The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have both wrestled with fatigue during this postseason. The difference is that the Rangers got their biggest headaches out of the way early and should be well-rested on Wednesday.
The question is: how big will that advantage be?
“We just have to reset again. We do it so well,” Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. “We did it during the regular season. We did it before the Olympics. We did it after the Olympics. We did it before the playoffs started. We did it after Game 7 of the first round. We just have to do it again.”
The Rangers played in 20 out of 21 possible games while the Kings played all 21 through the first three rounds. Los Angeles must play on Wednesday after winning the most emotional series of Dustin Brown’s career on Sunday.
To give you a point of comparison, the Kings and Rangers played 41 postseason games through three rounds while last year’s finalists Boston Bruins (16) and Blackhawks (17) required 33 games to get to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. (Remarkably, Los Angeles cleared three rounds in 14 games in the 2012 title run.)
So each team has played a lot in this postseason, but one team is coming in with more rest nonetheless. So far, each team managed quick turnarounds quite well.
The Rangers began their second-round series on a Friday after closing out Philadelphia in a Game 7 that Wednesday, yet they won both contests. Maybe New York wore down later on in the series against Pittsburgh, yet they showed some nice resiliency all things considered. This current break is their most luxurious of the playoffs.
The Kings’ transitions look like this:
Round 1 to 2: Game 7 at San Jose (Wednesday, April 30) to Game 1 at Anaheim (Saturday, May 3)
Round 2 to 3: Game 7 at Anaheim (Friday, May 16) to Game 1 at Chicago (Sunday, May 18)
Round 3 to 4: Game 7 at Chicago (June 1) to Game 1 at home (June 4)
The saving grace of those early rounds was limited travel, with things really getting tough in the Western Conference finals. Really, the Kings handled these situations remarkably well; Sutter only believed that the Kings looked tired for a brief chunk of Game 1 against Chicago, for instance.
It still seems reasonable to wonder if it will all catch up to them now, though.
Neither team runs too many players “into the ground,” which probably factors into their abilities to fight through fatigue.
Ryan McDonagh draws a lot of attention, yet Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are reliable enough to spread the wealth. That probably explains why no Rangers skater averages more than McDonagh’s 24:49 minutes per night.
The biggest beneficiary of the Rangers’ break is likely to be Henrik Lundqvist. With a long Olympic run plus his usual regular season workload (63 games), such a layoff could be very valuable to the 32-year-old netminder.
Los Angeles is deep in its own right, although it’s fair to say that Drew Doughty carries a lot of responsibility on defense. He’s logging just under 28 minutes per night (27:51) and while he’s been mostly fantastic, Keith Jones and Mike Milbury expressed the belief that he looked fatigued in Game 7.
With all apologies to Slava Voynov, there are some weaker spots in the Kings defense that could be exposed if Doughty really is running on fumes.
The Kings seem spry enough to grind out another tough turnaround, yet there’s always the question of how many times one team can climb that mountain. It’s the Rangers’ job to exploit whatever advantage this presents, though.