The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are about to square off to determine this year’s Stanley Cup champion. Read on for analysis and prediction of the winner.
The Participants: The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils.
How they got here: The Kings downed the Phoenix Coyotes in five games in the Western Conference Final, while the Devils defeated the NY Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Final.
Keys to their advancement: Both teams employed an aggressive physical forecheck and disciplined defense to down their opponents. Their best players have consistently performed well throughout this post-season. As teams, they’ve bought into the respective systems espoused by their coaches.
Coaching: Devils coach Pete DeBoer and Kings coach Darryl Sutter have done a fine job getting their players to buy into their respective systems. Sutter, however, may have a slight advantage, as this is the second time he’s coached in the Stanley Cup Final, while this is DeBoer’s first time.
Goaltending: With four previous Stanley Cup Finals under his belt (including three championships, Devils netminder Martin Brodeur (12-5, 2.04 GAA, .923 SP, 1 shutout) has a definite experience advantage. It’s the first time for Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, but he’s posted superior numbers (12-2, 1.54 GAA, .946, 2 shutouts) than Brodeur this spring.
If Quick can block out the pressure of playing in his first Cup Final and continue his stellar play, it could give him the advantage over Brodeur’s experience.
Defense: Both teams play a responsible, physical defensive style inside their own zone. The Kings have given up the second-fewest goals-per-game (1.54), while the Devils were eighth (2.33).
It will be interesting to see how the Devils defense matches up against the Kings big, swift physical forwards, and if they can successfully shut them down as they did against the Flyers’ big, physical forwards.
The Kings defense, meanwhile, will face arguably their toughest task of this year’s playoffs in attempting to shut down the Devils best offensive players. If the Kings have one significant blueline advantage, it’s in puck-moving, two-way star Drew Doughty, whose performance this spring has him mentioned as a potential playoff MVP. The Devils have a solid defense corps, but lack someone of Doughty’s skills.
Offense: The top forwards on both clubs have been at their best throughout the playoffs. Leading the way for the Devils are Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, rookie Adam Henrique, gritty David Clarkson and team captain Zach Parise, while the Kings counter with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Penner, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams and team captain Dustin Brown.
Both clubs have also received contributions from their supporting forwards. The Kings have received strong performances from Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis and rookie Dwight King , while Alexei Ponikarovsky and Steve Bernier have stepped up for the Devils.
All in all, both clubs appear evenly matched at forward, but the Kings have more experienced depth and skill on their second line (Penner-Richards-Carter), which could give them an edge. Long time Devils scorer Patrik Elias has struggled this spring, but if he can regain his touch in the Final, it could balance the offensive scales.
Special Teams: The Devils have a clear advantage on the power-play, currently sitting fourth overall (18.2 percent) in the playoffs, while the Kings are second-worst at an anaemic 8.1 percent. The Kings, however, have the second-best penalty-kill this spring (91.2 %) compared to the Devils, who sit 13th of the 16 post-season teams at 74.2 percent.
Prediction: The Devils faced an offense similar to the Kings in the Philadelphia Flyers and shut them down in five games, but the Flyers didn’t possess the kind of stifling defense and superb goaltending the Kings bring to this series.
The playoff experience of coach Sutter, Quick’s stellar play, the presence of Doughty on their blueline, and second-line scoring depth should give the Kings the advantage over the Devils in this series. Kings in six.