NHL set for impressive Stanley Cup showdown

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NHL set for impressive Stanley Cup showdown

The National Hockey League (NHL) will have the Stanley Cup finals it dreamed of when the New York Rangers face the Los Angeles Kings in a bone-jarring drama played out in the United States’ two biggest media markets.

Not since the New York Yankees took on the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 1981 World Series have Tinsel Town and the Big Apple squared off for a major sporting championship.

The best-of-seven series, which begins on Wednesday in Los Angeles, features two battle-hardened teams in a compelling final.

Both Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center will be packed with celebrity A-list hockey fans like football great David Beckham and supermodel Kate Upton, but it is the casual hockey fan the NHL will be focused on as the league seizes a chance to pull in new followers.

The Rangers, one of the league’s Original Six franchises, claims some of the NHL’s most loyal supporters who have waited two decades for another shot at the cup while the Kings, champions in 2012, return to the finals for the second time in three years.

“The past few years, we’ve tried to earn the respect of the league,” said Kings forward Justin Williams.

“We want to put L.A. on the map, and put it significantly on the map with regards to hockey.”

Certainly there can be no disputing the Rangers and Kings both earned their spots in the finals.

After falling behind 3-0 to San Jose in their opening round series, the Kings had looked poised to make a quick playoff exit but have fought their way through to the finals by winning three best-of-seven series against the Sharks, Ducks and Blackhawks.

In elimination games this post-season the Kings are a perfect 7-0, clinching a berth in the cup finals by finishing off the defending champion Blackhawks 5-4 in a Game 7 overtime thriller.

“You need everybody when you get to Game 7, you’re not into the individual part of it,” said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, after watching his team become the first to win three Game Sevens en route to the finals.

The Rangers’ path to the finals was no less grueling, with New York needing seven games to see off the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins before defeating the Montreal Canadiens in six games to claim the Eastern Conference crown.

To reach the Stanley Cup finals, teams require quality netminding and the Kings and Rangers feature two of the very best in Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist.

Having traded away their captain Ryan Callahan and with Alain Vigneault as their new coach, the Rangers have emerged as this season’s team of destiny.

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