New York Rangers v Los Angeles Kings

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.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.