The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings are set for the Stanley Cup
Finals, which begins on Wednesday night. It’s not often that we see a six
versus eight matchup in the finals but this postseason has been anything but
The question everyone has on their minds is whether or
not the Devils can derail the freight train of confidence that is the Kings.
They’ve won 12 of their 14 playoff games and appear to be on a collision course
to win the Cup. Is there anything the Devils can do to stop them?
Los Angeles Kings vs. New Jersey Devils
How they got here
The Los Angeles Kings? Oh, they’re just your typical,
ho-hum eight-seed to make the Stanley Cup Finals. In all seriousness, the Kings
run to the finals has been nothing short of shocking – if not the most
surprising thing we’ve seen in sports all this year.
The Kings are just the third eight-seed to make it to the
Cup finals, and it’s not just that they made it but how how they made it. The Kings
have won 12 of their 14 playoff games to get here, which means they’ve only
lost twice in three rounds. They’ve never been threatened whatsoever – holding
3-0 series leads in each series – and they have dominated everyone in their
path. Nobody saw this coming.
As for the Devils, few people had them pegged for a
Stanley Cup finals appearance but, considering they collected 102 points in the
regular season, nobody should be too surprised. The New York Rangers were
always questioned, the Boston Bruins didn’t look the same as last season and
the Philadelphia Flyers took out the Pittsburgh Penguins. For all intents and
purposes, the Eastern Conference was decided when the Devils knocked the Flyers
in Round 2.
What The Kings
Need To Do To Win:
Play exactly how they have through the first three
rounds. That means a relentless fore-check, pepper the opposing goaltender with
shots galore, don’t give up power play goals, spend little time in their own
zone and make sure that Jonathan Quick has as little work as possible.
While it may seem like a tall to-do list, it’s actually
been pretty straightforward for the Kings. It all starts with their fore-check,
which has put incredible pressure and cracked three good defensive teams: the
Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues and the Phoenix Coyotes. The big
question for New Jersey will be: how can they keep the Kings from averaging
three goals per game when three better defensive teams were not able to?
The Devils aren’t physical like St. Louis, they’re not as
balanced as Vancouver and they’re goaltender isn’t as hot as Phoenix’s was.
Really, there’s nothing the Kings haven’t seen here before.
What The Devils
Need To Do To Win:
Put some pressure on the Kings. The Kings haven’t faced
any adversity this postseason as they’ve won Game 1 each series, had a 3-0 lead
each series and cruised throughout. The only time they lost was in Game 4 when
they’re opponent was desperate not to get swept.
For the Devils, they need to test the Kings and find out
what they’re made of. If they can somehow get the lead in the series or get the
lead in games, we might see a different side of this Kings team.
The Devils have Martin Brodeur in net and, while the Kings
have an excellent goaltender in their own right, Brodeur has been here before
and that experience is going to be very valuable. He is the source of the
team’s confidence and he leads from the back end. The Kings have experience but
they don’t have a sure-fire Hall of Famer; that’s a difference.
What Will Happen:
How can I not doubt the Devils? They had arguably the
easiest first-round playoff matchup of any team with the Florida Panthers and
needed double-overtime in Game 7 just to survive. Then they took advantage of a
Philadelphia Flyers team that was half-asleep and then beat a New York Rangers
team that we questioned all along. On the flipside, the Kings beat the
Presidents’ Trophy winners in Vancouver, topped the Central Division-winning
St. Louis Blues, who finished with the second-most points in the NHL this
season (109), and then undressed the hottest goaltender in the 2012 NHL
playoffs in Mike Smith in Round 3. On top of that, they achieved all of that
while losing just twice.
For the Devils to win, the Kings will have to revert back
to their old ways. Something will have to change in their personality as
dramatically as it changed when the playoffs started – only this time, it would
have to be for the worse.
The Devils don’t present anything that the Kings haven’t
seen before, which means this series is for the Kings to lose. Take the Kings.
Pick: Kings -120