By Lars Lewis
The New Jersey Devils, a team who walked through hell (well come to think of it, doesn’t sound so new for a devil) to get to the Final, and the Los Angeles Kings, who have created a Hollywood script for the ages, meet tonight in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at 8PM on NBC.
Both teams took very different paths during the regular season, the Devils being criminally underrated throughout the year, posting a 48-28-6 record for 102 Pts. While the Kings fired their coach Terry Murray early in the season, his replacement Darryl Sutter led the Kings to a 37-19-7 record following Murray’s dismissal.
New Jersey’s head coach Peter DeBoer in his first season with the Devils, has brought aggressive and smart forechecking into his team, a polar opposite of past Devils’ teams and their infamous neutral zone trap. The Kings are almost cut from the same cloth, using an aggressive forecheck, commanding puck control in the opponent’s zone.
In my mind though, the biggest angle of this series will be between the two goaltenders. Martin Brodeur for the Devils has been there, done that, won this, and won that. Brodeur has accomplished nearly every milestone and record the league has to offer at his position. He comes into this series with a 2.04 GAA and a .923SV%. Brodeur is looking to win his 4TH Stanley Cup, adding more to his legend.
His much younger counterpart is looking to cement his name in the pantheon of legendary athletic achievements in Los Angeles sports. Johnathan Quick, already the heavy favorite for the Vezina Trophy, has been almost god-like in the playoffs. 12-2 with a sparkling 1.54GAA and an astounding .946SV%. The last time I saw a goaltender dominate like this was Tim Thomas in last year’s playoffs. Want to know the significant age difference between the two, when Brodeur won his first Cup in 1995, Quick was 9 years old!
Here are the strength’s for both teams:
-Jonathan Quick (nuff said)
-5 shorthanded goals and best penalty kill in playoffs (52-57) (91.2%)
-Balanced scoring (15 different Kings have scored a goal and/or assist in the playoffs)
-Did I mention Jonathan Quick?
-The dynamic duo of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk
-Can roll 4 lines easily
-Equally suffocating forecheck
Let’s look at the weaknesses between L.A and New Jersey:
-6-74 on the power play (8.1%) (And fans say that the Sabres have a bad PP)
-Lot of first timers in the Final (Kopitar, Doughty, Quick, etc.)
-Lack of production from their blue liners
-Lost both times to New Jersey during the season
-Will Patrik Elias step up after a dismal first 3 rounds?
-Penalty Kill struggled mightily during first 3 rounds
-Does Brodeur have enough left?
Two teams with similar molds. Will experience and savvy from New Jersey prevail? Or will the Hollywood script have a happy ending for Los Angeles? Kings fans haven’t had much to cheer for in 45 years, but this team has given hope to “Tinseltown” after the Lakers and Clippers both went down in the NBA playoffs.
The script will be complete. The Kings will win at Staples Center in 6 games.