Runner Runner (Film Review)

Runner Runner (Film Review)

To be quick and basic about this film review, Runner Runner is a hot mess. The story of a gambling-savvy Princeton student who goes to Costa Rica when he feels like he has been cheated while playing online poker, is far too fast and very much underdeveloped.

The pace of this film is way off, and there are large gaps where we, as viewers, are left wondering what is happening, and how things have progressed so quickly. The protagonist, played by Justin Timberlake, goes to Costa Rica to complain about the discrepancies he found in the gambling website, and before we can blink, he has a job with the site, is able to bring his friends down, is making tons of money, and is basically the #2 man behind the leader of the site and central villain, played by Ben Affleck. Then with lightning speed, he is in trouble with the FBI, there are some foggy details about what the site is doing to cheat its players, and Affleck is turned from smart businessman to evil genius in the turn of a script page. Throw in a less-than-believable love story, and the film is complete.

runner2One of the biggest errors made by the producers of Runner Runner is that there was a lot of detail that would have been really interesting to know about. Tell us more about the way the site works, how the odds are made and defied, how one would launder money, etc. I felt left wanting for all of these things, because they would have made the movie a heck of a lot more detailed, and far more interesting. I am tired of having these details brushed over, and we are just supposed to believe that the things he is doing with money is bad. This comes across as treating the audience as an uneducated group.

The acting is poor through the majority of the film, as well. Timberlake, who has become one of the more likable celebrities out there, has shown that is able to act, but he needs to stick with roles based on humour, like in a romantic comedy. Consider how he has pretty much become the best Saturday Night Live host over the past few years, and then try and make him act serious. It doesn’t work. Gemma Arterton, the love interest, while attractive, came across as a completely flat character. Affleck, who is one of my secret favorites, is only okay with a thin script that he is given. When he yells, he is convincing, but let’s be honest: this role is not one that as much depth to it, and it is basically calling for him to be cool, then mean, then yell. Then be more mean, and yell some more.

Runner Runner tries to have a little bit of Rounders in it, and a little bit of 21. But it falls flat on both of these attempts. With the short running time (about an hour and a half), there simply isn’t enough time to develop anything: the plot, the characters, the background information. For this reason, you can probably skip this film and find something that is of a similar subject, but done much better.

On the Road (Film Review)

On the Road (Film Review)

It always seemed like it would be impossible to adapt Jack Kerouac’s sprawling, seminal, stream-of-consciousness novel about the freedom of the road and the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty without losing some of the basis of the novel. Some of the feel; some of the freedom.

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to make On the Road, perhaps the most important work from the Beat Generation, into a movie. There were a bunch of different casting choices, some of them seeming pretty good and interesting, and a whole bunch of different directors who were poised to stand behind the camera to bring this important work of American literature to the silver screen. But it never panned out, for differing reasons. One being that it was always too hard to get a story on the screen that could encompass what Kerouac penned in the early 1950’s, finally getting published in 1957.

On the Road is a book about escape and freedom. About getting away from what the world expects, and getting out there into America, or all the things that America can be, and looking for something else. Something better, perhaps, but something different. It is the desire for adventure.

Sal and Dean in Mexico.
Sal and Dean in Mexico.

Newly added to the Netflix lineup, the film adaptation of On the Road is worth a watch. The reviews for it are not surprisingly mixed, but the writers, director, and actors manage to do their best to bring life to the words in the book.

For those who don’t know, the story is basically about the struggling writer Sal Paradise (a thinly veiled version of Kerouac himself), and his travel adventures with his friends across America. Namely, with the crazy, adventurous, love-to-hate him and hate-to-love him Dean Moriarty. Throughout the story, they travel the country, getting themselves in a number of wild situations, always fueled by cigarettes, booze, and benzedrine. Our characters were willing to push the limits of what their bodies were able to handle, the amount of fun and craziness they could endure, but at the same time, their goals were often simpler. To see what their country really was.

The main characters are played by relative unknowns, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund, but the supporting cast is filled with bigger name actors, who play minimal roles in the film. Kristen Stewart has a larger role as one of Dean’s girls, Marylou, and there are appearances by Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Elizabeth Moss, Viggo Mortensen, and Steve Buschemi. A pretty good cast, but some of them are painfully underused. Our main actors do a good job, however. Riley, with his deep raspy, accented voice, brings a strong look to Paradise, allowing us to see him as an observer, a follower of Dean, never quite able to step into the foreground of his own life. Hedlund, as Moriarty, is able to bring the wild coolness that we could only expect of his character. He is charming and vicious, all at the same time, and it is difficult to watch him make poor choices that lead to his sad downfall towards the end of the film. He lives on the edge of his own crazed ideas, and he hooks those around him into his lifestyle. He is memorable to the point that all of those who know him will drop their lives, just because Dean is in town. He has created a legend for himself, and this comes across well with the casting of Hedlund.

Kristen Stewart, usually the sullen, mopey, teenager, excels in her role in this film. I would like to have seen more of Marylou, even though she was just a secondary character. A free spirit with simple values, Stewart bring life to her role, and it was nice to see her letting lose a little bit, away from her single expression used in the majority of her other films. To see Stewart laughing, smiling, and dancing during a great New Year’s Eve scene was something to behold, like we were truly seeing someone else on the screen instead of the famous Twilight actress we have become used to. She was good, and with the little screen time and dialogue she was offered, she was able to complete the character of Marylou. She seemed to embrace the character, the ex-wife of Dean, still drawn to him despite knowing that he would never stay with her. Stewart went all in for the role, doing her first nude scenes on film, which does help out who Marylou is.

Perhaps Kristen Stewart's most memorable scene.
Perhaps Kristen Stewart’s most memorable scene.

The supporting cast is all strong, again, despite their miniature roles.

Some of the strengths of this film include the musical soundtrack, which is incredible at bringing to life the music of the Beat Generation, the thumping bass and angst-riddled saxaphone of the jazz bands, the pulsating tunes that helped guide Paradise on his adventures in sex and drugs. This would definitely be a soundtrack worth owning, it is that good. A highlight is the New Year’s party. A sweaty, drunken gathering, with blaring music, dancing, and singing along to songs. It defined the film, and put a stamp on the idea that for the people of the time, this was a defining moment in their lives.

As a defining moment in the film, however, one feels that it should have been as the title suggests: On the Road. While there was plenty of great, and well-shot scenes of the group being actually out hitchhiking, or driving, it seems that too much of this film was based in the confines that our characters were trying to escape. Perhaps they could have elaborated more on Sal’s days out picking cotton, instead of having him in houses, or apartments. This type of freedom is the very defining theme of the book, after all. Eventually, there is a fair amount of time spent in the car, literally on the road, but it feels like it could have been more about their discovery of America. For me, it seemed that the characters were always on their way somewhere, when reading the novel, I always felt that they had no agenda, and would get home whenever they ended up getting home. Perhaps this is only my interpretation of it, but on the ultimate road trip and journey of self-discovery, they didn’t really discover much about themselves. This is the point of an epic road trip, is it not?

There is little doubt that this novel would be difficult to turn into a film. But here, we have what I would call a pretty good version of it. Paradise struggles to write the book that he so dearly wants to create, Carlos Marx struggles to find his voice in his poetry, Dean leads a life of wildness that leaves him broken and alone, and Marylou is seeking a simple life of love and family among the craziness of the people she knows best, and loves the most. On the Road is probably only a film for those who have read the book. It would seem almost nonsensical for those who haven’t, especially as minor characters are thrown at us, and we are pretty much expected to know who they are, as we had met them first in the novel.

Watching this, you are not going to get the feeling and the passion of Kerouac on the screen. But there is something there, a feeling of the era, that is able to take us away. Not a perfect film, not a perfect film adaptation, but something worth watching.

LA Kings Win Stanley Cup

LA Kings Win Stanley Cup

The heavily favoured Kings completed their two-month long quest on Friday night, taking home the Stanley Cup with a thrilling double-overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the final series. Justin Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, coming through as one of the league’s leading playoff scorers and one of several Kings that were deserving of the award.

kings3Perhaps the Rangers deserved a better fate, having had two goal leads in three of their losses, only to lose the leads, and the games, to the resilient Kings, who have been battling and scrapping since their first round series against the San Jose Sharks. This Kings team never quit, and it always felt that when they fell behind, they would assuredly find a way to come back, and to end up winning the game. By the time they had made the Finals, it had the feeling of inevitability that they were going to win the Cup. They had taken such a difficult road to get there, perhaps the most difficult journey to the Finals ever, that it seemed like nothing was going to stop them once they got there.

New York was a good team, and deserved to be playing for the championship. But in the end, they were over-matched. There was too much depth on LA’s bench, too many good players that could get the job done.

So, many of the still young Kings were able to raise the Cup over their heads for the second time in their careers. Drew Doughty, at only 24, has now won two Cups and two Olympic gold medals. Controversial captain Dustin Brown has now been the first to hoist the grail over his head twice now in his career, something not too many captains have been able to say over the past 20 years.

At the beginning of the playoffs, perhaps the Kings were not the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, but they were never dismissed as a team that didn’t have a chance. We all knew they did, and that they were a significant threat to all those they would be facing. They were not really underdogs, but the teams lined up against them would be a daunting task, even for the best teams out there.

Well, they proved that they were the best, and conclude the 2013-14 NHL season as the Champions.

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Downtown, on 109th street, one of the many newest places to eat and drink in Edmonton is The Common. Not the hugest restaurant/bar around, The Common does very well to use all of its space properly, to get as many people in there, while still maintaining a level of comfort and not getting terribly overcrowded.

The best things about The Common, and one that sets it apart from other new, hipster-ish places downtown, are the prices. They are actually reasonable. If you manage to hit happy hour (prior to 6PM during the week), you will get $2 off pints of beer, which is a pretty solid deal. And to begin, their beers aren’t nearly as expensive as an alternative, such as Craft Beer Market. There is a decent selection of drinks available, including a personal, and hipster, favorite, of having Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. It’s just so good!

common2The food is also quite good there. It is a tad expensive, but it is similar to other places of this ilk. Pub grub plus. The usual stuff, but it is far better, and more high-end. Something like the short rib poutine will definitely hit the spot, and for a price that won’t destroy your wallet.

The Common has a cool vibe to it, good design (the two sides of the bar seem to be different places, and tend to have a different feel), friendly wait staff, and usually quick service, regardless of how busy it gets.

The patio is small, and on the 109th side of the street, which makes it pretty noisy, but it is still nice, allowing us to get outside in our incredibly short summer season. There aren’t many tables out there, only one row of picnic tables, that can accommodate four people each. There doesn’t seem to get more people in there if you have a larger group, unless you really want to squish into those tables.

Overall, The Common is a top choice among downtown establishments that are focused on grabbing the attention and business of those who like beer, a variety of beer, and decent food at prices that won’t slaughter them for the month.

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 2

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 2

After the addictive, thrilling, and funny first season of Veronica Mars, most viewers will immediately plunge into the second season of the show, which continues from where the first season left off.

With the murderer of Lilly Kane behind bars, Veronica is now a senior, and continues her battle against the elites of Neptune, the issues at her school, and the race war that is on the cusp of exploding on the streets of her hometown.

v2There are many great things to further enjoy in the second season of this show. The story of Aaron Echolls continues, as he tries to prove his innocence for killing Lilly. His son, and Veronica’s sometimes boyfriend, Logan, is also in his own fair share of trouble, as he has been accused of stabbing and killing one of the PCH bikers. There is that little matter of her still not knowing who raped her at a year end party the year before….

Season 2 moves these stories along, as well as introducing a new problem that serves as the central mystery for the season: a bus crash after a field trip to Shark Stadium kills several Neptune High students. Luckily, or strangely, all of the richer kids were not on the bus ride home, having opted to take a limo ride home. Thus, the questions begin to come out. Who’s fault was it that the bus crashed? How did all the rich kids know to get off? Who was targeted with the crash?

The bus crash leads us on an intriguing mystery over the course of the system, that also cleverly ties in to older mysteries that the show began in it’s initial year.

As with the first year, Veronica works to solve mini-mysteries while she works on the bigger one at the same time. She still puts herself in overly dangerous situations, she still possess a razor-sharp wit, she still is forced to look in the mirror now and then and wonder who she really is, and what her role is in the destruction of the lives of people around her.

All of the main characters from the first season remain, and her inner circle is expanded from only Wallace, to more frequent appearances by Mac, and more important roles by Logan, Meg, Dick, Duncan, and Cassidy/Beaver. These characters play secondary roles in Veronica’s life, and this is something else she needs to deal with. Is she out there to help other people out, or is she in danger of becoming too self-centered and focused on her own revenge to truly be able to call herself a friend?

The secondary characters are also given stronger story lines, including Wallace becoming involved with his father, taking some time away in Chicago, and getting into some issues with a vehicle incident.

Veronica Mars, the second season, offers more of what viewers learned to love in the first. It is an endlessly clever show, with strong writing, great acting, and carried by the excellent lead of Kristen Bell as Veronica.

If you have watched the first season, I am going to guess that you are hooked, and year 2 will definitely not disappoint.

Orange is the New Black Season 2 (TV Review)

Orange is the New Black Season 2 (TV Review)

After a seemingly endless wait, the second season of the hit Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black, has been released to the streaming service in its entirety. This show was heavily hyped during its first run, and rightfully so. The story of Piper Chapman, a yuppie woman sent to prison for 15 months for smuggling drugs for her girlfriend nearly a year before, was a highly entertaining season.

The release of the second season is one of the more hyped ones in the history of Netflix and their original programming. After coming out on Friday, this weekend would spell a lot of binge watching by fans of the show. I can’t see tons of people pacing themselves with this one, since they have been waiting for it for so long.

orangeThe season begins with Piper being shuffled off to another prison, after the incident that concluded the first season. Apparently, beating another girl to a pulp gets you in some more trouble. Or so we are lead to believe.

In all honesty, Orange is the New Black Season 2 starts pretty slowly. There are even a couple of episodes near the beginning that barely has Piper appear in them, as the show continues its original path on focusing on one or two characters per episode, and showing their back story. But the show really is about Piper and her struggle in a world that is not hers, and when she isn’t in much of the episode, I feel that the episode was lacking. Not that the secondary characters are bad, or aren’t good for the show. In fact, they were so helpful in making the first season such a success.

A few episodes into the new season, the show begin to hits its stride once again. There are new characters that come in to the prison, including the cute, but annoying, Soso. She is a younger girl, a political activist, who talks incessantly. I assume she is there to be a humorous character, but she is quite annoying to begin with. Eventually, like the season, she settles in, and becomes a better, funnier, more interesting character. Her desire to protest everything, including showering, makes her far more interesting than the nattering mess she began as. Even during her sex scene, she manages to talk non-stop, which is one of her funnier moments. By the end of the year, Soso becomes a very likable character, and another strong addition to the show.

We are also introduced to Vee, a tough-as-nails drug dealer with connections to Taystee and Red from the past. She comes in and tries to re-arrange the pecking order in the prison, causing some of the major conflicts of the season.

In the end, the show remains about the journey that Piper is undertaking. Once the first few episodes are sorted out, we get back to her troubles, both inside the prison, and with her crumbling life outside of it. She has gone through changes, continuing on her path of toughness that she began in the first year. No longer is she the passive, nerdy, fish out of water, but she is starting to show that prison is a place that she sort of belongs. She has made a home for herself there, despite the numerous issues that keep arising for her. We as viewers spent the first season believing that she never really belonged in that place, but by Season 2, we start to wonder if that really is where she belongs. There is an anger that has bubbled to the surface with Piper, and it is fun to watch her character develop.

Inside the prison walls, the stories that we started to learn about in the first season continue on, so we aren’t left hanging with what happened to the women we started to care about. There are some new back stories that reveal a lot about the characters. There are also heightened tensions between the racial divisions and groups in the prison, which causes backbone to the season.

In all, perhaps the second season doesn’t live up to the hype of the first. It was massive, and would have been difficult to live up to. But, Orange is the New Black remains an excellent show, and the second season is eventually very entertaining. Once the fun returns to the show, it is an enjoyable look into the quirkiness, problems, personal struggles, and deeper societal issues with a minimum security person.

Kings Up 2-0

Kings Up 2-0

With another Los Angeles Kings overtime victory, they have gone up in the Stanley Cup Final 2 games to none over the New York Rangers. So far, the series has been extremely entertaining, with the Kings leading the games for exactly zero minutes, as their only leads have come when they have scored the overtime winners.

brownThe main story from Game 2 may be the non-call on a possible interference on the Kings third goal, which of course allowed them to crawl back into the game and eventually tie it before winning it in the second overtime on Dustin Brown’s deflection.

Regardless of whether the call should have been made or not, the Kings won the game.

Now, can the Rangers respond when the series shifts back to the Big Apple?

The Kings have shown that they will give up series leads so far in these playoffs. After their stunning comeback from 3-0 to the Sharks in Round 1, they went up 2-0 on the Anaheim Ducks before coughing up that lead, eventually falling behind 3-2 in that series. Against Chicago, they had a 3-1 lead in games before being forced to a Game 7 after a couple of losses. They are a team that will allow a team back into the series, and it is not like the Rangers are being severely outplayed here. They have led throughout the series, and have been keeping pace with the Kings since the first puck drop. Maybe it is misfortune that has them in this spot, but they need to show how they can recover, and they are a team that can do it.

They need to hope that the old adage is true, that you aren’t really in trouble in a series until you lose your first game at home. They haven’t done that yet, so there is still hope.

There have been a couple of recent examples of teams coming back from 2-0 for the Stanley Cup. Most recently, the Boston Bruins did it against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. It can be done. And in these playoffs, there have been comebacks galore.

The Rangers aren’t done, but they are in a bad situation. The Kings have demonstrated their ability to win, even when they aren’t at their best, and they have had the uncanny ability to come back in games all through these playoffs. There is a lot of work to be done by New York, and they’ll need to dig deep to find the resiliency that got them this far in the tournament.

We’ll see how it all plays out in New York.

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

I’ve written a fair amount about Veronica Mars, because I just love it. I’ve written about the movie trailer, the film itself, and have even read the first novel in what is a possible VM book series, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.

Going back to where it all began, season 1 of the cult TV show is simply an awesome watch. Over the course of the season, we see the development of the characters that would play roles throughout the series, and we would see Kristen Bell become Veronica, to the point where she is one of the best female TV characters of the last decade.

And seeing as how Veronica Mars has been a recent addition to the Netflix lineup, it seemed an appropriate time to write about it. While I have gone through the entire series three times prior, seeing it on Netflix drew me back in for another complete viewing.

veronica2After Laura Palmer, and well before Rosie Larson, we wanted to know who killed Lilly Kane.

The premise of the first season is to introduce the once popular, but now pariah character of Veronica Mars, daughter to the former sheriff of Neptune, California, where the social divide is great between the haves and the have nots. Veronica used to run with the popular group, date the son of a billionaire, and be well respected among her peers at school. But that all changed after her best friend, Lilly, was murdered. Her father, Keith Mars, tried to pin the murder on Jake Kane, Lilly’s father, which essentially ostracized both of them from the high end people of Neptune. Veronica stuck with her father, not believing that the murder was solved, as the new sheriff would have everyone believe. Sure, there was a man behind bars, but something never fit right with the Mars family. Now, no longer sheriff, Keith is a private detective in town, and Veronica helps him on some of his cases. Often of the more sordid variety, such as cheating husbands.

But Veronica wants to know who really killed her best friend. Not to get back in with the cool people at school, but for her peace, Lilly’s peace, and her father’s vindication.

The first season of Veronica Mars has the long, over-arching story line of who killed Lilly. But in between, there are smaller arcs, as well as episode one offs, all of which are fun and interesting little mysteries, filled with wit, humour, and the perfect amount of seriousness, all while exploring topics of class division, popularity, and the typical teen issues. Veronica deals with small cases, like mysterious dog disappearances, to bigger things, like drug smuggling, and her own drugging and rape at a school party.

Veronica has a chip on her shoulder, and she is determined to get revenge on people who have wronged her, and wronged the people that she cares about. While her behavior can be morally questionable at times, Veronica always has justice at heart, which makes her an intriguing character.

She has a veneer of sarcasm that is able to protect a hurt girl, who has many wrongs in her life. Aside from the fall from popular grace, she has had to deal with an alcoholic mother who eventually abandons her family, questions about her own paternity, the scorn of the people from her past, and the struggles to balance her unique job and her studies, where she is a top student without the money to go to an elite school. She needs to earn everything she gets, and she is faced with tough decisions all the way through the first season.

But she is tough, which is why we love her. There is nary a situation that doesn’t warrant a quip from her, and the writers of the show gave Bell some great material to work with. But it is Bell that really makes this character come alive, and she gives Veronica the edge and humour that make her so lovable, and an easy character to cheer for.

The first season is full of twists and turns, both within the small story lines, as well as the big one. There are plenty of laughs, and plenty of strong secondary characters that make the show go round. Particularly strong is the relationship between Keith and his daughter, as they are serious about their work, but also seem to have the perfect father-daughter relationship, in that they can confide in one another, and do so quite hilariously at times.

Regardless of your taste in TV, Veronica Mars should be considered as a must see series. It never got the viewers it should have during its time on TV, but warrants a watching now. It is non-stop entertainment, with clever writing full of allusions that will make the knowledgeable pop culture junkie happy. Even having gone through the series several times, I still find myself enjoying the show, the quips, and being more knowing and involved in the mystery.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Book Review)

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Book Review)

I think we have found a great beach read here, in the mystery novel based on the characters created in the cult TV show Veronica Mars. Originally meant to serve as the basis for the film version that was released earlier this year, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line now works as a sequel to the movie.

The story revolves around Veronica, who is now back in Neptune after her adventures in the film, waiting for her boyfriend, Logan Echolls, to come back from his overseas tour of duty, and working a little bit for her dad, as she tends to do.

mars2It is set during spring break, where Neptune is invaded by drunken hordes of college age students, ready to blow off some steam. All is going normally, until a couple of co-eds go missing. From here, the mystery unfolds, and Veronica investigates the disappearance, or possible kidnapping, or possible murder, of the two missing girls. It leads her all over Neptune, to large spring break parties, to run ins with the most dangerous drug cartel on earth.

The book is co-written by VM creator Rob Thomas, which allows an in-depth knowledge of the characters in the story. We don’t need the backstory on everybody, like her friends Mac and Wallace, but instead are expected to know about them. That being said, this novel doesn’t need to be only for fans of the show. It is independent enough that the regular reader could get on board as well, because at its core, this is basically just a good mystery read. There is nothing incredible about it, but it reads just like an extended episode of the show. The mystery itself is solid, it keeps the reader guessing for the majority of the story, and it is a pretty fun read.

Credit goes to Kristen Bell, who so perfectly portrayed Veronica on the small and silver screen, that whenever Veronica is speaking, it is impossible not to read it in her voice, with her inflection and nuances to the character. Bell did such a wonderful job in becoming Veronica, that her performance transcends to text as well.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line is definitely not high end literature, but it will keep you entertained until the end. It is fairly well-written, all of the characters we have grown to love are in the story, and Veronica does what she does. She is still the witty, and edgy, and intelligent, and risk-taking girl that we grew to love on TV.

For fans of Veronica Mars, this mystery novel will be a must have for your summer reading list. Enjoy.

Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Here we go. The New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings for the Stanley Cup. The two biggest markets in the NHL, and a coast to coast battle that has never been seen before in the playoffs.

The Kings have become a semi-dynasty in the Western Conference, along with the Blackhawks, as they are going for their second Cup in the last three years. They had been in the conference finals for three straight years, which, in the cap-era, is incredibly consistent. The Kings are good, all over the place. They have the goalie, the D, and the forwards to get it done, as they already have.

rangers3The Rangers are probably more of a surprise to be here than the Kings are, given that the majority of people had the Bruins or Penguins going to the finals from the East (Note: I correctly predicted both conference final outcomes, so…yay me!).

kingsHere are my thoughts on the series:

  • Can’t ask for much of a better goalie match. There is gold and silver winning, all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers. Widely regarded as the best goalie in the league (and for good reason), Henrik has done it all, except win a Cup. He is already a legend in NYC, and if he wins the Cup, he will be an immortal there. On the other side, Jonathan Quick has risen to the top ranks of the league, having won a Cup, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and serving as the US starting goalie in the Sochi Olympics. He has a fat contract from the last time he won the Cup, and now he is again proving that he is a money goalie. Even though he didn’t have the greatest regular season, he has been beyond good in the playoffs. Even though this is a pretty even battle, I have to give the edge to the hungry Lundqvist. 
  • On defense, this is another great battle. Both teams are stacked. The Kings have the best d-man in the league with Drew Doughty. They also have great depth, with guys like Martinez, Voynov, Greene, Mitchell, and Muzzin. These guys can score, along with playing a tight defensive game in front of their goalie. They did show vulnerability against Chicago, and they will show some breakdowns now and then. The Rangers don’t have the same firepower as the Hawks, and will have a tougher time breaking down the tough Kings D. The Rangers can respond with up-and-coming elite D man, Ryan McDonagh, along with an equally formidable stable of depth with Girardi (one of the best defensive defencemen in the league), Staal, and Stralman. I have to give the edge to the Kings here, just because they can get more goals and points from the back end than the Rangers will.
  • On offense, the teams are built in a similar fashion. Some high end talent (Kopitar, Carter, Gaborik against St. Louis, Nash, Zucharello, Richards) in front of a bunch of tough guys who can also put the puck in the net. The building of these teams is very similar. There are guys that can put the puck in the net. There are guys who can crash and bang, and make you regret going into the corners. There are third and fourth liners who can also contribute on both ends of the ice. I call this a slight edge to the Kings, because of how good Kopitar is in both ends of the ice.
  • What about the exhaustion? The Kings have played 7 games in each series. Incredibly, they have won game 7 on the road each time around. The teams they have played are bruisers, and even though they have come through, they could be pretty beat up by this point. Can they keep it up after such long, gruesome battles?
  • The Rangers, while playing fewer games, and having more rest between series, had some tough battles as well. But I don’t think that playing the depleted Habs is anything like the ringers the Kings have been through.
  • New York has some karma going for them. 20 years have gone by since their last appearance. The city is electric for the Rangers. Are they a team of destiny?
  • As I mentioned above, the Kings are kind of a dynasty at this point. In the playoffs, they seem as though they are unbeatable. They beat their nemesis in Chicago. They need to be sure to not overlook the Rangers, however. King Henrik can steal more than just a game, but an entire series.
  • Now that LA has home ice advantage, will they play differently? They have a great, desperate game on the road, and they haven’t been the same at home. Have to wonder if their us against the world mentality will be affected by being the favorite, and having home ice advantage for the biggest series.
  • This is really a closer call than I thought it would be. I figured that whoever came out of the West would stomp the Rangers, but now I’m not as convinced. And if this year’s playoffs have taught us anything, it’s that these series are closer than we might ever expect.
  • I hope for a good series, as do all. Best of luck to the Kings and the Rangers. Whoever wins, they will have earned it.

Prediction: I’m going with the Los Angeles Kings to take home another Cup. In 6 games.