Who has the special teams edge in Stanley Cup Final?

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If you take penalties against the Los Angeles Kings, they’ll make you pay. Through 21 postseason games, the Kings have capitalized on 25.4% of their power-play opportunities. To give that some context, that’s two percent better than any team did in the regular season.

But that number might be skewed by the fact that they haven’t had to face the Rangers. New York had one of the best penalty kills in the league during the regular season (third, 85.3%) and they’ve been just as effective in the playoffs (85.9%).

Montreal found out the hard way that past special teams success won’t necessarily translate against New York as the Canadiens were effective with the man advantage against Boston, but scored just two power-play goals in 23 opportunities in the Eastern Conference Final.

That doesn’t mean the Rangers have a clear special teams edge though. While the Kings have only successfully killed 81.2% of their penalties, the Rangers might not be a team capable of exploiting that, given their anemic 13.6% power-play success rate. In other words, this is a battle between two great special team units on one side and mediocre ones on the other.

At the end of the day, the Rangers can take comfort in the fact that the better power-play team has come up short in recent years. Chicago (11.4%) beat Boston (17.5%), Los Angeles (12.8%) beat New Jersey (15.3%), and Boston (11.4%) beat Vancouver (20.4%) in the last three postseasons.

At the same time, what we’ve seen is that an effective penalty kill is very important.

So this might be one area where recent history suggests that the Rangers should have the edge. Then again, this is the first time we’ve had a team make it to the Stanley Cup Final after playing in the maximum 21 games. Past trends and norms can be overcome and Los Angeles has embodied that.