The rise of the New York Rangers

Advanced stats show keys to Blueshirts' run. But can they beat the Kings?

Updated: June 4, 2014, 2:48 PM ET
By Matthew Coller | Hockey Prospectus

Martin St. Louis Al Bello/Getty ImagesBrad Richards and Martin St. Louis have come alive offensively during the Rangers' playoff run.

It is rare that there is a consensus pick entering the Stanley Cup finals.

You might have to go back as far as the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 or 1998 to find a matchup the entire hockey world thought would come out lopsided; those contests were lopsided, with eight games total between the two series in Detroit's sweeps.

The rarity of the consensus pick is thanks in part to the fact that the matchups in the salary-cap era are almost always close. There has not been a sweep since the 2005 lockout, and only one series was decided in five games (Anaheim Ducks over Ottawa Senators in 2007).

This year's playoffs have stayed in tow, featuring six Game 7s, four matchups that went six games and only one sweep.

So if today's NHL is a league in which there is very little separation between top teams, why are the Los Angeles Kings the runaway favorite to win the Stanley Cup over the New York Rangers?

Moreover, what is it about this Rangers team in the postseason that has made it that much more competitive than in the regular season? And does New York have a shot to pull off the upset?

The good bounces

The road to the Stanley Cup finals always includes a little bit of luck.

The Kings benefited from an injury to irreplaceable San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a goaltending merry-go-round for the Anaheim Ducks and a fortuitous bounce off an Alec Martinez shot in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Rangers, however, seemed to have come across an even more unlikely set of favorable circumstances.