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6 Stanley Cup Final Questions for the New York Rangers

by Photo of Gil Santos

Justin Rutherford gives us the Rangers’ perspective of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

6 Stanley Cup Final Questions for the New York Rangers

The New York Rangers' journey to the Stanley Cup Final seemed like it came from a movie script. After a tough seven-game series with their long-time rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, they found themselves down 3-1 to the favored Pittsburgh Penguins. Many thought they were done, including their owner James Dolan, who decided not to go to Game 5. But the tides turned for the Rangers following the sudden death of Martin St. Louis' mother. The team rallied around their grieving teammate and went onto  play tremendous hockey. They won three straight against the Penguins and then knocked out the Montreal Canadiens in six games to reach the Cup Final.

To preview the upcoming clash for Lord Stanley's Cup between the Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings, we brought back an old friend in Justin Rutherford from Blue Seat Blogs to give us insight from a Blue Shirts' perspective:

1. Alain Vigneault has led the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in just his first season as head coach while John Tortorella failed to do so in his 5 years on the bench. Why do you think Vigneault was able to get them over the hump with almost the same roster that Torts had last season?

I wouldn't necessarily couch it as something Tortorella failed to do. He oversaw a transition from big-money, top heavy rosters to a more fundamentally sound, defensive system that incorporated homegrown talent to accentuate the free agent acquisitions like Marian Gaborik and Brad Richards. To me, Tortorella's tenure opened the door for Vigneault to have this kind of success in his first year. 

That said, Vigneault has done a tremendous job of giving responsibility back to the players and created a calm, confident atmosphere. He has also implemented a speed based offensive system that is well tailored to his personnel. The team was somewhat retooled on the fly with the acquisitions of Marty St. Louis, Kevin Klein, Raphael Diaz and Daniel Carcillo, which have given AV a nice mix of guys and a level of depth that Tortorella never had the luxury of.

2. What do you think is the Rangers’ biggest advantage over the Kings?

Right now, the biggest advantage the Rangers have is either in goal, or just the status being the underdog. Everyone expects the Kings to win, and that can be a psychological advantage. Not that there is a huge talent gap between Lundqvist and Quick, but the Ranger net minder is in better form at the moment. Quick has fallen into some bad habits over the past year, and if the Rangers can take advantage, it could really turn the tides.

3. What aspect(s) of the Kings do you think will give the Rangers the most trouble?

I think the Kings' size and relentless forecheck will be the biggest difficulty playing the Kings. They have comparable depth to the Rangers, and will roll 4 hard forechecking lines. This will keep the Rangers blue line on their toes and the physicality of a big LA team could take its toll over a long series.

4. What match-up are you looking forward to see most?

The matchup I am looking forward to the most is Gaborik vs. Lundqvist. Gabby has been red-hot this postseason for LA after struggling in Columbus. He has also traditionally killed Lundqvist, so it will be very interesting to see if The King is able to vanquish those demons against an in-form sniper. Honorable mention would be McDonagh vs. Doughty.

5. If the Rangers win this series, it was because of what?

If the Rangers win this series it will be because they got great goaltending, played lock down defense and used their speed to open up the Kings defenders and create in-zone pressure. They will have to make sure they execute their game plan to near perfection, and if Lundqvist is up to it, I sincerely believe they have a good chance.

6. What is your prediction for the Stanley Cup Final?

Since it's been 20 years since the great 1993-1994 Cup year, combined with the inspired play this team has shown of late, I'm going to buy into the "this is our year" mentality and take the Rangers in 7.

Justin Rutherford writes for the New York Rangers' blog Blue Seat Blogs and also is the co-founder of a goalie development company called MAC Goaltending. You can follow him on Twitter @tappingtheposts.

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