Stanley Cup Preview

If you had the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals before the regular season began, I would like you to pick the six numbers in the Texas Lottery for me. The Kings vs. the Devils in the Finals? I did not see that matchup as a possibility even when the playoffs started. Then again, you have got to love the beauty of the unpredictability in the NHL, especially the postseason. The six-seeded Devils versus the eight-seeded Kings will start their best-of-seven series, tonight, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

The Kings come into the Finals with an outstanding 12-2 record in the postseason. They have yet to lose a road game in the playoffs winning ten in a row going back to last year’s postseason which is an NHL record. They dispatched the first overall-seeded Vancouver Canucks in five games, then swept the second-seeded St. Louis Blues and blew by the third-seeded Phoenix Coyotes in five games to come out of the Western Conference. They are the second team in NHL history to beat the top three seeds to reach the Finals. The 2004 Calgary Flames were the first team to do it when they were coached by Darryl Sutter. Ironically, Sutter is now the head coach of the Kings. The team is led by captain, Dustin Brown, along with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Penner and their outstanding goaltender Jonathan Quick. He is 12-2 with a 1.54 goals-against average with a .946 save percentage according to their team’s website.
Quick has been incredible to go along with the team’s stingy defense that has carried
them throughout the postseason.

For the Devils, they come into the Finals by beating the third-seeded Florida Panthers in seven games, then ousting the fifth-seeded Philadelphia Flyers in five games and then getting by the first-seeded New York Rangers in six games. Despite finishing with over one hundred points during the regular season, the Devils finished fourth in the Atlantic Division. With a lot of talk about teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers being amongst the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference, it was very easy to overlook the Devils. This is mostly due to the fact that they do not have a lot of recognizable stars that you would know like a Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or a Claude Giroux. Their team is led by captain, Zach Parise, head coach Peter DeBoer, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Petr Sykora, Ilya Kovalchuk and future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur. At age 40, Brodeur is still proving to be one of the best goaltenders when it matters the most.

The key to this series will be the Devils’ forecheck against the Kings’ stingy defense. Can the Devils get a consistent forecheck going and not give away the puck? The Kings have made their opponents pay for turning the puck over. The Kings have enough weapons, offensively, to keep up with the Devils who are more of an offensive-minded team nowadays going away from the neutral zone trap system that produced three Stanley Cups from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s. It will be tough for the Devils to maintain the forecheck because the Kings do such an excellent job of getting the puck out of their zone and not getting caught out of position too much, defensively. Not to mention the Kings are very big, physical and have a lot of speed that will cause problems for the Devils. I love the way Quick has been playing in net for the Kings. For these reasons, I am going with the Kings in six games. Six games.

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