Commentary

It's all about the Cup (mostly)

Who has the advantage? Who wins? Biggie or Tupac? Those answers and more

Updated: August 12, 2014, 10:48 AM ET
By John Buccigross | ESPN.com

Well, the Kings hold the advantage in the Stanley Cup finals because they appear to be the better team. They are deep, experienced, talented. They have a great goalie and an experienced coach. They beat in the playoffs three teams that had at least 107 points (San Jose, Anaheim, Chicago) and big goal differential numbers during the regular season.

The Rangers beat the Flyers (92 points, plus-1 goal differential), a good Penguins team that showed its lack of depth and playoff DNA again, and Montreal that had a plus-11 goal differential. You can't blame the Rangers for their opponents, and there is a lot to like if you are a Rangers fan.

They have a manically driven goalie, a good coach, speed, and savvy players. The Rangers haven't seen experienced centers with the size and skill of the Kings. They haven't played against a world-class goalie for an entire series yet.

All that being said, the Rangers have a 2013 Boston Red Sox unity about them, meshing via tragedy. They will either continue their roll and good feeling by winning Game 1 or Game 2, or they will get steamrolled by one of the best defensive teams during the regular season, which was also suddenly able to outscore the highest-scoring regular-season team in the Blackhawks.

Henrik Lundqvist will have to play out of his mind and the Rangers will probably need to play a mucking, low-scoring game and continue to get the balanced scoring they've had through three rounds. All of the Rangers' playoff wins have come by not allowing more than two goals. If the Kings keep scoring at their current playoff rate, can the Rangers keep up?

As for the second question, I think the addition of the Big Ten has been great for college hockey, primarily because it has resulted in more games to be on TV. Competition among networks is a win for fans.

To me, it is undoubtedly Henrik Lundqvist. He's been there the longest. If the Rangers win this series, Lundqvist goes on the Mount Rushmore of all-time Rangers. He will win the Conn Smythe if they win the Cup.

Jonathan Quick, who grew up an hour from New York City, has never played a game in Madison Square Garden.

The Blackhawks' salary party is over after next season. The contracts of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews (both with $6.5 million salaries and $6.3 million cap hits) are up, and so is Brandon Saad's. Nick Leddy will also be up and he will get a raise.

I assume the Blackhawks would like to lock up Saad with one of those cap-friendly deals where the player can bank some guaranteed cash to assure a solid windfall in case of injury (six years, $24 million perhaps?). Saad is only 21, so I would think he would be interested in that kind of deal where he can bank good money and be a free agent at age 27, and if his trajectory continues he will land a big contract then.

What are Toews and Kane looking for? I'm sure they are looking at Evgeni Malkin's eight-year, $76 million contract with a $9.5 million cap hit and saying, "Ahhhh, I'm gonna need that." And yes, I would think if Toews and Kane re-sign in Chicago they would get identical contracts.

Who knows what the Penguins are thinking in terms of a general manager? Do they want someone ownership can control? I assume the Penguins fired Ray Shero because they didn't like his roster construction. If that's the case, then I assume that ownership would like to see big changes.

The Penguins could have a significantly different roster next season. A lot of contracts are up. This is a huge offseason and to not have a GM in place now to prepare for the draft and free agency is borderline laughable.

Coach Dan Bylsma is signed for two more seasons. I was told by a very good source that there were issues at practice and in meetings with the players. Simply put, if Sidney Crosby is uncomfortable with the coach, then the coach has to go. I assume Crosby has talked with ownership and given his opinion of Bylsma. Perhaps Crosby has had conversations with Bylsma already to talk about what should/could be different. Bylsma is a reasonable person and I'm sure would be flexible.

Meanwhile, Mike Babcock's best players in Detroit are aging, and perhaps the thought of coaching Crosby/Malkin appeals to him with one year left on his contract. There seems to be a lot going here.

Were the Penguins fearful of someone hiring Shero and Bylsma together if they fired both at the same time? I don't know why they would be, because if they weren't good for the Penguins, why would they be good for someone else?

Bylsma will be fine. He's getting paid for two years. If the Penguins cost him a job in the short term by delaying his firing, he's got income and he will get another job. He's experienced and a good franchise point guard.

Will the Red Wings and Penguins make a quasi-trade of sorts for coaches to fit their current roster age? It will be fun for us to watch, and both Babcock and Bylsma will make large incomes and live happily ever after.

I keep hearing these doomsday contract offers for Thomas Vanek and I don't get it.

Vanek just turned 30. He has twice scored 40 goals. In the lockout season two years ago, Vanek scored 20 goals in 38 games. This season, he played for three teams and scored 27 goals. He's a reliable playoff goal scorer with 18 goals in his past 43 playoff games, the same rate as a 30-goal season.

I would think a decent number of teams would want that. I would be surprised if Vanek didn't get at least five years and $25 million.

Everyone I've talked to says Ryan Miller's reputation took a big hit and that a shorter-term deal is his destiny. I never underestimate the value of goaltending and never underestimate the emotional, desperate GM who needs to get a goalie. There are plenty of needy teams for Miller to drive up his price, I think. I'll say Anaheim, San Jose, Minnesota or Pittsburgh.

Four divisions of eight teams seems reasonable to me. A team in Seattle is a great fit in my mind. Seattle is one of the great American cities and would be a great fit for hockey.

Yes. Jarome Iginla is a great fit playing with the pace of David Krejci and the dredging work of Milan Lucic, whose skating and physical play create lots of room and chances for Iginla. I would think if the Bruins get the cap number they like, they would bring Iginla back for another season.

BU coach David Quinn has a strong recruiting class coming in next year following a disappointing 10-21-4 record in the first year after Jack Parker's retirement. Yes, BU could flip that record around to 21-10-4 with the talent it is bringing in. Could the Terriers make a run to the Frozen Four next year, when it will be held in Boston? That would be a long shot.

The Big Ten hockey conference currently has six teams. Obviously it would love more. Nebraska seems like a natural fit. Money, facility, great sports fans. The Cornhuskers would sell out every game. You have to think Illinois and/or Northwestern would be a fit with the Chicago market and the success of the Blackhawks.

USA Hockey is led by smart, passionate people with great practice plans that will develop skill and be fun for your players. You don't have to have been a player to be a good coach. Learn the basics, seek out the best drills and practice plans, be energetic and organized, and encourage your players to improve.

Tupac then, Tupac now, Tupac forever. No matter what Charissa Thompson says. (We have our own personal East Coast/West Coast feud over this.)

"You either ride wit' us, or collide wit' us."

Sully, Pauly McCormick and Tommy McGrath #TopDollah.

I picked the Kings to win the Cup before the season here on ESPN.com. I'll stay with them and hope for a huge ESPN bonus. #KingOfFreon #crickets

John Buccigross | email

SportsCenter anchor
John Buccigross joined ESPN as an anchor in October 1996. He currently can be seen as an anchor on "SportsCenter." Buccigross frequently contributes to ESPN.com during the season.

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