May 28, 2012
Analyzing the Stanley Cup finalImprobable run by the Kings to continue, according to the experts
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
NEWARK, N.J. - Umm, why do they play the NHL regular season, again?
Certainly not to give you an indication of how things will go in Lord Stanley's two-month tournament of attrition.
After 1,230 regular-season games and another 80 playoff games for good measure, we have arrived at the Stanley Cup final with the ninth and 13th-place teams from the season standings.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner, your ninth-placed New Jersey Devils.
In the black corner, the 13th-ranked Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings knocked off the first (Vancouver Canucks), second (St. Louis Blues) and third (Phoenix Coyotes) seeds in the Western Conference to qualify for their second Stanley Cup final in franchise history.
The Devils came back from being down 3-2 in the opening round against the Florida Panthers, winning Games 6 and 7 in overtime, mowed over the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round and dismissed the top-seeded New York Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference final.
They are three-time Stanley Cup champions and are in their fifth final.
One of the good things about the Kings and Devils advancing is they play some up-tempo, attacking hockey. They are the third- and fourth-highest scoring teams in the playoffs after the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, who had that crazy opening-round series where it seemed they scored more goals than all the other series combined.
The Kings have averaged 2.93 goals over 14 games playoff games and the Devils 2.83 goals over 18 games.
It's good to see attacking hockey rewarded.
To break down the final, we consulted an NHL coach to give us his take.
Here's what he had to say:
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur
The coach's take: "This is an interesting one. Marty is so unorthodox, but you have to give him the edge only for his experience. Marty still flops around a little too much for me. He makes me nervous. The Kings will make life tough for him with all their offence up front. They are going to get more traffic in front of him than New York did. The previous series (between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Kings) was a contrast in goaltending styles. This is not so much styles as experience and knowing how to handle situations."
ADVANTAGE: DEVILS. "Marty's experience gives him a clear edge."
Los Angeles Kings: Rob Scuderi-Drew Doughty; Willie Mitchell-Slava Voynov; Alec Martinez-Matt Greene
New Jersey Devils: Marek Zidlicky-Bryce Salvador; Andy Greene-Mark Fayne; Peter Harrold-Anton Volchenkov
The coach's take: "Zidlicky was a good pickup for the Devils and he will help against the L.A. forecheck. He moves the puck and he's quick enough to get back there and beat the forecheck. He's a right-hand shot who can set up Kovalchuk for the one-timer on the power play. Doughty is the best defenceman on either side. L.A. has the higher-end skill. Doughty, Voynov, Martinez, they'll join the rush and even get in on the forecheck. The Devils are going to see a much different style from the defence than they've seen so far. There will be a lot of four-man rushes because that's what they do in the West. Those guys won't just be joining the rush, they can actually be a threat.
ADVANTAGE: KINGS. "I give the edge to L.A. because of the offence they get from the defence."
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams; Jeff Carter-Mike Richards-Dustin Penner; Dwight King-Jarret Stoll-Trevor Lewis; Jordan Nolan-Colin Fraser-Brad Richardson
New Jersey Devils: Alexei Ponikarovsky-Adam Henrique-Ilya Kovalchuk; Zach Parise-Travis Zajac-Dainius Zubrus; Patrik Elias-Jacob Josefson-David Clarkson; Ryan Carter-Stephen Gionta-Steve Bernier; Eric Boulton-Petr Sykora-Cam Janssen
The coach's take: "New Jersey has the game-breakers the Phoenix Coyotes didn't have. Parise, Kovalchuk ... it will be interesting to see how the coaches are going to handle it. Will they try a checking line against the other team's top line? Or will they go power against power? I think they'll try both. They'll figure it out as they go along. The Kings' top guys are different from the Rangers'. You're not going to have guys like Martin Gaborik on the perimeter. There will be a bigger surge to the net. What defensive pairing for the Devils will be able to handle Brown and Kopitar? I'll tell you it won't be Zidlicky. The Kings forwards will be helped more by their defence joining the rush than the Devils will be.
ADVANTAGE: DEVILS. "They have the more natural offence."
Los Angeles Kings: Power play: 6-for-74 (8.1%), 15th; Penalty killing: 52-for-57 (91.2%), second.
New Jersey Devils: Power play: 12-for-66 (18.2%), fourth; Penalty killing: 46-for-62 (74.2%), 13th.
The coach's take: "This now becomes a matter of knowing what to give up. Both teams will know what the other team's go-to play will be on the power play and they will take it away. That power-play goal Kovalchuk scored against the Rangers was just a complete penalty-killing breakdown. He came down to the back door and the net-front defence needed to sort that out. That's about the only way the power play scores now is on that kind of breakdown, which you don't see often now. The ice conditions will play a big role. The ice in L.A. is crappy, so your penalty-killers can be more aggressive because you're going to see guys bobbling pucks. Bad ice always gives the advantage to the penalty-killers."
ADVANTAGE: NONE. "This is just a sawoff."
Los Angeles Kings: Darryl Sutter
New Jersey Devils: Peter DeBoer
The coach's take: "This is the time of year when the coaches coach. When you get to the final, you're playing a team you don't know. You've seen video, but you don't know the team like you know the teams in your own conference. Faceoffs, the forecheck, there are a lot of adjustments to make getting used to the opposition. Darryl has been there (coaching the Calgary Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup final). He knows what it's like. Peter has (assistant coach) Larry (Robinson), who has been there, which will help him. This is going to come down to who can make the adjustments quicker. The first couple of games in the series are huge. You have to make quick adjustments, because if you lose a couple of periods all of a sudden you've lost a game.
ADVANTAGE: KINGS. "Darryl has been there."
The coach's take: "The top-end guys for New Jersey will make life a bit more different for the L.A. Kings. I'll be shocked if this doesn't go at least six games. The only way it goes fewer than six is if somebody's goalie is standing on his head. I'm still going to pick L.A. The Kings have played only 14 games in the playoffs and they can wear anybody down with their size and speed."
THE PICK: KINGS IN SIX.
STEVENSON: KINGS IN SIX.