastern Conference finals, those boos have turned to cheers. If the Rangers are going to pull off the upset, the two-time Olympic gold medalist will need to be front and center, his size and strength a needed ingredient against the league's heaviest and most physical team.
Kings: Marian Gaborik
Well you know he's going to love getting his pound of flesh from his former team, the Rangers, who traded him to Columbus before the Jackets traded him to the Kings. The Slovak star is trying to win his first Stanley Cup, so that's really all the motivation he needs, but rubbing it in to the Rangers is going to be even sweeter for him.
Rangers: The battle at center
Kings: Jonathan Quick?
I can't believe I'm even writing that but the truth must be said here: While Quick has stepped up in big games this spring, he has been lit up at times and his numbers show it. The reality is, the Rangers' biggest advantage entering the Stanley Cup playoffs is that King Henrik has had a more consistent and impressive postseason. Lundqvist leads all playoff goalies in save percentage and he's clearly New York's best shot at stealing this series.
Rangers: Martin St. Louis, acquired at the trade deadline, continues to play through his grief and his teammates continue to rally around their teammate, who lost his mother France St. Louis on May 8 but has played brilliantly through the emotional pain. There's just something about this Rangers team in terms of their close-knit dressing room. They're underdogs, they know it, but they will feed off that.
Kings: Down 3-0 to the Sharks in the opening round and 3-2 to the Ducks in the second round, then 2-0 in Game 7 to Chicago on Sunday night, the Kings still came back to win each time, adding to their reputation as clutch playoff warriors. This veteran group has played a lot of playoff hockey in the past three years and they have that hard-earned belief that no matter what happens, they're going to get the job done. It's the kind of confidence that only comes from winning big games. These guys truly believe they'll never lose a series. These guys don't know what pressure is. This is as strong a team mentally as we've seen in a long time.
I would have predicted a five-game win for the Kings had they taken care of business in Game 6 at home against the Blackhawks. Instead, the Kings were taxed to the limit by Chicago, had to fly to Chicago and back, and poured every ounce they had in finishing off the Blackhawks. I feel better about New York making this a series because of it. Still ... West is best. Kings in 7.