Get your game notes: Rangers at Kings

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Tonight on NBC, it’s the Los Angeles Kings hosting the New York Rangers at 8 p.m. ET in the first game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

• The Kings needed an NHL-record 21 games to reach the Stanley Cup Final, while the Rangers needed 20. The NHL record for games played in an entire postseason is 26 games, done by two teams, the Flyers in 1987 and Flames (coached by current Kings coach Darryl Sutter) in 2004. Both of those teams lost in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final, Philadelphia to Edmonton (coached by current Rangers GM Glen Sather) and Calgary to Tampa Bay (led by current Rangers Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards.)

• The Kings will have home-ice advantage for the first time in franchise history in the Stanley Cup Final (three series), and just the second time overall since the beginning of the 1993 Stanley Cup playoffs (22 series). The only other time Los Angeles started a series at home during that span was in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals vs. San Jose, a series the Kings won in seven games.

• The Stanley Cup Final will feature two of the top goaltenders in the NHL: Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. In the last three postseasons (since 2012), Quick leads the NHL in playoff games played (59), wins (37) and shutouts (7), while posting a 2.05 GAA and .928 save%. During that span, Lundqvist is second in playoff games played (52) and shutouts (6), and third in wins (27), with a 1.98 GAA and .931 save%.

• In Game 1, Lundqvist will be making his 87th straight playoff start between the pipes. He has started every game for the Rangers since Game 3 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series vs. New Jersey. Lundqvist, who set the franchise record for career playoff wins (42) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final, ranks third all-time for most consecutive playoff starts by a goalie for one team. Elias Sports Bureau

Consecutive goalie starts, with one team (playoffs, before Game 1)

194 (active) – Martin Brodeur (NJ)
133 – Patrick Roy (COL)
86 (active) – Lundqvist (NYR)
79 – Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT)
78 – Jacques Plante (MTL)

• The Rangers and Kings have the same number of goals from their top four centers this postseason, but the Kings have a substantial edge in points and faceoff percentage.

source:

• St. Louis (6-7—13), Stepan (5-8—13) and Ryan McDonagh (3-10—13) lead the Rangers in scoring this postseason. Five different Kings players have 16 or more points: Kopitar (5-19—24, leads playoffs), Carter (9-13—22), Marian Gaborik (12-7—19), Justin Williams (7-11—18) and Drew Doughty (4-12—16). During the Conference Finals, Carter (5-6-11) and McDonagh (2-8—10) led all players in points.

• The Rangers are 34/36 (94.4%) on the penalty kill in their last 11 games (five vs. Pittsburgh, six vs. Montreal). They will face a stiff challenge from a Kings team that has at least one power-play goal in seven of nine home games this postseason and is 9/30 (30.0%) overall on home ice.

• Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-7 format in 1939, Game 1 winners have won 57 of 74 series (77.0%). In their most recent Cup Final appearances, the Rangers (1994) lost Game 1 at home to Vancouver (3-2, OT), while the Kings (2012) won Game 1 away to New Jersey (2-1, OT); both teams later won those series. In the last five Cup Finals, the winner of Game 1 has lost two of those series: the Detroit Red Wings vs. Pittsburgh in 2009 and the Vancouver Canucks (coached by current Rangers coach Alain Vigneault) vs. Boston in 2011. This postseason, the Rangers are 3-0 in Game 1s, while the Kings are 1-2.

2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

“The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindross, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.

Florida Panthers aren’t afraid to change, but will they actually improve?

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Change is often a necessary thing in sports, and the results can be swift and brutal. There’s a fine line between rolling with the punches and blindly swinging, however.

The Florida Panthers’ history as a franchise makes you wonder if they’ll ever find the right balance between stability and innovation. Amid all these years of flip-flopping and regime tweaks, there may only be one unsettling constant: the on-ice product being middling-to-terrible.

Just look at the way they burn through coaches.

Six of their 14 head coaches were behind the bench for fewer than 82 games, including Tom Rowe, who was seemingly thrown out with the analytical approach last season.

Their GMs haven’t fared much better. Dale Tallon’s probably received the longest leash of them all, and this past year or so made a mess of that situation. And it’s arguable that things have only degraded as Tallon aims to clean up supposed “messes.”

The Panthers didn’t just lose cheap 30-goal scorer Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas; they also shipped Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights. Smith was a golden boy of sorts to the more stats-leaning members of the franchise, and while he struggled last season, it sure seemed like the Panthers were eager to get rid of him.

The same could be said about Jason Demers.

MORE: Welcome Demers to the trade rumor mill

As abrupt as the Gerard Gallant firing felt, the Panthers didn’t necessarily give the analytical approach much time. At least from an “optics” standpoint.

Now, parting ways with Marchessault, Smith, and possibly Demers may end up being reasonable in hindsight. Still, there’s no denying that Tallon made some mistakes in his stead; the “computer boys” didn’t sign an atrocious Dave Bolland contract and didn’t pick Erik Gudbranson over superior talent.

The bottom line is that the Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since John Vanbiesbrouck led them to the 1996 Stanley Cup Final. There’s legitimate concern that this franchise will keep making the same mistakes – and keep changing the cooks in the kitchen – while the results leave much to be desired.

Will Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau share the same frustrating path as Jay Bouwmeester and others before them?

This summer could serve as a serious fork in the road, as Tallon has some building blocks in place and an estimated $20 million in cap space. Even if the Panthers remain a budget team, they’re likely to have some room to work with.

Perhaps they’ll finally make the right changes?

Related

Panthers look to be aggressive in adding scoring

Devils will give top pick Hischier a chance to make team right away

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There’s at least some question regarding whether Nico Hischier is ready to jump straight from being the top pick of the 2017 NHL Draft to becoming an immediate part of the New Jersey Devils’ roster.

If he went back to junior, it would break a lengthy trend of No. 1 choices going to the big time right away.

Devils GM Ray Shero seems pretty optimistic that he can handle that jump, though, as you can see from this presser via MSG:

MORE: Devils pick Hischier over Patrick

As one would expect, Shero said that the Devils won’t rush him if it’s “apparent” that the Swiss-born forward isn’t ready. Still, Shero seems convinced that Hischier has the size, skill, and smarts to earn a spot.

Much like Nolan Patrick with the Philadelphia Flyers, Hischier didn’t deny that he wants to make the big time right off the bat.

“Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s my goal, so it is important for sure,” Hischier said on draft night. “I really want to achieve my goal, but I still know I have to prove a lot of things to play there.”

Hey, maybe Taylor Hall could even ease his adjustment?

Burns and Thornton pose nude for ESPN Body Issue, and yes, it’s weird

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Hey, have you ever wanted to see Brent Burns and Joe Thornton essentially line up against each other naked?

Well, ESPN the Magazine interrupted your answer either way, going ahead and doing it for their vaunted Body Issue.

Considering Thornton’s UFA status, there’s at least an outside chance that this will be their final action together as members of the San Jose Sharks.

This is your last chance not to scroll and see Thornton, Burns, beards, tattoos, and not a whole lot else.

/waits

Former teammate Jason Demers captured it on Twitter, making it his background, and generally winning the Internet for the day:

Did anyone else think about Thornton’s line after Tomas Hertl scored four goals? No? OK.

The real highlight might be Burns and Thornton giggling in robes, honestly.

Click here for more on that issue, including information on U.S. women’s ice hockey team members who will also be featured.