Have the Rangers met their match in Kings goalie Jonathan Quick? Credit: Getty Images
There were two widely accepted views prior to the Stanley Cup Final.
The first was Henrik Lundqvist is a superior goaltender to Jonathan Quick. The other was that Lundqvist was going to have to be the best player on the ice in order for the Rangers to beat the Kings.
After three games in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, Lundqvist has been the second-best goaltender in the series, as the Rangers' franchise cornerstone is 0-3 with a 3.66 goal against average and .892 save percentage against the Kings.
"I feel like I've been playing my game," Lundqvist said. "But in the end, you know, giving up three or more goals, it's going to be tough to win. I feel like I'm in position. I feel like I'm tracking the puck pretty [well], but it hasn't been enough. So I'm going to try to raise my level and try to help the team here to get the first one [Wednesday]."
By comparison, Quick has a 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save percentage in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.
Following Los Angeles' 3-0 win in Game 3 Monday night, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Quick had "played his best game of the series." Quick stopped all 32 shots he faced, as he used his speed and athleticism to move side-to-side and take away the bottom of the net from Rangers' shooters.
"He made some unreal saves [in Game 3]," Lundqvist said of Quick. "I think for us to beat them, obviously, I have to play well. But in the first two games we're right there scoring goals. I think the big thing is to have a lot of traffic and get in front. [The Kings], they're really good. They have one or two guys going to net all the time. I think we did it really well in [Games 1 and 2]. Come in front, get to loose pucks. That's something we are going to have to try to do tomorrow, as well to make it a little tougher for [Quick].
"He's a really good goalie. I'm going to need my best tomorrow to try to match that."
On the cusp of the franchise's second Stanley Cup championship in three years, the Kings find themselves with a pleasant dilemma.
Who, should the Kings win the Cup, will be the Conn Smythe Trophy winner? Defenseman Drew Doughty, wingers Marian Gaborik and Justin Williams and centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter are all widely perceived to be the front runners for the Stanley Cup playoffs MVP.
But when the question was posed to Williams, his focus was on winning his third Cup. Williams won Cups the 2005-06 Hurricanes and the 2011-12 Kings.
"[The Conn Smythe is] an award that a lot of NHLers obviously aspire to have," Williams said. "But at the same time when you're presented with it, I think a lot of guys just want to put it aside and look to the big jug. That's pretty much how I can explain it.
"I mean, to be even mentioned with these big guys in that conversation is awesome. But, hey, the big one is what matters. Yeah, I want to taste it again."
Falk on the outside
All athletes want to compete. Just ask Rangers defenseman Justin Falk.
"Who doesn't want to be out there playing?" Falk asked, rhetorically. "Who doesn't want to go out there and battle? Feel the bumps and bruises, I'd do anything to be all banged up and battling right now."
Essentially the eighth defenseman after the trade deadline-day acquisition of Raphael Diaz, Falk only played in 21 games during the regular season, and had been a healthy scratch for the entirety of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"You wish to be part of things, even more involved and contribute in a greater way," Falk said. "But it's not always the case and deal with what you've been dealt."
Along with staying in game shape should he be inserted into the lineup, Falk views his role as a sounding board for teammates.
"Knowing when to keep my distance, knowing when to lighten the mood, have some chats with some guys and just be around," Falk said. "It takes more than the 20 guys who dress every night. You need everyone to be ready when called upon. Fortunately [with] this team everyone keeps you part of things."
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter@DenisGorman.