Ryan McDonagh/Dan Girardi vs. Dustin Brown/Anze Kopitar/ Marian Gaborik: The Rangers match defense pairs against opposing lines, so McDonagh and Girardi will see a healthy dose of old friend Gaborik and his two top-line teammates. Kopitar's size will be a test for McDonagh, who used his speed and skating to get out of his own zone and into the rush extremely well against the Canadiens.
Chris Kreider vs. Drew Doughty: Kreider was the catalyst in the Rangers' comeback against the Penguins and against the Canadiens. His speed/size combination flummoxed both those teams. Doughty will be on the right side for 25 to 30 minutes a night, so he'll be tasked with keeping Kreider under control. All Doughty's done this year is spur Canada to Olympic gold in Sochi and lead the Kings back to the Final. He's no slouch.
The Rangers' offense vs. Jonathan Quick: Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, wasn't at his world-beating best against the Hawks, but he stopped enough pucks from Chicago's high-powered offense to get L.A. here. The Rangers' offense isn't nearly as talented as Chicago's, so the Rangers have to buzz Quick early and often or risk falling into a funk.
Why should the Rangers fear the Kings?
The Kings send wave after wave of big, skilled forwards at an opponent, and once McDonagh and Marc Staal have taken their shifts, the Kings still have potent third- and fourth-line forwards who will keep the Rangers' depth defensemen busy.
Experience has been touted by the likes of Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, two vets who hoisted a Stanley Cup a decade ago. But the Kings have basically their whole team intact from their 2012 Cup triumph, plus former Ranger Gaborik, who seems hungrier than anyone.
The Rangers have speed and have used it to great effect this postseason. Anyone who's watched even a few minutes of the Kings' three successive seven-game series wins can see a team that's playing at a fast, furious pace despite being more oriented toward defense. The Rangers won't surprise these Kings.
And about those three road Game 7 wins, unprecedented in NHL history: Other teams might be gassed by playing the full 21 games to get to the Final. The Kings are young enough and savvy enough to be collected and ready once the puck drops for Game 1 Wednesday night.