The series we’ve all been waiting for is finally here, as the Los Angeles Kings take on the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals. I’ve described my method for picking series winners here, and through the first two rounds I’ve done well, getting nine of the 14 series correct. Let’s get to the last one.
Stanley Cup Final
Los Angeles Kings (mGF% 52.9%) vs. New York Rangers (mGF% 54.2%)
Before the start of the playoffs, I didn’t expect to see either of these teams in the Final; that said, I do expect it to be a good match-up. The Kings are a popular favorite of hockey statisticians, as far and away the best puck possession team in the NHL over the past two seasons. In these playoffs, however, facing three strong opponents in San Jose, Anaheim, and Chicago, they haven’t consistently controlled possession very often. Instead, they’ve been phenomally lucky whenever they’ve needed it most. In the first three rounds, they faced elimination seven times, but got 12.9% shooting and 0.948 goaltending at even-strength in those games. Against Chicago, they continued to enjoy a team shooting percentage above 11%, and a PDO above 1.020. Jonathan Quick has been inconsistent throughout the postseason, and now faces a Rangers team that’s filled the net in these playoffs against the likes of Ray Emery, Steve Mason, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Dustin Tokarski. Los Angeles is decidedly stronger when it comes to driving possession, mostly due to superior shot prevention, and their defensive acumen could pose problems for the Rangers, though New York is capable of driving play very effectively as well. I expect the Kings to carry possession in this series, but not by much. In the Ranger net, Henrik Lundqvist has been outstanding for much of the postseason, and is clearly the stronger goaltender heading into this match-up. Picking against Los Angeles hasn’t treated me well in these playoffs, but I have a hard time believing that they can keep riding the percentages in critical moments the way they have. Facing a goaltender far superior to Antti Niemi, John Gibson, or Corey Crawford, and against yet another superb opponent, my guess is that LA won’t find enough goals to take this series.
Prediction: It’s a coin flip, but New York in six games.