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The term “puck luck” has been one running wild around New York and Los Angeles recently. The Rangers felt the Kings had it during the first three games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals, and now the tide has drastically turned.
The New York Rangers defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, in Game 4 of the finals on Wednesday night, keeping their season alive. What’s funny (and what makes this game so special), is that the question of who the better team was that night is a unanimous answer: the Kings. From the moment Dustin Brown scored around the midway mark of the game, the Kings dominated the Rangers the rest of the way. They were induced with excitement and pure determination. They kept coming and coming and coming.
Henrik Lundqvist however showed his true worth in grand style as he was visibly tired after facing over 40 L.A. shots in the game. In his last 10 games when his team is facing elimination, Lundqvist is 8-2, with a .953 save percentage and 1.38 goals against average, according to The Star-Ledger. Ridiculous numbers for a clutch goalie.
Regardless of how silly Lundqvist gets in elimination games, these Finals do not become an actual series unless both teams are flying back to New York on Saturday morning for Game 6 in New York City.
Currently though, Game 5 is the task at hand for both teams. An admittedly obvious statement is coming up, but if the Rangers play like they did in Game 4, they will get spanked and L.A. will hoist the cup tonight. The tough thing to determine is what will happen because the games the Rangers have played well in (Games 1 and 2), have gone to the Kings in overtime.
The Kings play so smart in the second halves of these games. Their experience and coaching lends to smart, aggressive play that is allowed by NHL Playoff standards. They know fewer penalties are called late in games and they take advantage of it with their size. The Rangers must realize and copy this attribute if they’re going to have any shot.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault juggled his lines a bit in Game 4. He bumped Brad Richards back to the fourth line while moving up Dominic Moore to play with Chris Kreider and Marty St. Louis, notes USA Today. Dan Girardi once again struggled against the L.A. outside speed, and the point-men on the power play gave up too many anxious moments. If this continues, then New York is doomed.
Despite L.A.’s dominance in their Game 4 loss, Rangers fans can hang their hats on “the king” and this team’s uncanny ability to play on the road and stave off elimination. It will be the ultimate test tonight (to see if they can force a Game 6 on Monday night in New York City). One that New Yorkers would love to see, and the league is begging to see.
Image courtesy of Jennifer Graylock/INFphoto.com