Half Baked: A Not-Entirely-Civil Debate Between Our Favorite Kings and Rangers Fans

With Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final being played tonight at Staples Center, we asked two fans to channel their nerves into something constructive: a conversation about their hopes, fears, dreams, and car ownership status. Here, Grantland’s resident New York Rangers enthusiast Katie Baker chats with Los Angeles Kings season-ticket holder and blogger The Royal Half. Jonathan Quick frightens them both.

Katie Bakes: Greetings, newfound mortal enemy. So it comes to this. JFK to LAX, Manhattan vs. Manhattan Beach, the One True King against the Kings. Way back in September, New York and L.A. played a preseason game in Las Vegas, and now Vegas has the Kings -165 to beat the Rangers for their second Stanley Cup in three years. Let the bickering over Shake Shack vs. In-N-Out begin!

Over the next week or two (please be two, please be two) we’ll hear Darryl Sutter say the words “quite honest” at least 80 or 90 times — roughly the same number of offensive-zone penalty minutes that Benoit Pouliot will accumulate in Game 1 alone. We’ll watch Anze Kopitar toy with Derek Stepan’s impaired peripheral vision and see Carl Hagelin leave Matt Greene in the dust. We’ll hear the phrases “hot ticket” and “celebrities on hand” and roll our eyes at all the “California Chrome” references NBC will synergistically shoehorn in.

I went to two Kings games this postseason; the first was Game 2 of the first round in San Jose when the Sharks won 7-2. I sat next to the guy who runs the Kings’ Twitter account and even he was so disillusioned he could barely muster up material. The second, which I never would have seen coming that night in SAP Center, was Game 7 of the Western Conference finals between the Kings and Blackhawks. I listened to your postgame podcast, which begins with live audio footage of you and your degenerate friends reacting to the Kings’ overtime goal, so I have also heard what happened. I didn’t think such octaves were possible, quite honest.

How would you describe the trajectory of your emotions in that span? What excites and scares you most about this upcoming series? Do you care that Jonathan Quick is a noted Eli Manning fan?

The Royal Half: “Fawgetaboutit!!!” “Gimme another slice of pie!!!” “Hey, I’m walking here, I’m walking here!!!” Man, you New Yorkers say the craziest things, bro.

You know, everybody seems to want to call this matchup “The King vs. the Kings.” But I feel like the mainstream media is missing the true “King vs. King” battle here.

I’m pretty sure Dwight King will eat Henrik Lundqvist’s face like a sandwich.

I actually attended that game in Las Vegas and was witness to the Rangers’ fifth loss in six preseason games. And I, too, agreed with countless other hockey pundits that there was NO WAY this team could win without John Tortorella. Back when he was coaching, I also saw the Kings and Rangers play in Europe at the start of the 2011 season.

But I’m most excited about seeing the Kings and Rangers play in a setting that the San Jose Sharks have never been … the Stanley Cup final!

I have the over/under set at 10 for how many times Los Angeles will be referred to as “Tinseltown” by NBC in Game 1. And I can’t wait to see how it will make it seem like Downtown L.A. is directly below the Hollywood sign even though it’s 20 minutes away (40 minutes in traffic).

Katie Bakes: They’re on Jack Bauer Standard Time. Speaking of traffic and the San Jose Sharks, I’ve never written anything on the Internet that garnered a more passionate commenter response than when I referred to it as “the 101.”

The Royal Half: Well, that’s why you should never trust a Sharks player to give you directions. It will just lead you to disappointment.

I’m terrified that Brian Boyle will score 18 goals and come back to haunt the team that drafted him 26th overall in 2003 (two spots ahead of Corey Perry). But I’m hoping the L.A. Kings can keep Rick Nash off the score sheet so the phone lines of WFAN light up like the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree as Rags fans tell Mike Francesa that they need to “trade that bum!”

Katie Bakes: Francesa, surprisingly, had perhaps the best take yet on the whole to-touch-or-not-to-touch-the-conference-trophy debate. “I don’t care if one team did the conga line with it and the other team never went near it,” he roared. “It will never have an effect on the game.” [Bangs gavel.] Case closed. 

The Royal Half: Dustin Brown didn’t even come close to touching the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl! He just stuck his leg out and the Bowl skated right into it. Right, Tomas Hertl?

The last time I saw the Rangers play in person, it was opening night for the Kings at Staples Center and Jon Quick did not look all that impressive.

Boy, I’m sure glad he’s playing much better than that now. [Nervously adjusts shirt collar.]

Quick hasn’t exactly made this trip to the Cup final the easiest. Over the course of the past 21 games we’ve seen him go from giving up seven unanswered goals against the Sharks to stopping 18 shots in the third period and overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Blackhawks. And yes, I understand that Quick is a New York Giants fan … but I had to look up what team that was since we don’t have professional football in Los Angeles (unless you count the Pete Carroll USC years).

What about you, Bakes? What are the things you are most looking forward to and dreading in this series? Is it strange for Rangers fans to see Marian Gaborik actually scoring in a deep playoff run? And most importantly… with you being a charter member of the John Tortorella Appreciation Society™ … what is so different about this team than years past?

Katie Bakes: I always liked Gaborik — the guy is only the third Ranger in history to have scored 40 goals twice! — though I was also fine with the Columbus trade. It was time. I think it’s beneficial to him, and terrifying to Rangers fans, to be playing on a team for which his role can almost be described as a secondary threat. I’ve been generally rooting for his playoff hot hand.

It’s funny you mention both Gaborik and Tortorella, though, because I was just daydreaming today about what things would be like if Gaborik were still here now that Alain Vigneault is coach. He’s a player who would really highlight the differences in philosophy and style between Torts and AV. (Just look at guys like Mats Zuccarello and Chris Kreider. Also, can you believe it was only a year ago that Torts was calling out Carl Hagelin and Brad Richards?) I was just watching an old episode of Sex and the City (lay off me, I was on the elliptical) and it had this to say about a dude: “He’s an ideal combination of the two coasts. He’s a New Yorker at heart, but he’s lost all his neuroses and 30 pounds.” It was like Gaborik, with the weight of Tortorella’s shot-blocking quota off his shoulders.

I miss Torts as a conceptual art project every day, but the Montreal series really made me see the benefits of Vigneault, who took almost none of Michel Therrien’s bait and didn’t start chucking people under the bus at the first missed exit. Speaking of conceptual art projects: I’m considering renting studio space and projecting this Glen Sather cover of Cambria Style on every flat surface while playing his deadpan transcript from Tuesday’s Media Day, as voiced by Michael Shannon, on a loop:

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It took us three hours to figure out which golf course we are going to play at this afternoon. Later on this evening, you have questions about dinner and what you’re going to watch on TV tonight. Is ‘Game of Thrones’ on? It’s tough.

The Royal Half: Well, if Glen Sather wants to know which golf course in California to play at in June, he should just ask the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks.

And I’m not sure that Glen Sather should be spending his time binge-watching Game of Thrones. He might realize soon enough that the only Ranger who has disappeared more than Benjen Stark is Rick Nash.

Katie Bakes: I can’t wait for Nash to score the Stanley Cup–winning goal. It’ll be a wrist shot to Quick’s chest from the faceoff dot that Quick will mishandle after getting distracted trying to rig the goalpost to come dislodged more easily.

What I dread most is that the rumors will be true and the West will wallop the East. I don’t think it will happen, in part because these are two teams that have demonstrated an infuriating knack for drawing things out. But I fear Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty as much as I fear Dan Girardi. I also know that none of them are likely to score the really painful goals. (Hey, who is the Kings’ latter-day Dustin Penner?)

I also dread that the Rangers’ power play will turn back into this:

What I’m hopeful about is that we’ll see the best of the Rangers, that they’ll be one of those teams that plays up to better competition and not the version of themselves that can’t shoot the puck from closer than 10 feet away. When Hagelin and Richards are clicking and cycling, it’s beautiful to watch. (Sorry, Torts.) Lundqvist has the ability to elevate himself to permanent all-timer status; he’s also the player most likely to win the Conn Smythe in defeat. Ryan McDonagh skated up on offense noticeably more than usual in the Montreal series. I approved.

The Royal Half: There really isn’t a Penner on this year’s squad. Actually, the Kings might have the Bizarro Penner: Dwight King had a surprising 15 goals during the regular season but only two in the postseason.

But come on, Bakes … is there anyone on the Rangers’ roster that can keep up with Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson? I mean, the highest jersey number on your team is 67?!? BORING!

Katie Bakes: At least we’re not the Devils. I wonder how close Lou Lamoriello got to rejecting Jaromir Jagr solely over no. 68. I bet it almost torpedoed the deal.

Will That ’70s Line(™: MUST CREDIT THE ROYAL HALF) stay together?! I thought I saw things breaking up near the end of last game. At least Pearson and Toffoli acknowledged your Ashton Kutcher photoshop masterpieces on NHL Network.

So, which 70-something jersey will you be wearing to Game 1 on Wednesday night? Or will you go old-school yellow and purple? (I miss that look.)

The Royal Half: As a fellow esteemed member of the media, I am no longer allowed to wear jerseys to the games. So instead, Wednesday at Staples Center, I will be wearing my Ron Duguay Man Thong to honor the greatest player to ever skate for L.A. and New York.

Katie Bakes: Everyone talks about Gretzky dropping the ceremonial puck, but it should obviously be that “hockey heartthrob” who was described in a 1984 People article as having “off-ice activities with the likes of Cheryl Tiegs, Farrah Fawcett, Cher, Patti LuPone and Bianca Jagger.” From what I’ve seen of him on MSG Network, he looks and dresses much the same way he did then. Ooh, la la, Sasson.

The Royal Half: To be honest, Duguay symbolizes the three best things about Los Angeles: great tanning weather, a healthy low-carb lifestyle, and affordable but high-quality Botox treatments.

Katie Bakes: The three things I miss most about New York are the Post, the pizza, and hopping blindly and effortlessly into cabs at 3 a.m. to be taken to another bar.

The Royal Half: My biggest pet peeve is New Yorkers who move to Los Angeles and complain that you have to drive from bar to bar or place to place. My second-biggest pet peeve is New Yorkers who move to Los Angeles.

Katie Bakes: I can’t believe you have to drive from brunch to brunch.

The Royal Half: Isn’t brunch wonderful? It’s the second-best thing we do in California behind completely dominating hockey teams.

The Royal Half has been a Los Angeles Kings fan since 1988 and a Half-Season-Ticket Holder since 2002. You can follow him on Twitter @theroyalhalf.

Filed Under: NHL, 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes