The 2014 Stanley Cup Finals promises to be an exciting one -- one which features the Los Angeles Kings, 2012 Stanley Cup champions, and the New York Rangers, who are seeking their first title in 20 years.
ESPN's Pierre LeBrun wrote a preview of the much-anticipated matchup on June 2, tagging the Kings, the 2012 Stanley Cup champions, as the favorites:
"The New York Rangers will write quite the story if they can capture their first Stanley Cup in 20 years.
"Because unless you've been living under an Eastern rock this past year, you know that the Los Angeles Kings are favorites, surviving the journey in the much deeper Western Conference -- a.k.a. Big Boy Hockey.
"The Kings beat (the) San Jose (Sharks), (the) Anaheim (Ducks) and (the) Chicago (Blackhawks) to get here, three of the top seven teams in the NHL's overall standings this year.
"This is not to disrespect the Rangers at all, they beat the teams that they were handed, but those teams don't compare to the A-listers L.A. had to go through.
"But where the Rangers may have an edge is that they've been sitting at home waiting for the Western Conference finals to end, getting an extra three days rest, as the Kings failed to close things out in Game 6 at home and had to travel to Chicago and pull out a thrilling Game 7 overtime win.
"Where is L.A.'s energy level now? They've played the maximum seven games all three rounds to get here, all three series physically demanding.
"New York played one less game, but the Rangers had a nice break before the Cup finals and haven't played as much of a physical brand of hockey.
"The series features two of the game's top coaches in Alain Vigneault and Darryl Sutter, different in style but similar in their ultimate result: pushing the right buttons to get the maximum out of their lineups. And they share an important quality: They both have a great feeling for their benches and are excellent at in-game adjustments.
"Sutter got the best of Vigneault in the opening round of the 2012 playoffs, the No. 8-seeded Kings beating Vigneault's No. 1- seeded (Vancouver) Canucks in five games.
"The NHL can only salivate at the marquee matchup it has here, New York and Los Angeles, two big-time markets putting hockey on center stage.
"Now it's up to the Rangers to show they can hang with hockey's royalty, the Kings having played the most playoff games of any team in the NHL over the past three years, looking for their second Cup title in that span."
Rangers center Brad Richards shook off his team's underdog tag, per The New York Times' Jeff Z. Klein.
"Underdogs? Not so fast, Brad Richards warned.
"'Do I feel that way, or do you feel that way?' Richards said, pushing back against the characterization. 'You get this far, you've got a 50-50 chance to win it. That's the way I've seen it my whole career. The whole underdog-favorite thing doesn't really mean anything.'
"Richards makes a strong case -- otherwise the Rangers would not have reached the finals by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins, who finished with 13 more points in the regular season, or the Montreal Canadiens, who finished with four more.
"But overcoming the Kings, the representatives of the stronger Western Conference, seems a tough task.
"The Rangers may have come back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Penguins in the second round, but the Kings rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
"And by winning in overtime Sunday night at Chicago, the Kings became the first NHL team to win three Game 7s on the road in the same postseason."
On the other hand, The Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire spoke with Kings head coach Darryl Sutter on June 2 to get his thoughts on the Rangers.
"Kings coach Darryl Sutter, always capable of editing his opinions to the bare minimum, was asked about his team's next opponent, the New York Rangers, in the Stanley Cup Finals beggining on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. (PST) at Staples Center.
"'Great goaltending. Great defense. Great forwards. Great special teams,' Sutter said. 'We're up against it again.'"