Stanley Cup Finals Preview
And then there were two… The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils face off in the Stanley Cup Finals tonight, despite the fact that nobody expected them to be there. Not only have the Kings never won a Stanley Cup, but they entered the playoffs as the 8 seed and proceeded to beat the one, two, and three seed to win the Western Conference.
The Devils were overlooked as the “weak” team in the Atlantic division due to the fact that they finished fourth behind the Rangers, Penguins, and Flyers (the Devils finished with only one point less than Philly). But the great part about hockey is that any team can win any game, and we now find ourselves with a six seed taking on an eight seed to crown the league’s champion.
The Devils’ are led offensively by Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Parise plays with a lot of heart and passion, always making the big hit when necessary and finding a way to get the puck in the back of the net. Kovalchuk is one of the deadliest offensive players in hockey, with an excellent wrist shot from in close. Two years ago Kovalchuk had the option to either sign with the Devils or the Kings, and because the Devils offered a larger contract, he chose New Jersey. Expect Kings’ fans to let him hear it whenever he touches the puck at Staples Center. Holding down the defense for New Jersey is the greatest goalie of all time, Martin Brodeur. Although this has not been his best postseason, Brodeur always gets the job done and a team is never out of the game with him in net.
The Kings have been led a by a multitude of players, all playing their best hockey in their young careers. Captain Dustin Brown is the Kings’ equivalent of Zach Parise, and is always there to make the big hit or score the go ahead goal. Don’t be surprised if he earns a Gordie Howe hat trick at some point in this series. Anze Kopitar is probably the Kings’ most talented player with his ability to score and control the puck on the offensive end. Kopi also plays on both the power play and the penalty kill. The defense is led by the best young defenseman in the game, Drew Doughty. Doughty set up all four of the Kings’ goals in their overtime victory against Phoenix, and is almost as deadly on the offensive end as he is on the defensive. Look for Doughty to match up with Parise or Kovalchuk because he can match their speed. Last but not least, Jonathon Quick stands between the pipes for the Kings, and he is certainly their most valuable player. Quick was the best goalie during the regular season and carried over that momentum into the playoffs. He has only given up more than two goals twice this entire postseason, and singlehandedly keeps the Kings in every game.
Expect a hard fought, physical series with the Kings coming out on top in five games, bringing the first Stanley Cup to Los Angeles. Although the Devils have a lot of speed, the Kings are simply playing a higher level of hockey than anyone else.