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Stanley Cup Finals Commence

Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist will be in the firing line, but which one will come through?

Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist will be in the firing line, but which one will come through?

The wait is finally over. On Wednesday the Los Angeles Kings host the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals.

Opening face-off at Staples Center in Los Angeles is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.

It’s taken a grueling eight months of hockey, one Olympic break, and 88 playoff games to get to this point, and right now all the players, coaches and fans are looking for is the teams taking to the ice. That happens tonight.

Los Angeles enters the series as the favorite to lift the giant cup, while New York will have to be content with an underdog’s role, a role it’s played for much of this postseason.

The Kings arrive at the finals by way of three seven-game thrillers. The side defeated the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks en route to a second finals appearance in three years. No team has ever played as many games before the finals.

The Kings were actually ranked fourth by online sportsbook Bovada ahead of the season, but finishing with the sixth best record in the Western Conference put a lot of people off the team heading into the playoffs.

New York earned victories over the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens to book its first finals appearance in two decades, playing in 20 of a possible 21 games along the way. The Blueshirts’ victory over the heavily-favored Penguins after trailing 3-1 in the second round was a crowning achievement, at least for the time being. There are plenty of people in the Big Apple that are hoping for one more crowning achievement this season.

The Rangers’ appearance in the finals comes as a surprise, on the surface at least. The club was ranked 10th on Bovada’s preseason list. However, the club was a big time favorite going into the 2012-13 campaign. It just seems to have taken the side a while to reach its potential.

The Rangers will be appearing in their 11th Stanley Cup Finals, and first since lifting the giant cup back in 1994. In all, the Blueshirts have won four Stanley Cups (1928, 1933, 1940, 1994), but barring the Mark Messier-led triumph in the nineties, those other titles are a long time in the past.

The Kings will be appearing in their 3rd Stanley Cup Finals. Wayne Gretzky and the Kings couldn’t get past Patrick Roy and the Montreal Canadiens back in 1993, but in 2012 the team finally earned its first championship with a 4-2 defeat over the New Jersey Devils.

The Kings and Rangers have locked horns during the postseason on two prior occasions, before the playoff bracket was split into conferences. In 1979, the Rangers swept the Kings 2-0 in the preliminary round before recording a 3-1 series victory in 1981. The latter series is best remembered for the brawl that broke out in Game 2.

Expect things to be very different as the sides meet for the first time as their respective conference champions.

The Kings will look to ride home advantage, something the team hasn’t had at all this postseason. The Staples Center will be rocking as Game 1 serves up the hottest ticket in town. The high-scoring Kings will be up against Henrik Lunqvist, one of the very best netminders in the world. The Rangers will be up against a side that seems destined to find a way to win.

With intriguing storylines across the ice, a backdrop that features the two most populated cities in the United States – and the TV markets that come with that – and a prelude that involved 88 games of intense, unmissable hockey action, this is gearing up to be the best Stanley Cup Finals in recent history.

New York Rangers vs. Los Angeles Kings odds for 06/04/2014

Los Angeles (-170) opened as the favorite over New York (+150) on the Game 1 moneyline, and have extended that advantage slightly ahead of game time.

The two sides have matched up fairly evenly in recent years, each winning five of the last 10 head-to-head meetings. Three of the Kings’ losses came in overtime or shootout though. Just one of the Rangers’ losses did likewise.

The last six games have seen the clubs flip-flop wins, with Los Angeles earning a 1-0 win in the most recent matchup back on November 17.

The Kings are 5-4 at home this postseason while the Rangers are 6-4 on the road. Both road teams took home the victory in their regular season matchups this campaign.

The Kings are 5-6 at home in Stanley Cup Finals games, while the Rangers are 14-18 on the road.

The total opened at 5, with the under preferred.

The Kings (13-6-2) have favored the over this postseason, while the Rangers (7-8-5) have narrowly favored the under. The latter has also been involved in a high proportion of games that finished with a push.

The over has paid out in the Kings’ last six games, as well as nine of the last 11. However, in New York’s last five trips to Staples Center, the under has paid out four times.

Game 2 of the series is scheduled to take place at Staples Center on Saturday, with the opening face-off due at 7:00 p.m. ET.

For a selection of NHL team prop bets, click here.

For a selection of NHL player prop bets, click here.

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