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Due to a lucky confluence of timing, I was able to watch the majority of both conference finals, which was certainly an experience. An LA-New York final is a marketer’s dream, and also my dream because, as has come up before, I have rooted for both teams in the past.
It’s been a great and exciting playoffs thus far. We’ve seen teams reach beyond what we expected of them (Columbus and Dallas); we’ve seen teams that are on the upswing take further steps towards potential greatness (Colorado and Montreal); and we’ve seen teams we are accustomed to viewing as champions second-guess themselves (Pittsburgh, San Jose, and St. Louis). In Los Angeles, we have a team that is only one year removed from their first ever championship. In the Rangers, we have a team that hasn’t won in 20 years and started out the season with a hideous road trip and losing streak. The Rangers are, strangely, the underdogs in this series. From the usually presumed weakness of the Eastern Conference to the lack of “experience” (despite Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards), the Rangers are not the favorite to win this series.
And that’s fine. Los Angeles is a very good team. They play well defensively and, although they take more penalties than I would like (if only you could have heard me swearing at them during Game 7), they’re fairly well structured. They have Marian Gaborik, who history tells us is quite good at scoring on Henrik Lundqvist. They have Jeff Carter and his line, who have been playing up a storm. They have Anze Kopitar, who is increasingly getting talk as one of the best two-way forwards in the game. And they have Justin Williams.
On the other hand, I’ve been doing some stats investigating. The Kings and Rangers played each other twice this year. One of them, the second in that terrible 10 game road trip that started the Rangers’ series, was a 3-1 victory by the Rangers. The second time they met, they lost to the Kings 0-1. Not that bad, really.
And Henrik Lundqvist’s stats are nothing to sniff at. He’s at 92.8% overall and after taking a gander at the different situations, he’s easily been better than Jonathan Quick in all situations. And a stat I find interesting: his SV% when trailing is 91.7%; Jonathan Quick’s is 89.2%
My point here is that if anyone can make this series go long, it’s Lundqvist. And don’t we all want to see a Game 7 between the Rangers and the Kings? Don’t we want to see Justin “Game 7” Williams come up against Henrik Lundqvist? Unstoppable force meets unmovable object and all that.
For the record: I think this match-up is a good one for hockey. The Los Angeles market is fickle, or at least that’s the impression I’ve always gotten from living there, and since hockey is a more recent passion than basketball or baseball, another Cup Final will do a lot to cement the marketplace. Reintroducing the Rangers to New York can only be good for the monetary situation of the league. Pitching the biggest city in the east against the biggest city in the west is rivalry Americans on both coasts can get behind. And, sorry Canada, but it’s the American market that still needs to be captured.
On that note, I leave you with the one brilliant, gorgeous ad the NHL has managed this post season, set to Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure: