From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:
The climax of the winter sports season begins later this week with the start of the Stanley Cup finals between the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings, and the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs.
The Kings have proved resilient in this season’s playoffs, becoming the first team in NHL history to take three Game 7s all on the road, winning at San Jose, at Anaheim and at Chicago.
Marian Gaborik, acquired at the March 5 trading deadline from Columbus, has an NHL-high 12 playoff goals, forming a great line with Ithaca native Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar. Gaborik has a history of scoring goals against the Rangers, once recording a five-goal game as a member of the Minnesota Wild in December 2007.
The Kings are well-balanced with four deep forward lines, strong defense and have an exceptional goalie in Jonathan Quick, who led the team to a six-game championship victory over the Devils in 2012.
The teams split the two-game regular-season series, each winning on the other’s home ice.
The Rangers, back in the finals for the first time since last winning the Cup in 1994, have been riding the emotional wave of forward Martin St. Louis, who unexpectedly lost his mother three days before Mother’s Day last month.
New York defeated Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each in seven games before taking out Montreal in six games.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be the key to the Rangers’ fortunes because the Kings are relentless in their offensive pressure.
One factor in the Rangers’ favor is their team speed, especially with forwards Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello and defensman Ryan McDonagh, perhaps the Rangers’ best player in the playoffs. If the Rangers have any hope in the series, they must gain a split of the two games in Los Angeles.
However, the Kings’ pedigree looks too strong and they should take the series in six.
■ San Antonio gets another crack at two-time defending champion Miami after falling last season in seven games. The Spurs have the home-court edge, but being the road team doesn’t bother the Heat, which dispatched the Pacers in six games in the East finals.
The Spurs blew a five-point lead late in regulation during last year’s Game 6 before falling in overtime to the Heat, missing out on a chance to win the title. Miami then won at home in Game 7 for the crown.
Miami hasn’t shown any signs of wearing down in the playoffs thanks to LeBron James (27.1 points per game) and Dwyane Wade (18.7 ppg), while Spurs point guard Tony Parker (17.2 ppg), who has been nursing a hamstring injury.
It should be another exciting series, but look for the Heat to achieve the three-peat with a seven-game triumph.
Richie Rich’s Top 10 rankings in Major League Baseball: 1. Giants; 2. Athletics; 3. Brewers; 4. Blue Jays; 5. Tigers; 6. Braves; 7. Yankees; 8. Cardinals; 9. Angels; 10. Orioles.
Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org