Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The last three seasons have seen Stanley
Cup champions that had to wait a long time in between titles.
Boston (2011) had not won hockey's Holy Grail since 1972, Chicago (2010) needed
almost 50 years to reclaim the cup, while Pittsburgh (2009) was without a
winner since 1992.
This year, the right to drink from the cup is between the Los Angeles Kings and
the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings are one of 17 teams without a Stanley Cup to their name. The last
time Los Angeles reached the finals was back in 1993 when Wayne Gretzky and
Company lost in five games to Montreal.
The Devils have reached this round four times in their history with three
victories, the most recent in 2003. If one were to wager on the series
based on the recent trend, the pick would be Los Angeles. But would it be a
wise choice? Let's tackle the key ingredients to this series and find out.
Both teams are averaging under three goals per game in the postseason. Still,
the edge has to go to New Jersey. Not only are Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise
the two most-skilled offensive players on the ice, but the Devils also have
been getting outstanding contributions from all four lines.
Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta and David Clarkson were key cogs against the New
York Rangers, and when Patrick Elias and Travis Zajac (and the rest) are thrown
into the mix, the Devils should be able to score just enough goals to stay
The Kings have decent firepower as well with captain Dustin Brown, Anze
Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter leading the charge. They also can throw
in a rejuvenated Dustin Penner and the rookie Dwight King. Edge - Devils.
Outside of the Kings' Drew Doughty, the defensemen on both squads are not the
star-studded group usually associated with the Stanley Cup Finals. Even Doughty
has played a more defensive-minded role since Darryl Sutter took over as head
Los Angeles relies on stalwarts Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi to help shut
down the opposition and they have done a fantastic job in both the regular
season and the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Devils were second in shots allowed this season (three spots
ahead of the Kings) and are No. 1 in the postseason among all teams with 10
games or more. Slight edge - Kings.
The folks backing Los Angeles in this series will point to Jonathan Quick as
the reason they feel extremely confident. After all, the 26-year-old netminder
has been fabulous all season long. Furthermore, Quick has allowed just two
goals or less in 12 of the 14 playoff games. Nonetheless, two of the three
opponents (St. Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes) are not known for their
offensive abilities, so one can expect the netminder's goals against average to
rise versus the Devils.
The one area that is a soft spot for Quick - lack of Stanley Cup experience -
is the key for Martin Brodeur. The 40-year-old has had his best postseason in
quite some time. While his numbers don't match those of his rival, when one
takes into account the opposition, there's no doubt the future Hall of Famer
has played a huge role in New Jersey's rise to the Stanley Cup Finals. Edge -
The Devils led the league during the regular season on the penalty kill, but
struggled against the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs.
Since then, the unit has been much improved.
The Kings might not pose much of a threat on the power play because they have
converted fewer than 10 percent of their postseason chances. New Jersey, on the
other hand, is clicking close to 20 percent in the playoffs, good for second-
best for teams that have played 10 games or more.
If there's one worrisome spot for the Devils, it is L.A.'s ability to score
shorthanded (five goals in 14 playoff games), especially since New Jersey has
been victimized 15 times in 100 games with the man advantage. On the flip side,
the Devils were No. 1 with 15 shorthanded goals during the regular season, so
the Kings' point men also will have to be on their toes. Edge - Even.
The Devils' relentless two-man forecheck has been one of their keys to success.
Expect more of the same against the Kings. In addition, New Jersey's
experience, especially in net, will be a critical factor in the series.
It's true the Kings have rolled along without a hitch in the postseason, but
scoring goals against Brodeur will be a much more difficult task than putting
the puck in the net against the likes of St. Louis' Brian Elliott and Phoenix's
Las Vegas has the wrong team favored. The Devils were the better team during
the regular season and they have had the much tougher road in the playoffs.
New Jersey wins in six.
The Sports Network