Regardless of which two teams reach the Stanley Cup final, the NHL must already feel as though it’s won the lottery. A Chicago win in the west will ensure an Original Six showdown in the final for the second straight season after not having one since 1979. A Montreal appearance will come just in time for the city to enact its law allowing bars to stay open until 6 a.m. And no matter which teams are involved, they will either be steeped in tradition or be exposed to a vast market, or both.
But let’s face it, a matchup between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings would be more than the league could have asked for, or expected when the season began. With that in mind, here are 10 reasons to cheer for a Rangers-Kings final:
1. Boffo TV ratings. For the first time in history, the league would have a Stanley Cup final in the two biggest television markets in the U.S. According to Nielsen, there are 7.4 million homes with televisions in New York and 5.6 million in Los Angeles. A few of them might even be tuned into prime-time hockey on NBC.
2. It’s been too long. A New York team hasn’t faced a Los Angeles team for a championship since 1981 when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees in the World Series. (Expos should have been there. Hate your guts, Rick Monday.) All told, teams from New York have bettered L.A. teams in four championships (1977 and ’78 World Series and 1970 and ’72 NBA championships), while teams from L.A. have vanquished New York in three (1963 and ’81 World Series and 1972 NBA championship).
3. The goalies. Henrik Lundqvist against Jonathan Quick would pit two of the best clutch goalies of our time and the winners of the 2012 Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies. Both goalies are workhorses, both are intensely focused and both take away the bottom of the net and dare you to try to shoot high on them.
4. The music. An L.A.- New York final might inspire a cover of the Greatest Song Ever Written. Take a listen and watch this gem from 1976:
5. The delicious irony. Marian Gaborik of the Kings, who currently leads the NHL in post-season goals, was dealt in 2013 from the Rangers to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore, who are all playing pivotal roles for the Rangers. On the Rangers, Brian Boyle was dealt to the Rangers from the Kings for a third-rounder in 2009.
6. The style contrast: The Kings are the last “heavy” team left in the playoffs and a final against New York would put them against a team that is small, fast and dynamic. Martin St-Louis and Mats Zuccarello against the likes of Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar could be a site to behold.
7. The alumni. Hall of Famers who suited up for both the Kings and Rangers during their careers include Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Terry Sawchuk, Harry Howell and Dick Duff.
8. The coaching matchup. In the second round when Anaheim played the Kings, the coaching matchup was billed as ‘Gabby vs. Crabby.’ The final would look much the same in a duel between the affable Alain Vigneault and less-than-ebullient Darryl Sutter. Both have done masterful jobs during the post-season, though, and both have had success playing four lines in the playoffs.
9. The GM matchup: An old-school cigar chomper who doesn’t talk to anybody in Glen Sather vs. the fastidious Dean Lombardi, who talks to anyone who will listen.
10. Famous people. The Kings can always call out the big guns such as Will Farrell, Eric Stonestreet, Matthew Perry and David Beckham, but the Rangers definitely have the more hip celebs at their games – Dennis Miller, Louis C.K., Tim Robbins and Liam Neeson. Kate Upton of the Rangers vs. Paulina Gretzky of the Kings. Tough choice.