The New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings were two of the more unlikely teams to get the Stanley Cup Finals. Prior to the playoffs starting, many people had picked Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York to get to the finals. However, after a two-month grind the two teams that remain are the Devils and Kings. Here is how the teams match up.
#6 New Jersey Devils vs. #8 Los Angeles Kings
These two teams met earlier in the season. The Devils were victorious in both match-ups. The Devils took the first game in New Jersey 2-1 in a shootout, and defeated the Kings 3-0 in Los Angeles. However, both teams are different heading into the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Devils and Kings have found their identities. Both teams play all four lines no matter what the situation in the game is. It will be a trickier match up for the Devils because they have not played a team this physical in the playoffs. The Kings have been playing a very physical brand of hockey heading into the playoffs. Vancouver, St. Louis, and Phoenix all fell to the style of play by the Kings.
The New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings are very strong on the offensive front. While they each have the luxury of rolling all four lines, both teams have very strong top lines. Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Travis Zajac can match the skill of the Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Justin Williams line. However, Peter DeBoer is not afraid of juggling his lines during the playoffs. While Parise, Kovalchuk, and Zajac are the leading scorers on the Devils this playoff season; they have not played together on the same line since game three of the Rangers series.
The depth of the Devils is a factor in the series. Since DeBoer has the luxury of splitting his top stars, he does not always have to rely on the same line combinations every game. Darryl Sutter has been content on keeping his lines together. New Jersey all playoff season long has been getting contributions from their fourth line.
Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, and Ryan Carter have contributed major goals in crucial games in many of the games the Devils played in this playoff season. These players have seen their ice time increase as the Devils advanced in the playoffs. The Devils have also gotten contributions from their other lines as well. One player who has yet to be a factor is Patrik Elias. But look for him to right the ship in the finals.
The Kings, on the other hand, not only get contributions from Brown and Kopitar, but their second and third line players as well. Their second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Penner can explode for big goals at any moment in the series. Carter and Richards have been Devils killers in the past. Both use to play for Philadelphia and can give the Devils fits if they are not stopped.
The Kings who could not score more than one goal in the regular season have found their scoring touch in the playoffs. While players like Brown, Kopitar, and Richards get all the front-page news, players like Jarrett Stoll and Dwight King are the unsung heroes of the playoffs for the Kings. Both players have been on a tear in the playoffs and look to continue their scoring touches in the finals.
The Devils got to the Stanley Cup Finals with a no-name defense. The Devils defense is made up of unsung heroes and players that just play the position well. Each player on the defensive side of the puck has a role and they play that role to perfection. Bryce Salvador leads the Devils defensemen in points with 11. Last time a Devils defenseman had that many points in the playoffs was in 2003, when Brian Rafalski had 18 points. Marek Zidlicky has been a nice acquisition to the Devils defense as he gives them another puck moving defensemen.
Drew Doughty leads the Kings on defense. He has 10 points in 14 games in the playoffs. The rest of the defense combined has 11 points during that same stretch of games. The Kings defense likes to be aggressive just like the Devils defense. The Kings defense takes pride in being strong in their own defensive zone and all defensemen hold a plus rating in the playoffs.
The finals will boast a great goaltending match-up. Martin Brodeur and Jonathan Quick will square off for the first time in the playoffs. Quick, idealized Brodeur growing up, and knows it will be a tough task to face a legend like Brodeur. Quick is playing unbelievable for the Kings this season. He is putting up MVP type numbers and if the Kings win the cup it will be because of his play in net.
Brodeur has turned back the clock this playoff season. He is playing great for the Devils and he was the reason the Devils eliminated the Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. Brodeur is in the final season of his contract with the Devils, and is enjoying the ride the Devils are on this post-season. At times his game has looked shaky, but in the key times in key games, Brodeur still comes up with his best. He will have to be at his best, as the Kings will look to pressure him on every shift.
The Devils like to keep the game at 5-on-5, so they can keep rolling their four-line system. The Devils have a strong power play in the playoffs, but the Kings have a strong penalty kill. Something will have to give. The Kings have scored five shorthanded goals this post season, while killing off 52 of 57 penalties. The Devils penalty kill, which was best in the regular season, has been struggling in the playoffs. However, staying out of the box will be a factor, because the Kings dismal power play could strike at any time.
The team who wins the Stanley Cup will be the lowest seed ever to win the Stanley Cup. The 1995 New Jersey Devils, who won the Stanley Cup as a fifth seed, hold the distinction of being the lowest seeded team to win the cup.
The Stanley Cup Finals begin Wednesday night and can be seen on the networks of NBC, CBC, and RDS.