Just as everyone predicted in the off-season, the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings faceoff tonight in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Sport Sofa takes a quick glance at both teams key areas.
Both these teams were plagued with scoring issues through the course of the regular season. Of course, we know, that means nothing now. Two dynamic teams with scoring threats on each line, but also a defensive element to their offensive game. But that’s boring, so let’s talk scoring (it rhymes). For the Devils the offense goes as Ilya Kovalchuk goes. Currently leading the playoffs (!), the chemistry with Zach Parise has been tremendous. The creative both players possess make them a dynamic and legitimate threat to score each and every shift. But the Devils don’t stop there. They’ve found a knack for getting big goals from less heralded players, none more important the Adam Henrique. The rookie potted the OT winner against the Rangers and Panthers, making him just the 2nd player all time to score 2 OT goals to win a series in NHL playoff history. Coach Peter De Boer says Henrique never shows any sign of nerves. That’s certainly translated in his play.
The Kings, much like the Devils, have scoring options everywhere. It starts and ends with captain Dustin Brown. His presence on the ice motivates LA, which can be the cause for his constant hard play. In Anze Kopitar the Kings perhaps have, outside of Kovalchuk, the most dynamic player in the series. He’s presence on the Power play and Penalty Kill, much like Mike Richard’s will cause headaches for New Jersey. Players like the aforementioned Richards and Jeff Carter, we know, have found a form the Kings had hoped for when acquired. Better late than ever. Coupled with players like rookie Dwight King, and now Dustin Penner potting in the occasional goal, scoring will not be an issue for LA anymore.
A relatively even blue line for both teams means the offensive powers have a decent chance to be stopped. For New Jersey Bryce Salvador has been their gem this offseason. He plays over 2:30 shorthanded and over 22 minutes total a game. He also has 11 points in 18 playoffs games, more than his 82 regular season games. He’s been playing with Marek Zidlicky who leads the team in ice time with just over 24 minutes of ice time a game. Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Anton Volchenkov and Peter Harrold have been stellar in themselves, and neither are a liability when push comes to shove.
Drew Doughty’s resurgence after the Jack Johnson trade has been an underrated element of the Kings push to the Cup. Playing just under 26 minutes a game, including almost 6 PP minutes, he has 10 points so far and is +10 to boot. Coupled with Rob Scuderi who himself is playing over 21 minutes, the tandem have been nothing short of spectacular so far this post-season.
Willie Mitchell at 25 minutes a game has somehow blocked 45 shots in 14 games, which is just silly. He and rookie Slava Voynov have been the shutdown tandum for the Kings.
Again both back ends are relatively similar but the Kings have a slight advantage in shutdownability (I made it up). They may cause the Devils offense some problems, and force a bit more creativity out of Kovalchuk and co.
Old versus new? Perhaps. Straight up good versus good though. For the Devils we have the veteran Martin Brodeur. Been here before, won here before, multiple times. It’ll help. But Brodeur lacks the presence to win games for his team by himself. It’s not a knock on him, so far to be honest, he hasn’t had to do it. The team is full of goal scoring threats that have come alive these playoffs. An advantage for New Jersey is Brodeur’s ability to translate defense into offence. He’s not shy of leaving his crease to play the puck, within parameters of course, and that’s a reason for 4 playoffs assists this year. The Kings will have to be aware of their attacking when he leaves his goal, or they may get caught defensively.
Jonathan Quick has been spectacular, and unlike Brodeur this year, he’s stolen games for the LA Kings. His numbers are the best in the playoffs, and not because there’s are just 2 teams left, I mean compared to everyone in the playoffs. He’s been sensational, and as much as captain Brown is a motivator, Quick’s play is every part the equal. Time and time again in the Phoenix series when LA were hard-pressed to score, it was a big save by Quick that turned the fortunes of the game around. He can and will do that against New Jersey. It’s hard to go against Martin Brodeur in a goaltending matchup, but I have to give the advantage to LA with Quick.
While many groaned at the exodus of the Rangers, with hopes of a New York vs. LA finals dashed, the play in this series will be exceptional. Two balanced teams from the net out; can’t really ask for better than that. New Jersey get’s labeled as being boring, but they’re anything but. I’m unsure however if physically they’ll match up against the LA Kings, who do have a tendency to get under the skin of opponents at times. People are asking what LA will do if they were to face any adversity in this series. They of course have rolled in the playoffs losing just 2 games. Some say they haven’t been tested. I say they have, it was the 82 regular season games when it seemed likely that the most talented team on paper was set to miss the playoffs until the final few days. They’re playing with house money these playoffs, and have knocked out a 1, 2 and 3 seed. I can’t find any fatal flaws in this team, and because of the advantage in net, I give the edge to the Kings.
Los Angeles in 6.
What do you think?