Kings vs. Rangers Stanley Cup Preview: Who has the better defensemen?
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.
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty is the Jonathan Toews of defensemen, in the sense that he’s an incredible player who’s won everything and even when he’s overpraised it still doesn’t seem like a sufficient amount.
Doughty is averaging 27:50 TOI per game over an average of 49 shifts. He has 16 points in 21 games, matching his playoff total from the Kings’ Cup victory in 2012. He can be a defensive stopper or the best offensive player on the ice. And even if Anze Kopitar leads in points and Marian Gaborik leads in goals, Doughty is going to get Conn Smythe support … despite an admittedly crappy Game 7 vs. Chicago.
Plus the man knows how to celebrate:
He plays with second-year man Jake Muzzin, who has 11 points and just four penalty minutes in 21 games.
Slava Voynov has steadied the ship after a rocky start to the playoffs. He had three points in the Chicago series after amassing just four in the previous 14 games. He’s skating 22:28, second on the team. Veteran Willie Mitchell (plus-7) is the defensive rock that allows Voynov to get involved in the offense. (Slava has 7 points in 21 games, so make that “in theory.”) But that could change if and when Robyn Regehr returns from injury.
Alec Martinez, the hero of Game 7, has played 21 games on the third pairing. He’s played with veteran Matt Greene, but should be reunited with Mitchell when (or if) Regehr is back.
Overall, it’s a physical but talented group anchored by one of the best defensemen in the world.
The New York Rangers have watched Ryan McDonagh blossom into a star this postseason, skating 25:11 per game with 13 points. Much credit goes to defense partner Dan Girardi, skating 22:54 per game and, to the surprise of no one, is second the NHL in blocked shots with 50 in 20 games. A man without fear. Or smarts. One of the two.
Marc Staal is second for the Rangers in the postseason with 41 blocked shots, but it’s the shots with his stick to the cranial regions of Sidney Crosby and Montreal Canadiens that have caught some attention. Staal (20:58 TOI) is playing with an edge, and he and defense partner Anton Stralman have been the team’s best pairing in some games.
Third pairing guy John Moore will miss Game 1 due to his suspension for hitting Dale Weise in the head in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final. He’s been pretty good for the Rangers, skating 14:05 per night. Kevin Klein, his defense partner who is a plus-7 in the postseason, will likely skate with Raphael Diaz in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
There’s no denying the abilities of the Rangers’ top three defensemen, who form a palpable foundation for success with goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
But there’s no denying the abilities of the LA Kings’ top three pairings, either. And since Drew Doughty is on one of those parings, it’s …