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PHT Morning Skate: Shall we begin?

Jun 4, 2014, 8:09 AM EDT

Anze Kopitar AP

Game 1: New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings (8:00 p.m. ET — NBC)

Tonight, for the first time in his career, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist will play in the Stanley Cup Final. The 32-year-old goaltender, who 14 years ago was wondering if he made a mistake heading over to North America in the first place, has never been closer to cementing the legacy he’s built through years of elite play.

He’ll be countered by former teammate Marian Gaborik, who was taken in the same 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Unlike Lundqvist, Gaborik was always highly regarded, but the 32-year-old has forward battled injuries throughout his career and has been traded off twice in the last two years. His stock had fallen so much by the March 5 trade deadline, that Columbus couldn’t even get a first round pick or top prospect from the Kings even after agreeing to retain half of his remaining cap hit.

Just three months later, Gaborik has established himself as perhaps the greatest threat Lundqvist will face. Like the Rangers netminder, tonight will be his first game in the Stanley Cup Final.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This series will be defined by the personal stories of those who have worked their entire lives in the hope of creating opportunities like this one. From forward Brad Richards, who might be playing with in his last games with the Rangers as the nature of his contract still makes him a potential compliance buyout candidate, to his old Tampa Bay teammate Martin St. Louis, who has rejoined him a decade after they led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup championship.

Los Angeles won it all in 2012 and with largely the same cast, so there are fewer stories about guys seeking to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time or get that chance again after a long drought, but they have a more ambitious purpose.

The Kings have been to at least the Western Conference Final in three straight years and they’ll have largely the same team back for 2014-15. Drew Doughty is just 24 years old and has already played in 71 playoff games. There’s the potential for him to win multiple championships with the Kings before he retires based on the path this team is going.

In other words, they’re one of the few teams that can compete for that dynasty title that has alluded hockey teams in the salary cap era.

In the days since the Los Angeles Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, PHT along with the rest of the hockey world has been breaking down this series from every angle imaginable. Doing so is interesting, engaging, and enriches the fan experience, but at the end of the day, half of the people that skate in this series will come up short, head back to their locker room, wonder if they that was their last good shot, and then get to work towards proving that it wasn’t.

And the rest of them will lift the Stanley Cup.

  1. bills4 - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    If the Kings play like they have all playoffs, this shouldn’t be a long series but you never know.

    • anthonykornheiser - Jun 4, 2014 at 8:50 AM

      if you mean like they have all playoffs as in three game 7, on the brink of being eliminated a few times and even not having the lead all of game 7 vs chi except for OT than yes.

      Kings are excellent, excel in so many areas, but their suddenly blossoming offense haven’t played a defense and goalie like this yet. easy to take 40 foot wristers and watch gibson, niemi and co misplay it but they will have to work harder vs the NYR. Just like the NYR will have to work harder against them.

      • hrudey - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:43 AM

        Well, they’ll need to be able to get the shots from the point through to the net, and of course keep a presence in front of Lundqvist. It’s a challenge any time you go against a goalie and defense that good, but it’s not like the Kings aren’t working to get their goals.

        Will be interested to see how the Rangers react to playing the best goalie and defense they’ve faced this postseason. Also I’m sure it’ll be a pleasant change to see the opponent keep skating when a stick is anywhere near their midsection or face, rather than throwing themselves to the ice or throwing their head back. ;)

      • Fertility Doctor - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:09 AM

        Just curious, did Quick get hurt yesterday? Somebody said he hurt his collarbone at practice or something, I want to know if its true?

      • hrudey - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

        He left practice after a high shot, but he was fine – joked about it as hitting him somewhere between his knees and his head. LAKingsInsider.com has the story at http://lakingsinsider.com/2014/06/03/quick-leaves-practice-after-high-shot-issue-downplayed/
        (I don’t recall it being on PHT or I’d link to that instead).

      • barkar942 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:22 AM

        PHT post from yesterday. Blom and I are having some good clean fun in the comments!

        http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2014/06/03/quick-exits-practice-after-high-shot-but-sutters-not-concerned/

  2. domdogsbk85 - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    If the kings play like they have all playoffs we are in store for a great game 7.lets go rangers

  3. joey4id - Jun 4, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    I think the only way the Rangers have a chance to win is if Lundqvist plays lights out for every minute of every game. Yes! They are being perceived as the underdogs, and no one on the Rangers is publicly disputing that. Listening to AV and the players it’s easy to assess that the team’s strategy is to play that hand they’ve been dealt. It’s crafty, wise, and it’s the “rope a dope” approach.

    Go Kings! Kick the Rangers’ butts.

    • Fertility Doctor - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:07 AM

      Its not just about Lundqvist, though he gets all the credit for it but it will depend on the way the guys play infront of him too. That game 6 against MTL could be my prime example, only 18 SOG made Hanks job alot easier. That’s Rangers style hockey right there and without it, were nothing. If the Kings have their way and rain shots on Hank all day, they will eventually score

      • joey4id - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:24 AM

        I completely agree with you. It’s implied that the Rangers will play their best game, but their success lies on the fact the Lundqvist has to play exceptionally well.

    • Fertility Doctor - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:08 AM

      By the way, you’re an idiot.

      • joey4id - Jun 4, 2014 at 10:25 AM

        “By the way, you’re an idiot.”

        Thanks! I completely agree with you. We seem to have a lot in common. Enjoy the SCF. ;-)

  4. dickschofield8291986 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Seems like Quick will have 2 games where he coughs up 4 goals and ‘Quist will have 2 or 3 games where he limits the Kings to 1 or none. If those events spread out over 4 games, NYR win; if those events cluster in 3 games LAK win. Just a hunch…

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