By Allan Muir
That wasn't the greatest five-game series I've ever seen--that title would go to the 2009 OHL Western Conference Final in which Taylor Hall's Windsor Spitfires clawed past John Tavares' London Knights after five consecutive OT games--but for all the sloppiness, blown chances and end-to-end action, the 2014 Stanley Cup Final was full value for the money and a terrific way to end a memorable season.
Here are a couple of odds 'n' ends thoughts to put it to bed:
Tossing and Turning
Who spends more sleepless nights staring at the ceiling this summer: Chris Kreider or Rick Nash?
Kreider scored a big goal in Game 5, the power play tap-in that evened up the score in the second period, but it was the one he didn't bury that everyone's going to remember: a breakaway bid in the final minute of the first OT. Quick showed him five-hole, but Kreider went blocker and was denied. It was the same place he tried--and failed--to put the puck on an OT breakaway that could have clinched Game 2.
And Nash? If not for the meddling stick of Slava Voynov, the struggling sniper buries a one-timer into a gaping cage early in double-OT and sends the series back to New York. Instead, the gorilla on his back takes up permanent residency until next season.
Both players made contributions that powered the Rangers’ deep run this spring. Kreider chipped in with five goals and eight assists over 15 games, and impacted the offense with his speed and net front presence. Nash had 10 points, a Corsi For percentage of 51.4 (third-best among New York's forwards) and led the league with 83 shots.
But regrets? Yeah, they'll have a few.
Rangers-Kings Game 5 recap | Boxscore | Highlights | Gallery
Stripes were solid
I'll give you this much, Rangers fans: that tripping call on Mats Zuccarello could have gone either way. You've got every right to go all Howard Beale after it led to the game-tying goal.
But don't think for a minute that the refs, or that one penalty, cost New York the game.
I'll admit the Rangers got the dirty end of the stick from the officials once or twice this spring. Maybe Dwight King should have been called for goaltender interference. Maybe Brandon Prust should have been nabbed for his head shot on Derek Stepan. And poor Stepan was tripped up by Marc Joannette while on a breakaway in Game 6 of the Pittsburgh series.
But Zuccarello being in the box pales next to the real problem:
New York was outshot 51-30 Friday night, 41-19 in Game 4, 44-38 in Game 2, and 43-27 in Game 1.
In Game 4, they were outshot 15-1 in the final 20 minutes. On Friday night, the total was 12-3 in the Kings' favor. Over the series, L.A. outshot New York 61-25 in the third and held the Rangers without a goal in the final frame or OT.
Sensing a pattern there?
The Rangers spent way too much time in their own zone in this series. Way too much time chasing the puck. And asked waaaay too much of Henrik Lundqvist.
And how about those blown leads? A two-goal cushion in Game 1. A pair of those in Game 2. A third-period lead in Game 5.
It was a recipe that came out of the oven exactly as you'd expect.
Did the officials miss a few along the way? Sure. But before you complain, ask yourself how many of those contentious calls you would have caught without the benefit of multiple replays. If you're being honest, the answer might be one.
On the whole, they did a solid job over the course of the playoffs. They're the best in the world at what they do, and they looked the part.
But hey, if you think there's anyone better out there that the NHL isn't using, by all means send them Stephen Walkom's way.
Whatever Zuccarello wants this summer, GM Glen Sather should be grateful for the opportunity to give it to him. The diminutive Norwegian was the breakthrough star for the Rangers. A warrior's willingness to pay a physical price when others in blue demurred defined him as their most consistent forward and a critical part of the team's offense moving forward.
Slats may have outsmarted himself when he signed Zuccarello to a one-year, $1.15 million deal last summer. He'll have to dig a lot deeper to re-sign the 27-year-old RFA this time around -- three or four years at a minimum of $4 million per. He'll be worth every penny.
Not to knock Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams, but what does Drew Doughty have to do to get his named etched on some individual hardware? Consider what he meant to the Kings on the road to the Cup:
* He played at least 23 minutes in all 26 playoff games
* He set an NHL record for minutes played in one postseason with 747:33, averaging 28:45 a game.
* He ate those minutes while facing elite attackers like Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews night in, night out...and he shut 'em down.
* He scored five points in the team's six elimination games.
* He led all defenseman with 18 points.
* He led the league with 42 giveaways (an indication of how often he carried the puck moreso than how often he made a mistake)
"I thought there were a lot of candidates, you could give that award to the whole team," a gracious Doughty said. "Justin deserved it. He played well for us the whole playoffs, especially in the Final, and he deserved it. But our whole team played well and helped him get that award as well."
There are always a wealth of heroes on any winning team, but Doughty's ability to consistently rise above was a treat to watch. And it should have been rewarded.
GALLERIES: Notable Conn Smythe winners | Unlikely playoff heroes