Kings vs. Rangers Stanley Cup Preview: Who has better forwards?

Harrison Mooney
It's Puck Daddy's Stanley Cup Final preview series!

Leading up to Wednesday's Game 1, Puck Daddy is previewing every facet of the Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers — on the ice and off the ice.

Anze Kopitar is the NHL postseason's leading scorer, with 24 points in 21 games. He's been held off the scoresheet just five times in these playoffs. Jeff Carter is just behind him, with 22 points in 21 games, and Marian Gaborik is third among active postseason players, with 19 points. Justin Williams has 18 points.

Gaborik also leads the postseason in goals, with 12, just three away from Wayne Gretzky's franchise playoff record. Soon, this Gretzky character may be completely forgotten.

And then, once we scroll past long-since-eliminated forwards like Ryan Getzlaf and Evgeni Malkin, we arrive at Martin St. Louis and Derek Stepan, the leading scorers for the New York Rangers with 13 points. Just like Tyler Toffoli.

Suffice it to say, LA's forwards are scoring a great deal more than New York's.

It may not be entirely fair to look at playoff scoring as evidence of who's got the better comportment of guys up front, however. The Kings and Blackhawks wound up in a shootout. A newcomer to hockey would have been shocked -- well and truly shocked -- to discover what Corey Crawford and Jonathan Quick are getting paid.

The Rangers may not be the high-scoring team coming into this series, but that's not to say they don't have weapons up front. They do -- four lines' worth, which is how they got this far.

St. Louis has been their most valuable forward through three rounds -- he plays on their second line, or if you want to get cute, line 1B. Skating alongside Brad Richards, who has 5 goals and 6 assists, and the speedy Carl Hagelin, this is a line that can give the Kings fits.

New York's first line is a big one, with power forwards Chris Kreider and Rick Nash flanking Derek Stepan. And while Stepan and Nash may be the names here, one could argue it's Kreider that actually drives the line. The Rangers really hit the gear they're in now when he returned to the lineup earlier in the postseason.

Meanwhile, their third line of Benoit Pouliot, Mats Zuccarello, and Derick Brassard has actually been their most reliable line from a possession standpoint. All three players boast a Corsi percentage above 50%. They're the only trio that wins the majority of their shifts.

As much as the Rangers have been written off by a number of people, they may be a deeper team up front than the Chicago Blackhawks, who were effectively going with a three-line set by the end of the the West Final. New York's fourth line, which features Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle, and Derek Dorsett, the first two of which have 7 and 6 points, respectively, is averaging over 10 minutes a night. 

But even still. LA has an edge here. They've got the best forward, Anze Kopitar, who centers the best line with Gaborik, the best goal-scorer, and Justin Williams, as close to the mythical "clutch" player as you're ever going to find.

Their second line, which destroyed the Blackhawks, has Jeff Carter between young speedsters Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. All three members of this line sit at 55% Corsi or higher. Good luck getting them out of your end.

And here's where things get silly. Line three features Jarrett Stoll, Dwight King, and Dustin Brown, all of whom have better possession numbers than the Rangers' third line, and line four has Mike Richards between Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford. Seriously, Mike Richards is on LA's fourth line.  

In the summer, that points to him as a buyout candidate. That's a lot of money to waste on something a Dominic Moore-type can do. But in the meantime, it's intimidating: the Kings have the depth to waste Mike Richards on their fourth line. That speaks to their advantage here.

Advantage: Kings.