The cursory numbers say the 2014 Stanley Cup Final was a blowout. The Los Angeles Kings vanquished the New York Rangers with the old Gentleman's Sweep, winning the series four games to one. The Final only played the minimum two games in Madison Square Garden. It was quick which usually means it wasn't close.
This is one of those cases where the numbers lie.
You may never see a more competitive five-game playoff series than what we just witnessed. The games were susceptible to the ebbs and flows of most hockey games and the Kings were the stronger team for longer stretches but a couple of things stood out; the hockey was pretty darn excellent and the Rangers were a good match for the Western Conference champs.
Starting from Game 1 when the Rangers came flying out of the gate and took a two-goal lead only to lose it and go to overtime, this series was destined for drama and boy did it ever have some drama.
Technically only three games were played in Los Angeles in the past week but in ice time, there were more than four. Each of the three games in LA needed overtime with Games 2 and 5 requiring double overtime. All three were Kings wins, meaning only two of five games were decided in regulation. If that doesn't indicate a tight series, not much will.
That overtime on Friday night? Some of the best hockey you'll ever see; both teams were desperate and pushing for the goal, there was no sitting back.
The result was an up-and-down game where somehow the players were keeping up their high levels of pace and skill even while the fatigue had to be setting in and probably a few heart palpitations across Los Angeles and new York. Heck, you didn't even have to be a fun of either team to feel the thrilling excitement of those overtimes, they were fantastic.
So was the series.
Closeness of the game and series could be classified in another way too, as in how close the series was to going completely different on a number of occasions. In the overtimes alone on Friday night each team hit two posts and Rick Nash had a shot destined for the back of the net deflected away by Slava Voynov's stick in a desperate move. If the puck were one inch higher or lower, it gets by and goes into the cage and the series goes back to New York. Not long after, Alec Martinez was knocking home a rebound after one final Henrik Lundqvist save.
The Rangers were so close yet so far.
It was a fitting end to a very tight, albeit short series that had enough drama to make Hollywood proud. The stuff in Game 4 with not one but two pucks sitting right on the goal line but not going in was something you expect in the next Mighty Ducks movie, not in the Stanley Cup Final.
Indeed, this Final made the clichés of hockey being a game of inches seem all too apt because with how tightly this series often was it was inches away from going a different direction.
In a five-game series the Kings outscored the Rangers by just five goals, not exactly the sign of a dominant series win no matter the fact it took only five games to win.
Consider that the attempt at 5-on-5 in close situations were nearly even prior to Game 5 when the Kings pushed relentlessly in the third period and into overtime. According to Extra Skater, the 5-on-5 close attempts (Corsi) were 143 to 129 in favor the Kings. The Kings are the NHL's most dominant possession team but the Rangers played with them for most of the series (in Game 5 LA had a big advantage in shots attempts with 99 to New York's 53).
Nobody is going to tell you the Kings didn't outplay the Rangers on the whole, because they did, but they didn't run away from the Rangers, they eked past the Rangers. A five-game series win never looked so tough.
"You go into this hoping that you don't regret anything," coach Alain Vigneault said after Game 5. "We put it out there. We gave our best shot, best effort. Three games here all went to OT. What can I say?"
It's hardly any solace to the Rangers, who thrice suffered heartbreak in Los Angeles, but they were not overmatched by the champion Kings in the Stanley Cup Final. They just made about three fewer plays.