Stanley Cup Finals Preview - Los Angeles Kings @ New Jersey Devils
Wednesday, May 30th marks the beginning to the end of what has been quite a remarkable season for the NHL. Tomorrow, the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils will square off in what should be one of the better Stanley Cup Finals in years. The winning team will get rewarded with the most historical and well received trophy in all of North American sports, Lord Stanley's Cup.
For the Devils, the main story that has been a constant throughout the playoffs has been the play of Martin Brodeur in net, Illya Kovalchuk's playmaking ability, and of course the clutchness of a rookie and a Calder Memorial Trophy finalist(Rookie of the Year)Adam Henrique. The 22 year old Henrique, made series winning goals in Game 7 situations against both the Florida Panthers as well as the New York Rangers in overtime to send his team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Kovalchuk leads the playoffs in points currently with 18(7 goals, 11 assists). Although no player has been able to eclipse Claude Giroux's goal tallies that he accomplished in just two series, Kovalchuk was the first player to eclipse Giroux's point marker at 17. Also, the Devils captain, Zach Parise has been really turning on the jets as it gets later in the playoffs, scoring six points against the Rangers(3 goals, 3 assists).
The Devils offense is going to have their work cut out for them against the Kings for two major reasons. One, the play of the American youngster Jon Quick in net has been the best performance between the pipes this postseason. Averaging only 1.54 goals against per game, Quick has really shown he is a force to be reckoned with. To put things in perspective with Quick's GAA, the Hall of Famer Brodeur averages 2.04 goals against per game, but his performances have been called amazing.
Quick as well as Brodeur's style of play is partially the reason why they are so dominant. They both play a somewhat hybrid style, meaning not butterfly nor stand-up goaltenders, yet they incorporate both styles in making their saves. If the shot requires butterfly, the goaltender will drop down however, it is their ability to choose as well as react to the situation that has gotten their teams so far in the playoffs.
Brodeur and the Devils defense will have to contain the extremely talented group of forwards the Kings have put together over the course of the year. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards played as teammates in the Stanley Cup finals before, but as Philadelphia Flyers two years ago when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season marks back-to-back seasons Richards and Carter have been teammates, their team has made it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
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Other than Richards and Carter, the Devils defense will still have to contain the extremely talented duo of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Although Kovalchuk leads the postseason in points with 18, Brown is right behind him with 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists). Kopitar is also up there in the rankings, with 15 points. Perhaps the most impressive statistic about the Kings forwards is Brown and Kopitar are tied for the lead in the plus/minus category with +13.
Aside from all of the individual statistics, this series may come down to taking advantage on the power play opportunities. The Devils have a very good mark while being on the man advantage, converting 18.2 % of power play opportunities. The Kings have not been as great with the man advantage, only converting 8.1% of opportunities. However, the Kings are sporting a ridiculous 91.2% on the penalty kill, while the Devils have been simply terrible, only stopping 74.2% of power play opportunities faced.
The defense of the Kings are very good about keeping the front of the net cleared, but the Devils main strategy is to get bodies in front of the net. Perhaps the Kings defense is the real reason why their team has gotten so far. Players like Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell have really helped the Kings take control of the front of the net in the defensive zone, hence why both defensemen have a plus/minus of +8 or higher.
Needless to say, the Stanley Cup Finals will be extremely hard fought and pretty low scoring. It will be surprising to see anyone of these games go over five goals. The main battle in the series will be between the Kings defenseman against the Devils forwards. The Kings forwards will be able to score goals because they are too talented and too well coached to not score goals against the Devils. The Devils forwards have to beat the Kings defensemen in order for the Devils to get up early in the series.
The Kings have three players that won the Stanley Cup(Dustin Penner, Justin Williams, Rob Scuderi) before and four who have played in the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost.(Carter, Richards, Matt Greene, Jarrett Stoll)
The Devils on the other hand, have three players that have played and won the Stanley Cup finals, all with the Devils (Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora, and Brodeur). The Devils also have two other players that have reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but ended up losing (Dainius Zubrus, Anton Volchenkov).
Will it be experience, determination, or just simply pucks bouncing the right way to decide the winner of this year's Stanley Cup Finals? Tune in tomorrow night to catch the first chapter in what should be a thrilling Stanley Cup Finals.
By: Stephen London
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer