This year's Stanley Cup Final doesn't figure to get much hype, featuring two small markets in Los Angeles and New York. In all seriousness, though, this series marks the first meeting of the United States' two most populous cities in a major sports championship since the 1981 World Series, in which the Dodgers beat the Yankees. There's a lot at stake in this bicoastal battle.
Both teams should have plenty of motivation, too. The Kings battled back from a 3-0 deficit against the Sharks in the first round; the Rangers overcame a 3-1 Penguins lead in the conference semifinals. Now the Rangers hope to win a Stanley Cup on the 20th anniversary of their last championship in 1994. And the Kings, just two years removed from their last Cup, can cement their status as one of the elite teams of the modern era.
Who will skate away with the Cup? We break the series down.
Like Boston in the East, the Kings boast a stable of the kind of big-bodied skill forwards that other teams covet. At center, Anze Kopitar (6'3", 224 lbs.), Jeff Carter (6'4", 212 lbs.), and Mike Richards (5'11", 200 lbs.) give the Kings an unrivaled combination of skill and strength. And they use that size to affect a punishing forecheck. During the regular season, the Kings struggled often to convert that great forechecking presence into goals, a problem they've since rectified by acquiring sniper Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline from Columbus. Gaborik already has 12 goals so far in this year's playoffs.
While not as big as L.A. at forward, the Rangers are just as deep. Along with big-name stars like Rick Nash and Martin St. Louis, the Rangers also have one of the most dangerous second lines in hockey with Derick Brassard, Benoit Pouliot, and Mats Zuccarello, who led the Rangers with 59 points during the regular season. Still, not getting smothered by the Kings may be an uphill climb for the Rangers' smaller skill guys.
The Rangers lack a single defenseman with as much star power and natural talent as the Kings' Drew Doughty. The second-overall pick from the 2008 draft has a combination of size, skating ability, and offensive skill matched maybe only by fellow Canadian gold medalists P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, and Duncan Keith. Still, the Rangers have a budding star defenseman of their own in Ryan McDonagh. And the second pairing of Marc Staal and Anton Stralman gives New York an elite shutdown unit that the Kings can't match.
Jonathan Quick is a King, but Henrik Lundqvist remains the king. Quick turned heads with his performance in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final and this year's Olympics, but it's Lundqvist who won an Olympic gold medal in 2006 wearing the three crowns of Sweden. The only thing missing now from King Hank's trophy case is a Stanley Cup ring, and maybe a Conn Smythe Trophy.
Playoff Highlight So Far
Both the Rangers and the Kings get a lot of celebrity fans at their games. And while the Kings often attract Hollywood A-Listers, the Rangers usually have the cast of the Sopranos and James Lipton.
It's 75 and sunny all week this week in Los Angeles. It's either too hot, raining, or both in New York.
It will be close, but ultimately the Kings physicality will wear the Rangers down as the series goes deep.
Kings in 7
Photos: Kathy Willens/AP Photo (Kings/Rangers), Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images (Gaborik), AP Photo (McDonagh), Seth Wenig/AP Photo (Lundqvist)