NEWARK, N.J. - The NHL's general managers will be meeting in Manhattan Wednesday and one of the topics will be the state of the game.
The good news on the style front is the two highest-scoring teams left in the playoffs have advanced to the final, which gets underway Wednesday night at the Prudential Center. In a league that often tries to play follow the leader, seeing the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings, teams that have played some entertaining up-tempo hockey, being rewarded for their creativity is good for the fans and for the entertainment value of the game.
Maybe other teams will take notice.
The Kings are third in playoff scoring at 2.93 goals a game and the Devils are fourth overall with 2.83 goals a game (after that crazy opening-round series between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers, those two are ranked 1-2 in playoff scoring).
Scoring goals is good.
That the Devils are one of the teams is pretty remarkable, given their reputation. But these aren't your father's Devils under coach Peter DeBoer.
They're, well, kind of exciting to watch.
Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said he didn't set out to make a change from the old trapping Devils of just a few years ago. It's been an evolution that was a function of the club's player personnel and the vision DeBoer brought with him when he was hired last summer.
"But the fundamental foundation of defence will never change," said Lamoriello during Media Day at the final Tuesday.
"I think if you look at the defence of this team, it's played as well as other teams have. It's that we had the talent and we also had the coach who had the sort of thought process of what he thought he could do with our forwards and yet not sacrifice defence and pushing it and getting them to do certain things. Our centre ice hasn't changed. What we've basically done is extended our game to the offensive end of it, but not with any sacrifice."
He said the presence of players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and Travis Zajac dictated the Devils employ a style that played to their strengths.
"I think their styles sort of really told us, without saying anything, that we should. I think I felt it," said Lamoriello.
He even fired off a bit of a pun when it came to the Devils and their reputation.
"I always take offence to the (Devils) teams that the people thought were defensive, those years they were second and third in scoring," Lamoriello said. "I always look at the differential of goals that win championships. A lot of high-scoring teams can win games. I never worried about that. But we would still have that style if the players here, that's what we needed to win. We're going to do whatever we need to do to win and we're not going to apologize for it."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter emphasised more of an attacking style when he took over the club partway through the season.
"It's something we tried to put in place here, more of an aggressive -- not where you're giving up anything -- but more of a forceful game," said Sutter. "You try and emulate teams that try and do that."
There's no question the players enjoy playing with the puck more than chasing it.
Kings forward Jarret Stoll has watched what's gone on in some other series -- teams playing the "1-4," as he called it -- and said constantly defending takes a lot out of a team.
"You've got to pressure. You give teams time and space -- maybe you're taking away lanes -- but you give teams time and space all the time and they're going to pick you apart," he said. "You play D-zone coverage, it's tough to play the game like that. It's tough hockey to play. It's heavy hockey to play. You want to be playing in the offensive zone. That's the fun part of the game and being creative and trying to get shots and trying to get goals.
"You play D-zone hockey all night and you're going to be tired at the end of the night, at the end of that shift. It's going to wear you out."
The players like to play with the puck, but at this point, at this time of the year, there's no extra points for style.
"If we win four games 1-0," said Devils forward Petr Sykora, "we'll be the happiest people."