Drop everything you have planned for this weekend, STX will be making a stop at Great Skate this coming weekend. You’ll be able to test out the newest Surgeon and Stallion sticks along with the matching gloves in Great Skate’s shooting range.
STX will have the new Surgeon RX2 and Stallion 600 on hand along with the rest of their stick line which includes the RX2.1, RX2.2, Surgeon 400 and 200 sticks. While you’re testing out the new STX sticks you’ll also have the ability to try out STX’s impressive glove line.
STX currently offers two glove models, the traditional fit Stallion and the taper fit Surgeon. Much like the Vapor and Nexus lines from Bauer, the Surgeon and Stallion lines use a similar familial design and feature package.
For players who prefer a tighter fitting glove not unlike a lacrosse glove, the Surgeon is ideal. Brand new, it fits very snug to your hand without restricting mobility. As the glove breaks in there is plenty of play but it remains a unified fit. The Surgeon, meanwhile, has the fit and feel of a traditional four roll glove despite a more modern design.
Of course, the stars of this weekend’s STX Demo Day will be the twigs. You’ll get a chance to get your hands on the brand new STX Surgeon RX2. The Surgeon RX2 is a revolutionary new stick that has completely changed the traditional design of a hockey stick. Using a new, rounded/concave shaft design, the new Surgeon stick looks more like a lacrosse shaft than a hockey stick. However, this is more than just a gimmick.
The new shaft design of the Surgeon RX2 is designed to create more points of contact with the palm of your hand, ensuring greater control and power when shooting or stickhandling.
While at the STX Demo Day be sure to enter the various raffles and contests on hand which will allow you to win a number of prizes including a brand new Surgeon stick. You’re not going to want to miss this opportunity as the STX Demo Day runs all weekend at Great Skate.
The Maple Leafs and Senators got the trade season started early this year, pulling a nine-player swap that included Dion Phaneuf in the mix. With the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline approaching there are big names making the rounds in the rumor mill and we’re likely to see at least one shocker before the deadline passes on February 29.
Here’s a look at the top ten players who are at going to come up in rumors and may just be wearing a different uniform come March.
Jonathan Drouin – Like fellow Bolt Steven Stamkos, Drouin has been talked about quite a bit this season. His current suspension by the club likely damaged his trade value quite a bit and the Lightning are in a very difficult position given both Stamos and Drouin (a pair of lottery picks) are two of the most popular trade chips in the entire league. If Drouin isn’t gone by the 29th I’d be shocked.
Eric Staal –The Hurricanes are only a handful of points out of a Wild Card spot and parting ways with their captain wouldn’t be the best way to continue that playoff push. But Staal and Cam Ward are both expected to hit the free agent market this summer and the Hurricanes would be wise to cash in rather than losing the pair for nothing.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – RNH has only been whispered about here and there as the season has progressed. Most of the chatter surrounding the former first overall pick has been due to the emergence of Leon Draisaitl at center. Should Peter Chiarelli choose to trade RNH it would likely be to secure help on the blue line as the Oilers look to finish their rebuild.
Loui Eriksson – While the Bruins are in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, Ericsson’s contract demands may not meet what the Bruins are willing to invest moving forward. Should that be the case, taking advantage of Ericsson’s strong season would provide Boston great return for the future.
Dan Hamhuis – The Canucks were said to be on the fence between buying and selling ahead of the deadline. While they haven’t fallen out of the playoff race yet, injuries to Brendan Sutter and Alex Edler could seal their fate. Should the Canucks decide to build rather than rent, Hamhuis could be on his way out.
Jamie McGinn – The Sabres Swiss Army Knife winger has played on every line for the team this year while sitting on the team’s number one power play unit. While the Sabres would probably be better off re-signing McGinn as they attempt to transition out of the league basement, his strong season could mean an impressive return for Tim Murray to play with.
Justin Schultz – Once the hottest college free agent, Schultz hasn’t fully converted into the player most scouts and pundits expected him to be at the NHL level. His place on one of the league’s weakest defense corps likely has a lot to do with his average returns but he could easily be a deadline casualty as the Oilers look to improve on the back end. He was even scratched earlier in the month as it was rumored a trade was imminent. I don’t expect him to be in Edmonton beyond March 1.
Keith Yandle – The Rangers are in a tough spot as Ryan McDonagh is banged up and they can’t afford to lose another strong NHL defenseman. However, the Rangers paid a hefty price to acquire Yandle and as a pending free agent it is thought that the Blueshirts may be looking to recoup some of their investment. Given that the Rangers Cup window is probably closing, I’d be amazed to see Yandle traded, but expect to see his name attached to plenty of e4 reports and more.
Mikkel Boedker – Boedker is expected to ask for a big contract this summer which could alter Don Maloney’s approach in keeping his team in the Western Conference playoff hunt. The return he could get for one of the leading scorers on the Coyotes roster. It’s hard to see Maloney parting ways with Boedker given Arizona’s place in the standings. However, the return would likely rival that of Keith Yandle from last year’s deadline.
At this point the Phaneuf trade may wind up being the biggest blockbuster of the trade season but that could easily change if Stamkos winds up waiving his no trade clause. The deadline is always entertaining and I don’t doubt this year will be any different.
The next evolution of the CCM skate line has arrive. The CCM JetSpeed skates are on the Great Skate shelves today. The new skate places a focus on increased footspeed thanks to a brand new fit profile.
While the JetSpeed features a similar graphics package and look to the RBZ skates line but that’s just about where the similarities end. The RBZ featured a very comfortable, wide boot design which actually ran a good size bigger than most other skates on the market. While the RBZ offered a number of impressive features, the overall fit wasn’t conducive to increased footspeed.
The entire fit profile is different in the JetSpeed skate. The narrow boot features an improved heel lock and low volume design to ensure a contoured fit. CCM’s Rocketframe composite heel construction wraps fully around the heel and promotes a snug fit in the heel and up through the ankle.
Along with Rocketframe, the Speedcore 2 heat moldable boot creates a truly unique fit for each and every player once the skates come out of the over. The contoured boot is promoted through the Speedcore 2 construction. The narrow toe and forefoot area continues the contoured, anatomic fit profile of the skate.
All of this ensures that the JetSpeed skates are the most responsive skates on the market. With a more responsive skate, you can count on a quicker power transfer and more explosive starts and stops.
CCM also developed a new tongue for the JetSpeed skates. The JetProtect tongue is a multi-layered feature that features a thick, pro-style felt backing with a hard shell on the outermost layer to provide additional protection.
The Speedblade 4.0 holder and Hyperglide runner return as mainstays of the entire CCM skate line.
Nothing is more drastic in difference or performance than the new contoured fit, however. The stiff carbon boot construction is built to react to each and every stride taken on the ice, giving players next level speed and responsiveness.
Both Bauer athletes, Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos utilize similar pieces of Bauer gear, although they’re hardly uniform in the choices they make.
Bauer 4500 helmet – A favorite amongst many NHLers, the 4500 is short on frills but long on comfort. The VN foam liner is the type used by nearly every player in the NHL and the 4500’s classic look means it passes the mirror test 10 out of 10 times.
Bauer Supreme TotalOne NXG gloves – An elite faceoff man and sublime offensive threat, Toews relies on the snug, tapered fit of the TotalOne line. While he hasn’t graduated to the new TotalOne MX3 gloves just yet, the TotalOne NXG isn’t short on features. The anatomically designed fit gives a tight fit on the back of the hand that is reinforced with Bauer’s Poron XRD foam. The three-piece index finger and pro segmented cuff are ideal for mobility and responsiveness and perfect for a player whose puck handling, shooting and passing are the highlights of his skillset.
Bauer Vapor APX2 skates – Bauer’s elite skate line, the APX2 is ultra-lightweight and the preferred skate of countless pros and elite players. The X-Rib design stabilizes the boot with additional stiffness and structure while the Curv composite boot construction ensures massive weight savigns. The APX2 also introduced Bauer’s new Lightspeed Edge TUUK that features a quick change trigger for easy steel replacement.
Bauer Nexus 8000 – The Nexus line is designed for a balanced look and feel compared to the durable, power of the Supreme line and the lightweight agility of the Vapor line. The Nexus remains incredibly light and utilizes a mid-kick profile that is not unlike that of the TotalOne stick. The Pure Shot blade profile promotes a stiffer blade profile to prevent twisting on passes or shots, creating a more accurate release time after time.
Bauer 4500 helmet – Like Toews, Stamkos uses the classic 4500 helmet. The classic design is low key and the helmet’s profile is narrow. You can’t go wrong in the looks department with the 4500.
Bauer Supreme TotalOne NXG gloves – Like his fellow captain, Stamkos chooses the TotalOne NXG gloves on a nightly basis. One of the league’s elite pure scorers, Stamkos likely favors the snug, responsive fit that the TotalOne’s anatomic design offers. These are a perfect glove for snipers who prefer their glove and hand to move as one while they pick corners on the powerplay.
Bauer Vapor 1X skates – Graduating to the newest release from Bauer, Stamkos certainly sees benefits from the lightest skate that Bauer offers at this time. The Vapor 1X skates utilizes Bauer’s revolutionary new 37.5 material in the liner to assist in moisture absorption and evaporation. Bauer has improved on the X-rib design from the APX line while still utilizing super light Curv composite through the entire boot. The Lightspeed Edge remains as the holder but a new blade provides a better angle of attack than previous offerings.
Bauer Supreme TotalOne MX3 stick – As one of the league’s best scorers, Stamkos often capitalizes on off wing slap shots on the powerplay. His heavy, lethal shot is enhanced by the TotalOne MX3 stick thanks to the mid-kick and double concave construction. The double concave taper is designed to minimize torsion during shots to not only increase accuracy but to create improved power transfer through the shaft.
After over 1100 games, we have finally reached the peak of the NHL season. The Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning survived seven-game series in their respective Conference Finals in order to advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
It’s a tale of two teams as the Blackhawks return to the final for the third time since 2010 while the Lightning return for their second ever Stanley Cup appearance. Chicago has carved out a true dynasty – or as close to a dynasty that you can come to – in the salary cap era. The Blackhawks three Cup appearances include an addition to two Conference Final defeats (2009 & 2014) to pair with seven-straight playoff berths.
Tampa Bay came within one game of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, losing out to Boston at the TD Garden but have not seen such success since. Their first round exit last year at the hands of Montreal ended a two-year playoff drought. However, Tampa’s skilled core is similar to that of the Blackhawks as both teams have built through the top and middle of the draft effectively while supplementing their rosters via the trade market.
Why Tampa Will Win
Tampa Bay boasts the most lethal line in this year’s playoffs and Steven Stamkos isn’t even part of the trio. The Triplets – comprised of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat – have driven the Bolts through the first three rounds as Johnson appears to be a strong favorite for the Conn Smythe. Stamkos, along with Alex Killorn and Valteri Flippula gives Tampa an impressive one-two punch that has been very difficult to defend.
Victor Hedman has been a handful in each round as he’s played a 200-foot game and has been in on a number of vital scoring plays thus far. He’s been eating minutes for the Lightning but hasn’t been overloaded thanks to John Cooper’s penchant for dressing seven defensemen.
The seven defensemen, 12 forwards line up has allowed Cooper to limit matchups and stay in control of who his players are on the ice against and when. It has also given the Lightning an extra option on the back end in case of injury or poor play. While the decision is certainly unique, it has paid off in spades for the Bolts thus far.
Ben Bishop would probably be given the edge by most in the goaltending matchup this series and he’ll need to come through in the clutch to push Tampa Bay to their second Cup championship. He has had his struggles this postseason but has also shut things down when necessary. He may be the most important piece for Tampa as they enter the series.
Why Chicago Will Win
The Blackhawks are a well read book at this point. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and company have all walked this path before. Nearly this exact roster was one goal from playing in the Cup Final last year and nothing should be expected to shake this group at this point.
Like Tampa Bay, Chicago’s depth makes them difficult to defend. When you can pick from a group of Toews, Kane, Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, Teuvo Teravainen, Antoine Vermette and Brad Richards, things are going well. The Hawks sport more than their fair share of 200-foot players and don’t be surprised to see one of Tampa’s two big lines shutout for most of this series.
The only potential hiccup for the Hawks could come on the backend. Keith, Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have seen big minutes through the first three rounds and that isn’t about to change. While the Hawks have rotated others through, they’ve played four defensemen for a majority of their series. Should that fatigue factor catch up to them, it could be a problem. However, Duncan Keith may or may not be a hockey cyborg who does not tire, so don’t bet against that group just yet.
Corey Crawford’s play this postseason has been erratic. He was pulled from the Nashville series only to retake the net and lead a comeback in the first round. He has been solid but not spectacular through the second and third rounds and now faces another strong offensive group. Should he continue his strong play, he’ll tip the scales in Chicago’s favor. If he struggles, there may not be enough runway left for the Blackhawks to recover.
This ought to be an incredibly fun series. The Lightning have shown the ability to adapt to their opponents and play a very entertaining game. Chicago has been here and done that, but their impressive skillset makes them an easy favorite. While many will be quick to point to the goaltending as the biggest showdown, how Tampa handles Chicago’s depth is what will set this series apart for me.
If the Bolts manage to keep The Triplets and the Stamkos line clicking, they might just run away with the Cup. But if Chicago silences even one of those two groups, it will be an easy win for the Windy City. I’m not betting against the Blackhawks depth, Chicago in 7.
CCM is the legendary hockey brand fueled by endless pursuit of
performance. For over a century, CCM has been there for players from the first time they step on ice to the pinnacle of their careers. Today, CCM continues to draw inspiration from its rich history by offering the innovation and performance that will help write the next chapter in the history of the game.
The only way to reach JetSpeed is with our new RocketFrame technology. The composite shell was meticulously designed to wrap closely around the foot and greatly improve heel lock. From there, the lightest components were carefully selected to complement the RocketFrame and provide maximum foot speed. The RocketFrame Composite is a fully shaped composite shell provides advanced
contoured support including improved heel lock for maximum speed. JetSpeed Tongue is designed with the pro in mind, multi layer
construction for enhanced lace bite protection without sacrificing comfort. Heat Moldedale Speedcore 2 Plus Optimized contour shape with heat moldable technology that allows customized support for unique foot shape.
Check out the new Jetspeed Skates exclusively at Greatskate.com. CCM Jetspeed Skates coming in July!
CCM is the legendary hockey brand fueled by endless pursuit of performance. For over a century, CCM has been there for players from the first time they step on ice to the pinnacle of their careers. Today, CCM continues to draw inspiration from its rich history by offering the innovation and performance that will help write the next chapter in the history of the game.
The brand new Ultra Tacks is the lightest, best balanced, and most durable stick we have ever created. The new Ultra Attack Frame blade is incredibly light without sacrificing torsional or bending stiffness, so you have a lightweight product with amazing precision and accuracy. The innovative Bumper Technology reinforces the corners of the shaft for outstanding durability and consistency.
The ULTRA ATTACK FRAME is the lightest blade we have ever made but still provides very high levels of both torsional and bending stiffness. The result is an incredibly light and well balanced product with more accuracy, better precision, and amazing consistency.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Until proven otherwise, the Penguins boast the world’s best player and another dynamic superstar who is likely in the top-5. Changes behind the bench and along the blueline defined Pittsburgh’s offseason and as the reigning division winner I expect to see much of the same from the Pens. Marc-Andre Fleury is perhaps their biggest question mark but his play was far more stable last year than in 2012-13. The Penguins still sit atop the Metro Division and will be in the President’s Trophy conversation if Fleury plays well.
New York Rangers – The Rangers seem to have found a way to improve but stay nearly the exact same team as last year. They unloaded the contract of Brad Richards, re-upped with their key core players and made some interesting signings. They also let a key player walk in Anton Stralman and will not be without Derek Stepan for a number of weeks. They still have the world’s best goaltender and an impressive blue line. The addition of Dan Boyle ought to give their power play a nice jolt and should Stepan return from injury in full form, they’ll be a formidable opponent again this year.
Columbus Blue Jackets – A slightly tumultuous offseason followed a very promising 13-14 season for the Jackets. Another serious injury to Nathan Horton is likely to shelve the forward for some time while Ryan Johansen remains unsigned. Sergei Bobrovsky has proven that he wasn’t just a one year wonder and has been dominant at times for Columbus. This is still a team whose parts don’t eclipse the sum of its whole. Johansen is the star in waiting and Horton is perhaps their biggest name and it looks as if they’ll be without each to start the year. However, I still count on the Jackets to improve and finish third in the Metro.
Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux could wrap himself in bubble wrap each summer and manage to get injured ahead of camp. This year’s ailment is far less severe than the cut tendon he suffered last year, but he probably won’t be 100% at the start of the year. As is always the case, the Flyers will live and die with their goaltending. Steve Mason, despite his improvement last year, still doesn’t represent a confidence inspiring goaltender and if his play is average the Flyers will be as well. Philadelphia made an interesting decision in parting ways with Scott Hartnell and they could have a little trouble scoring goals in some areas. I still expect to see him in a wild card spot, but they’ll be battling down to the wire for it.
New York Islanders – The stats say that even with average goaltending the Islanders would have been an average team last year. The arrival of Jaroslav Halak should represent the improvement between the pipes that the Isles need to improve in the win column. John Tavares headlines a young, talented forward group who will be able to provide the necessary goal support for their new netminder. There may be a few defensive question marks that remain but the Isles have a lot of youth to be excited about. I’m expecting to see them finish just shy of the wild card.
New Jersey Devils – Like the Islanders, the Devils should have been far better than their record showed last year. However, their inability to win a single shootout cost them a number of wins and a number of precious points in the standings. In fact, those shootout losses accounted for more than enough points to make the playoffs had they found a way to win. Ultimately I think the Devils fall short of a playoff berth this year. Not because they haven’t improved but because they’re in a deep division that will be tough to succeed in.
Washington Capitals – I’m expecting regression for the Capitals this year. They overpaid both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen and I’m not sure they represent the defensive improvement the Capitals need. Niskanen will likely rack up power play points as he feeds one timers to Alex Ovechkin but I still think he was able to cash in on a big year on a great team. The Capitals still have a number of holes to fill and I don’t think they plugged each of them last year.
Carolina Hurricanes – Carolina wasn’t going to be a great team before Jordan Stall was injured. With Staal on the shelf for upwards of four months, the Hurricanes are closer to the Connor McDavid sweepstakes than they are to competing for a playoff spot. Depth and goaltending are among the biggest question marks they will deal with and with rumors of Eric Staal being available via trade doesn’t help those who are worried about the outlook for the Canes.
Boston Bruins – Much in the same way the Penguins will likely earn the Metro Crown, the Bruins enter the year as the prohibitive favorite in the Atlantic. No team has demonstrated that they’re better over the course of a season and I don’t expect that to change this year. While Zdeno Chara is beginning to show signs of aging, the Bruins are far too well constructed for that to be a major issue. The Bruins will have the first seed in the east at the end of the year and will likely be the team who is predicted to represent the East in the Cup Final.
Tampa Bay Lightning – The Bolts bolstered their lineup this offseason with some very smart moves. Anton Stralman is a possession driving two-way defenseman and Jason Garrison will add another dynamic to the power play. Ryan Callahan will be on board for a full season and should Steven Stamkos stay healthy he’ll likely lead the league in goal scoring. It’s possible that the Bolts would have knocked off the Canadiens in the playoffs had Ben Bishop been healthy and he’ll be a big part of any success Tampa has this season. They probably don’t have enough to get by Boston in the Atlantic, but I won’t be surprised to see them in the conference finals.
Montreal Canadiens – PK Subban is under contract, PA Parentau is in the fold (coming over in a great trade for Marc Bergevin) and Carey Price is still Carey Price. I still wonder about their play at center, but the Habs were impressive down the stretch last year and managed to knock off the Bruins on their way to the conference finals. I think Tampa took more steps forward this offseason, so I don’t see Montreal’s spot in the standings changing at all, but they’ll most certainly be a playoff team.
Detroit Red Wings – There’s a strong possibility that the standings in the Atlantic are the exact same this year. The Red Wings are still a strong club but they’re aging. They have a quality goaltender, one of the game’s most dangerous two-way players and a supporting cast that doesn’t have too many holes. They’re still flimsy on the blueline and it seems that their Eastern Conference rivals have done more to improve in the offseason. They’re still a full head better than Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo and Florida which means they’ll be in the thick of the wild card race.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Toronto has been funny to watch the last couple seasons. They overachieved and took Boston to seven games two years ago. Then they couldn’t maintain last season and were on the outside looking in. The Leafs will live and die with Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel and James van Reimsdyk. I’m waiting to see if Jake Gardiner has a breakout season or if he’s stuck in the dog house again. There is some quality talent in Toronto and if the chips fall right they could certainly leap frog Detroit for a wild card spot.
Ottawa Senators – I don’t see the Senators being a very good team this year. In fact, they are going to rely heavily on Craig Anderson to win them games based on their offseason work. Not only do I expect to see them miss the playoffs, I have a sneaking suspicion that Bobby Ryan will head out the door in free agency in the summer. Kyle Turris and Ryan should form a nice duo up front and Erik Karlsson remains one of the elite offensive defensemen in the world. However, there isn’t too much depth on the roster and I see this year as a step back for the Sens.
Florida Panthers – Dale Tallon still has plenty of work to do in Southern Florida. Aaron Ekblad is a very nice addition. He, along with other lottery picks Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov will help drive the club. The Panthers do have some very impressive talent on their roster but it ultimately feels incomplete in some areas. Roberto Luongo’s presence alone should account for a number of wins and while the Panthers may not make any progress moving up in the Atlantic, I can see them beating out at least two teams from the Metro in the conference standings.
Buffalo Sabres – The Sabres were woefully short on goal scoring last year. They also happened to be woefully short on defense, the power play and penalty killing. Before and after Ryan Miller’s departure the goaltending was strong, but that was really one of the few silver linings from last year. The Sabres did a lot of work to bring in more veteran support and skill and that will account for a few things. First, a full year of Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta will help in the locker room and on the scoreboard. Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart are both in contract years and have looked motivated in the preseason. The defense corps is an interesting group as Ted Nolan is going to have some very difficult decisions to make regarding his lineup. The Sabres lone competition this season will be for last place, although the hockey should be a bit more tolerable this time around.
Bauer reigns supreme at the Stanley Cup Final as the equipment giant can claim it is getting the most usage in each major gear category at the Final.
The only close category is sticks, which is the only category in which Bauer doesn’t hold over 50% of the usage. Their 42% share still towers over the next closest manufacturer (Easton) who slots in at 17%. It shouldn’t be too surprising to see the stick category as the most diverse in terms of usage as every manufacturer offers a number of similar, elite products. In fact, Bauer’s dominance in the category is based on their three different lines as opposed to one singular product as is seen by the overwhelming number of players wearing Vapor skates.
One other category that isn’t illustrated above is goaltender equipment. With David LeNeveu currently serving as the Ragners’ backup, there is a 50-50 split between Vaughn and Bauer users. If and when Cam Talbot returns, Vaughn will hold the majority (Quick and Jones) with Bauer and Reebok each having one goaltender wearing their equipment.
To further break down the goaltending category, Lundqvist and Talbot each wear Bauer helmets, Jones wears Pro’s Choice and Quick uses Sportmask.
These are always fun graphics to look at just to see the vast diversity of equipment used by each player. Try to figure out who is wearing what over the rest of the series so you can line up individuals with the graphic above.
The NHL couldn’t have planned things any better for the 2014 Stanley Cup Final as the nation’s two biggest media markets will duel against one another for the Cup as the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings start the final series of the year on Wednesday.
Los Angeles managed to squeak by the Chicago Blackhawks after jumping out to a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final while the Rangers dispatched the Montreal Canadiens in six games after Carey Price was put on the shelf with an injury.
The early returns on the matchup has many fans and experts pointing to the Kings as the expected champs, giving Los Angeles their second Cup in three years. However, the Rangers have more than enough depth and firepower to not only give the Kings a run but even bring the Cup back to the Big Apple.
Henrik Lundqvist will need to serve as the factor that lifts the Rangers to the Cup as I feel that Los Angeles holds a decided edge in nearly every other facet of the game. Lundqvist has been superb this season while Jonathan Quick has had to work through some struggles and consistency issues over the Kings 21 previous games.
One factor that many are pointing to is that Los Angeles has needed seven games to get through all three of their series while the Rangers are enjoying a bit more rest. However, the Rangers needed seven games against both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia while taking six more to get by Montreal. So they’ve only played one game fewer than the Kings while going through more travel in the first two rounds than the Kings did in their first two series.
It is understandable that the mental exhaustion pushing against the Kings has likely grown in each round as they rallied from a 3-0 deficit against San Jose, battled through a back-and-forth affair against their cross-town rivals and then had to endure a marathon against the Blackhawks. The Rangers have had slightly less stress on their plate, although they had to win three-straight to get by Pittsburgh in the second. So, while the Rangers got to relax on their couches for a few more days after taking the Eastern Conference title, I don’t think they have stores of energy that will help them run LA out of the building on Wednesday.
One intriguing matchup will be how LA’s potent power play fares against New York’s stingy shorthanded unit. The Rangers boast one of the most effective penalty kills in the playoffs while the Kings sit at the top of the league with the extra man. Most of the focus will fall on Lundqvist when the Rangers are shorthanded, but if the Kings lose that portion of their attack it could drastically alter the series.
LA otherwise has a deeper attack and blueline than the Rangers entering the series. The emergence of Dominic Moore, Mats Zuccarello, Benoit Pouliot and Derick Brassard has aided the Rangers along the way, but the forward depth LA possesses is almost unmatched. One you’re past the top line of Brown, Kopitar and Gaborik and the equally impressive That 70’s Line of Pearson, Carter and Toffoli, the Kings still have Dwight King, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards and others to their credit. When you consider that three of LA’s lines are equally impressive in their own end as they are in the attacking zone, it makes them that much more daunting of an opponent.
It’s not all that surprising to see such a terrific roster in LA given that they are two years removed from their first Cup victory and they paced the league in terms of possession for the year. When the defensive depth chart includes Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov and Robyn Regehr there’s a good chance that every unit that hits the ice is going to be effective.
Don’t misunderstand the tire pumping that I’ve given the Kings as an indication that they’re going to breeze through the Final, I just see them as the superior team.
Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis form an impressive forward corps, but I don’t see the same quality of depth in the New York lineup. Once you’re past McDonagh, Girardi and Staal on the backend things seem to get a little thin as well. Overall, the Rangers are a very strong team that are about to showdown with a stronger, more effective squad.