While it certainly won’t be easy for the Rangers to bring the Stanley Cup back to New York for the first time since ’94, it’s far from impossible. Here are three things that the Blueshirts must do in order to overcome the strong, battle-tested Kings when the puck drops tonight.
Ready, aim, fire
As good as Kings’ goaltender Jonathan Quick is, he has to be a bit fatigued by now. His team has played 21 games this postseason, and they have now gone deep into the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, playing a total of 59 games in that span.
He has faced the most shots of any goaltender this postseason (628), but faltered in his last three games against the Blackhawks, surrendering 13 goals and nearly blowing a 3-1 series lead.
The Rangers must apply pressure and get shots on Quick, and use their speed from players like Martin St. Louis, Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider to generate chances on the rush. If they make him work, he is sure to allow some goals. He sports a pedestrian .906 save percentage this postseason.
Stralman, Staal must shine
The Rangers know what they will get from top defensive pairing Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi, but the second pairing must also perform at a high level.
Anton Stralman and Marc Staal have each logged over 20 minutes per game this postseason and will be relied heavily upon to slow down the Kings offense. Even if Girardi and McDonagh oppose Marian Gaborik’s line, that leaves Staal and Stralman to face “That 70s Line” featuring Jeff Carter, which scored 11 goals and registered 23 points in seven games against Chicago.
Avoid the hits
The Rangers offense relies on the speed of their forwards, and they must make sure to avoid hits this series. The Kings love to take the body, registering a league-leading 898 hits this postseason. The Rangers are second, with 587. Kings winger Dustin Brown leads the league with 104 hits, and he and the Kings’ bruisers will look to wear the Rangers down in this series, and will throw a check whenever they can. Prediction: Rangers in six