Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New York vs. Los Angeles in the Postseason

The 2014 Stanley Cup Final begins on Wednesday when the Los Angeles Kings host the New York Rangers in what should be a very exciting series. Prior to this season, NHL teams that went to Game Seven in the first two rounds were 0-9 in the third, but both teams in that spot this year were able to advance.

This marks 18th time that teams from the New York area and Los Angeles have squared off in one of the Big Four postseasons, the tenth in the championship round. Let's take a closer look at each.

1979 Preliminary Round

The first Rangers-Kings playoff meeting came in a best-of-three opening-round set in 1979. New York, led by Phil Esposito and goalie John Davidson, held home-ice against Marcel Dionne's Kings. Game One at the Garden was all Blueshirts in a 7-1 rout. The next game in L.A. went to overtime, which the Rangers won 2-1 on Esposito's second goal of the day.

New York went all the way to the Final and even took the first game of that series against Montreal. But the Habs took four straight by a combined score of 18-7 to claim their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup and put the final touch on their great 1970s dynasty.

1980 Preliminary Round

The first round changed to a best-of-five format in 1980, pitting the fifth-seeded Islanders against the 12th-seeded Kings. Dionne's 137 points tied Wayne Gretzky for the most in the league to take home the Art Ross Trophy. For the next 21 years, the top-scorer trophy would go to either Gretzky, Mario Lemieux or Jaromir Jagr.

The upstart Islanders got a big boost from the Kings in the final month of the season. L.A. dealt Butch Goring to Long Island in exchange for Billy Harris and Dave Lewis. The deal is considered one of the best deadline trades ever as Goring helped ignite the Islanders dynasty.

Bryan Trottier's hat trick led the way in New York's 8-1 mauling of the Kings in Game One. L.A. evened things up with a 6-3 road win the next night, but the series would turn in Game Three. Goring's third-period goal forced overtime and rookie Ken Morrow netted his first NHL goal to win it for the Isles, 4-3. The next day New York rocked the Kings 6-0 to close it out.

The 3-1 victory over Los Angeles was the first of 19 consecutive postseason series wins for the Islanders, who would claim the next four Stanley Cups.

1981 Preliminary Round

The Kings earned the fourth-overall seed in the next spring's playoffs, but it was another year, another first-round exit at the hands of a Big Apple team. This time it was the Rangers again.

New York eked out a 3-1 win at The Forum to start the series, but a Game Two brawl stole the show.

This all went down as the first period drew to a close. As you can see, the fight lasted nearly ten minutes and resulted in 200 penalty minutes! Once order was restored, a good game broke out. Dean Hopkins scored with 2:44 to play to give the Kings a 5-4 win.

Back in New York, the Rangers rolled in a 10-3 rout that set a team record for goals in a playoff game. Game Four was tied in the third period, but Tom Laidlaw, Anders Hedberg and Ron Duguay each scored to give the Rangers a 6-3 win to clinch the series. The Blueshirts would advance to the Semifinals, where the crosstown-rival Isles wrecked them in a four-game sweep (combined score 22-8). The Islanders beat the Minnesota North Stars to win another Cup and the Kings could only watch as former teammate Butch Goring won the Conn Smythe Trophy.

2012 Stanley Cup Final

In their 44th season, the Kings finally won a Stanley Cup and it came in just about the most miraculous fashion imaginable.

On their third coach of the season, Darryl Sutter, L.A. got into the playoffs as the eight seed. They ran through the Presidents' Trophy-winning Canucks 4-1 for a stunning upset, but they were just getting started. The Kings swept the two-seeded Blues in the next round, with Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick allowing only six goals in the four games (and 14 in nine playoff games so far). Up next were the three-seed Coyotes, and L.A. dispatched them in five games, setting up a Cinderella Stanley Cup between the eighth-seeded Kings and sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils.

The opener went to overtime and Anze Kopitar won it for the visiting Kings with this terrific breakaway goal.

Game Two was another 2-1 overtime win for the Kings. This time the deciding goal came off the stick of Jeff Carter .

After improving to a perfect 10-0 on the road in the 2012 playoffs, the Kings returned to the Staples Center and cruised to a 4-0 win in Game Three. Quick stopped 22 shots in his third shutout of the postseason. Two nights later, L.A. failed to sweep the Devils as Adam Henrique's goal with 4:31 remaining won Game Four and kept New Jersey alive. The Devils won 2-1 in Game Five to become the first team since the 1945 Red Wings to force a sixth game after falling behind 0-3 in the Final.

The Kings ran away with Game Six in the first period after Steve Bernier was assessed a major boarding penalty and game misconduct for this hit on Rob Scuderi. During the five-minute power play, Los Angeles scored three times and the coronation was under way.

L.A. opened up a 6-1 lead and it was just a matter of counting down the final seconds. Here's the call from Bob Miller, the voice of the Kings since 1973:


1970 NBA Finals

The Knicks won 18 straight games early in the season en route to a league-best 60-22 record. The Knicks held opponents to 105.9 points per game, by far the lowest mark in the league. The gap between them and the second-place Lakers was wider than the gap between L.A. and eighth place. Speaking of L.A., the Lakers finished 46-36, two games behind the Hawks in the Western Division.

Both teams received a seven-game scare in the first round of the playoffs, with New York edging the rival Bullets and the Lakers coming back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Suns. The second round was much smoother as Los Angeles swept Atlanta and New York took out the Bucks in five games.

In Game One of the Finals, NBA MVP Willis Reed poured in 37 points to lead the Knicks to a 124-112 win at Madison Square Garden. The Lakers evened the series when Jerry West hit two free throws with 46 seconds left to net a 105-103 victory.

West had an even bigger moment in Game Three after Dave DeBusschere drilled a tie-breaking basket with three seconds left. West took the inbounds pass and had to let it fly from 60 feet out:


Well I guess that's why they call him "Mr. Clutch." Alas, the adoption of the three-point line was still a decade away and the Knicks outscored L.A. 9-6 in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead.

Los Angeles recovered in Game Four with a 121-115 overtime victory thanks to 37 points from West and 30 from Elgin Baylor. The Knicks kept the back-and-forth going with a win in Game Five, but they lost their captain when Reed tore a muscle in his right thigh. He missed Game Six and Wilt Chamberlain took advantage with 45 points and 27 rebounds to tie the series once again.

The question before Game Seven was, "Will Willis Reed Play?"

Reed came out of the tunnel, stunned the Lakers and scored his team's first two baskets. Walt Frazier took over from there with a remarkable 36-point, 19-assist performance that ranks among the greatest in the history of the Finals. As he said in the above video in a way that only Clyde could, "Willis provided the inspiration, and in a way I provided the devastation."


The Knicks won 113-99 to clinch their first NBA championship.

1972 NBA Finals

A rematch two years later was the crowning achievement of one of the greatest teams in league history. The Lakers won 33 straight games to set an NBA record, then set another with a 69-13 regular season mark (the 1996 Bulls would break that one by going 72-10).

Gail Goodrich, West and Chamberlain led L.A. to the Finals where their opponent would not be the 56-win Celtics, but the 48-win Knicks. New York upset Boston in five games in the East Finals.

Despite the Lakers being 21 games better in the regular season (fourth-largest margin in the Finals), Bill Bradley scored 29 points in New York's Game One win. It would be all L.A. from there, however, as the Lakers won four straight by an average of 11 points to earn their first title since moving west from Minneapolis. In his eighth trip to the Finals, West (19.8 ppg, 8.8 apg) finally got a ring. Goodrich averaged 25.6 points per game in the series and Chamberlain averaged 19.4 points and 23.2 rebounds for the Finals MVP.

1973 NBA Finals

For the third time in four seasons, the Knicks and Lakers squared off for the title. The Lakers survived a seven-game first-round set with the Bulls and the Knicks outlasted the Celtics in the East Finals to set up the N.Y./L.A. rubber match.

This series would be the reverse of the previous year's Finals. Los Angeles won the opener before the Knicks followed with four consecutive victories. Showcasing their well-rounded team, Bradley, Frazier, Reed, Earl Monroe and DeBusschere all averaged 15 to 18 points per game.

It's been 41 seasons and counting, and New York is still waiting to hang another NBA championship banner from the rafters of Madison Square Garden.

2002 NBA Finals

The 2001 Nets went 26-56 and were the sixth-worst team in the NBA. They traded for Jason Kidd during the offseason and he was the catalyst for one of the greatest turnarounds in league history. New Jersey doubled their win total to 56 and secured the top seed in the East. They advanced to their first NBA Finals, but they'd have to face Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending champion Lakers.

Kidd's 23-10-10 triple double in Game One was not enough as Shaq's 36-point, 16-rebound dominance helped L.A. take the opener. The Big Aristotle topped that in a Game Two blowout with 40 points, 12 boards and eight assists! Bryant added 24 points and eight rebounds for good measure.

With the series moving east, the Nets hung around in Game Three. Kidd scored 30 with 10 assists and Kenyon Martin contributed 26 points, but Bryant (36 points) and O'Neal (35) were too much once again as the Lakers won 106-103. Three nights later, L.A. finished the sweep for the three-peat  behind Shaq's 34 points. O'Neal garnered MVP honors with a four-game average of 36 points and 12 rebounds.

Highlights here.


1963 World Series

The Yankees and Dodgers met in the Fall Classic seven times in 16 years when they both played in the Big Apple. In the sixth season since the latter's move to the West Coast, they played once again.

Sandy Koufax made history in Game One at Yankee Stadium, setting a World Series record with 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 victory. He set down the first 14 batters he faced, ten via the K. Catcher John Roseboro provided support with a three-run homer in the first inning and that would be enough for Koufax as the lefty mowed through the powerful Yankee lineup. His game-ending strikeout of pinch-hitter Harry Bright broke former teammate Carl Erskine's mark of 14, set exactly ten years earlier in Game Three of the '53 Series. Five years later to the day, Bob Gibson would pass Koufax with 17 K's in the 1968 opener. So in addition to being my birthday, October 2 has also provided the three highest strikeout games in the history of the World Series.

Game Two would be another Dodger cakewalk. Willie Davis stroked a two-run double in the top of the first and former pinstriper Bill Skowron added a solo shot in the fourth to aid pitcher Johnny Podres. The hurler that won Game Seven of the 1955 Series worked 8-1/3 innings of six-hit ball in a 4-1 win.

Yankee bats were quiet again in the third game as Don Drysdale dominated in a three-hit shutout. Jim Bouton was great for New York, but a first-inning walk, wild pitch and single added up to the game's only tally and he received a tough 1-0 defeat. Of the 24 1-0 games in World Series history, it's one of only two in which the run scored in the first inning.

Game Four was a matchup of aces again with Koufax and Whitey Ford trading zeroes into the fifth. Frank Howard broke the deadlock with a solo home run and the score stood at 1-0 until Mickey Mantle tied the game with a blast in the top of the seventh. The tie didn't last for long, though. Jim Gilliam led off the bottom half with a bouncer to third. Clete Boyer made a nice grab, but first baseman Joe Pepitone mishandled the throw and it skittered into right field, allowing Gilliam to scamper all the way to third (5:15 mark of video below). Willie Davis lifted a sacrifice fly to center to provide the winning margin.

The Dodgers swept the Yankees in four games and the Bronx Bombers never held a lead at any point in any game. Koufax took home MVP honors with his two complete-game wins.

1977 World Series

The reigning A.L. champion Yankees tried to get over the hump in '77 by signing free-agent star Reggie Jackson during the offseason. The Dodgers had power as well, featuring the first 30-homer quartet of teammates in big league history (Steve Garvey 33, Reggie Smith 32, Dusty Baker 30, Ron Cey 30).

The Yankees clung to a 3-2 ninth-inning lead in the opener, but Lee Lacy's pinch-hit single off Cy Young closer Sparky Lyle evened the score. It was tied until the bottom of the 12th, when Willie Randolph hit a leadoff double and scored on Paul Blair's walk-off single (who had twice failed to lay down a sac bunt).

Burt Hooton's complete-game five-hitter tied the series, but out in L.A., the Yankees pulled out road wins thanks to Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry and took a 3-1 lead. The Dodgers stayed alive with a 10-4 thrashing of New York in Game Five, but Reggie's homer in the eighth inning would be a sign of things to come.

Jackson won three titles with the A's, but Game Six is when he cemented his legacy as Mr. October. Trailing 3-2 in the fourth, Jackson ripped a go-ahead two-run homer off Hooton.

With the Yankees now up 5-3, Jackson faced reliever Elias Sosa an inning later. 

Leading off the eighth inning ahead 7-3, Reggie put the finishing touch on his brilliant night by obliterating Charlie Hough's knuckleball.

Torrez recorded the final three outs in the ninth and the Yankees earned their 21st championship.

1978 World Series

The Yankees came back from 14 games out to win the A.L. East in the famous Bucky Dent game at Fenway Park. For the second straight year, the Yanks and Dodgers dispatched the Royals and Phillies, respectively, in the LCS to set up another cross-country Fall Classic.

At Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers blitzed the Yankees in Game One, 11-5 and eked out a 4-3 win the next night. The highlight of the second game was the final at bat in the ninth inning. With two outs and the tying and go-ahead runs on base, rookie Bob Welch struck out Reggie Jackson to cap a fantastic nine-pitch showdown and give L.A. a 2-0 series lead.

Back in the Bronx, Cy Young ace Ron Guidry pitched the Yankees to a much-needed 5-1 win in Game Three, but the following night the Dodgers led 3-0 in the sixth inning. Jackson singled to put the Yanks on the board and he was on first base for the most controversial moment of the series.

There are a couple of missed calls here. Shortstop Bill Russell makes a clever (albeit illegal) play to drop Lou Piniella's line drive in an effort to turn two. His throw to first for the inning-ending double play hits Jackson in the hip and rolls away to allow Thurman Munson to score. But Jackson interfered with the play by sticking his hip out to deflect the ball. Broadcaster Tony Kubek notes that perhaps this confusing play could be cleared up if the umpires could use instant replay. Hope you weren't holding your breath, Tony.

Munson's double in the eighth tied the game and in the tenth, Jackson got revenge on Welch with a single to set up Piniella's walk-off knock.

New York cruised to a 12-2 win in Game Five before clinching in L.A., 7-2. Series MVP Dent had three hits in both games to finish 10-for-24 (.417) with seven RBIs.

1981 World Series

They met again for the third time in five years and this time it was the Yankees who squandered a 2-0 series lead.

Guidry and Tommy John pitched New York to home victories to start the series, but Ron Cey pulled the Dodgers back in it in Game Three. His first-inning home run staked L.A. to a 3-0 lead and when the Yankees cut it to 5-4 with two on and no outs in the eighth, Cey made a marvelous double play to save the game for rookie sensation Fernando Valenzuela.

New York blew Game Four leads of 4-0 and 6-3 as the Dodgers tied the series at two, then Jerry Reuss outdueled Guidry the next night 2-1 to push L.A. in front. At Yankee Stadium in Game Six, Dodger bats routed reliever George Frazier, who lost his third game of the series, in a 9-2 series clincher. The Most Valuable Player was shared for the first time as Cey, Pedro Guerrero and Steve Yeager were co-MVP's. 

1988 NLCS

The New York Mets were heavy favorites to beat the Dodgers in this series, but L.A. had Orel Hershiser, who had just set a record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings pitched. He outpitched Dwight Gooden in Game One and took a 2-0 lead into the ninth. Darryl Strawberry knocked out the ace with a run-scoring double, but Jay Howell still had the Dodgers one strike away from victory. Enter Gary Carter :

The Mets had the first game, then traded wins with L.A. to take a 2-1 lead into the pivotal fourth game. Gooden held a 4-2 edge and was three outs away from pushing the Dodgers to the brink, but light-hitting Mike Scioscia stunned the Shea Stadium crowd with a two-run shot.

It was still tied in the 12th when Kirk Gibson stepped to the plate against Roger McDowell.

The Mets rallied to load the bases with one out in the bottom half, but former Met Jesse Orosco got Strawberry to pop up before Hershiser came out of the bullpen to retire Kevin McReynolds to knot the series (skip to 3:38:30 & 3:43:40 of above video).

Gibson hit another big homer in a 7-4 Game Five win, but David Cone kept the Mets alive in Game Six with a 5-1 gem. It all came down to Game Seven and the Mets just never had an answer for Hershiser. L.A. led 6-0 in the second inning, not that the righty needed much support in a five-hit shutout. The Dodgers completed their Cinderella run with an even more surprising five-game World Series win over the vaunted Oakland A's.

2006 NLDS

It was Dodgers-Mets again in 2006, this time in the best-of-five Division Series. The 97-win Mets made quick work of the wild-card Dodgers in a 3-0 sweep.

New York was already missing ace Pedro Martinez when Orlando Hernandez was injured the day before his Game One start. Rookie John Maine was pressed into duty and he received help from his defense and some interesting Dodger baserunning.

Paul Lo Duca tagged out Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew at the plate on the same play. The Mets rallied in the seventh to win 6-5 and Tom Glavine's six shutout frames won the second game, 4-1. Out west in Game Three, New York touched up Greg Maddux for three first-inning runs on their way to a 9-5 win for the sweep.


1982 Divisional Round

A strange season in the NFL as a strike cut it nearly in half to nine games. The postseason would be a 16-team tournament and the Los Angeles Raiders held the AFC's top seed. They smoked the Browns 27-10 in the opening round while the Jets upset the Bengals 44-17 to set up a showdown at the Coliseum.

The Jets defense bottled up Marcus Allen and took a 10-0 lead into the halftime break. But two Raiders touchdowns in the third quarter put the hosts in front. It was 14-10 late in the fourth when Richard Todd hit Wesley Walker with a 45-yard pass to the 1-yard line. Scott Dierking plunged in for the go-ahead score and a 17-14 advantage. The Jets seemingly wrapped up the game when Lance Mehl picked off Jim Plunkett, but as they ran out the clock, Freeman McNeil fumbled to breathe new life into the Raiders. L.A.'s hopes didn't last for long as Mehl intercepted Plunkett once again to ice the game for good.

John Facenda-narrated highlights here.

The Jets were shut out by the Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game 14-0.

1984 Wild Card Round

The 4-vs-5 NFC Wild Card game featured the 10-6 L.A. Rams and 9-7 Giants. In a game with only 406 yards of offense combined, New York outlasted the Rams in Anaheim, 16-13.

Lawrence Taylor forced an Eric Dickerson fumble to set up the only Giants touchdown of the day, a 1-yard run by Rob Carpenter. Dickerson ran in for a score in the third quarter, but the Rams still trailed 16-10 in the fourth when New York's goal-line stand kept L.A. to just a field goal. The Rams got the ball back in the final minutes, but went four-and-out as George Martin's sack/fumble on QB Jeff Kemp was recovered by Andy Headen.

Big Blue was knocked out a week later by the eventual champion 15-1 San Francisco 49ers 21-10.

1989 Divisional Round

Five years later it was Giants-Rams again, this time at The Meadowlands. New York led 6-0 in the second quarter when a Michael Stewart interception of Phil Simms was followed immediately by Jim Everett's 20-yard touchdown strike to Flipper Anderson right before halftime.

A 14-play, 82-yard drive by the Giants ate up most of the third quarter and they cashed it in on Ottis Anderson's 2-yard score. The Rams would tie the game with two fourth-quarter field goals, the last of which came with just 3:01 to play.

Los Angeles won the coin toss and was near midfield when Giants DB Sheldon White was called for pass interference against Anderson. As you can see below, he was not happy.

After a false start moved L.A. back to the 30, Everett looked for Anderson again and Flipper reeled it in for the game-winning touchdown (1:55 mark of the video).

The Rams suffered a 30-3 shellacking at the hands of the 49ers in the NFC title game.

Ryan McDonagh Chris Kreider Derek Stepan Rick Nash Martin St. Louis Carl Hagelin Mats Zuccarello Dominic Moore Brad Richards Derick Brassard Marc Staal Dan Girardi Brian Boyle Kevin Klein John Moore Anton Stralman Benoit Pouliot Derek Dorsett Daniel Carcillo J.T. Miller Raphael Diaz Henrik Lundqvist Drew Doughty Justin Williams Tyler Toffoli Tanner Pearson Dustin Brown Dwight King Marian Gaborik Jake Muzzin Alec Martinez Slava Voynov Mike Richards Matt Greene Jarret Stoll Willie Mitchell Jeff Schultz Trevor Lewis Kyle Clifford

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