Some of us expected the Kings to be here when the season started. Very few expected the Devils. After 40 games, neither looked like a team who would be playing in June. The Devils never looked dominant during the season, they finished fourth in their division. The Kings couldn’t score. After the deadline, both teams added some decent punch in their lineup, but still not the most feared team. Both finished below the top 4, and relied on solid defense to win road games.
But as many teams continue to learn, playoff is different. It is about identity and reliability. The Kings and Devils, in light of all of their faults and weaknesses, know what they are. They play defense, get steady goaltending, and have multiple lines that chip in. Sounds simple doesn’t it? The recipe for a winner doesn’t change every April. Depth wins.
What to Watch For:
Both teams have their share of offensive power. Ilya Kovalchuk has gotten the memo about this whole “postseason” thing, and has grown accustomed to a world where there are more than 82 games in a season. The Devils have their 30 goal scorers, who play 3 totally different games, and a band of brothers who have raised the cup before providing some experience, which pundits will all make some ridiculous comment about. The Kings have two lines that can absorb some serious minutes, and while they’ve rolled everyone in their path so far the Carter/Richards/Penner line hasn’t exactly been clicking 100% just yet. Are they due?
These teams are similar in quite a few areas, except this one. The Kings play rough, and play virtually mistake free in giving up rushes. They’re big, and safe. While Doughty gets the publicity for his shot and his appearance (which belongs on Game of Thrones), Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell are every bit as important to the success of the team from Los Angeles. The Devils have a group of smaller guys who don’t draw as much praise from the media, but like the Kings they don’t make the terrible mistakes to compromise their goalie.
Kings’ Forecheck vs Marty Brodeur
Marty likes to play the puck, similar to Mike Smith. The Kings forecheck would have to make adjustments, after the Coyotes tweaked their play after 3 games. Brodeur is among the best all-time at playing the puck, and will need to be the sixth skater at times to avoid being taken advantage of by a Kings forecheck that took out the Canucks and Blues. The Devils will need to give their goaltender support when the Kings dump the puck in, or this will be another quick series.
Slava Voynov, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez vs Peter DeBoer
While that’s a fine crop of defensemen with some serious potential, the Devils can put out a second line containing Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, or a number of different combinations. The point is, those aforementioned defensemen will need to be on their best behavior, as they will be facing some top tier talent for the first time since the first round.
The Kings can play any style of game, and stand a good chance to win. Speed? They got it. Size and Grit? You bet. High scoring? Goaltending duel? They can do both. The Devils have a talent laden roster with interchangeable parts, always tough to deal with. While a New York/L.A. final would’ve been nice, this final will give us the best hockey.
So who wins? This is a tough one to figure out, but I can’t see how the Devils win this series. Then again, I didn’t see how the Devils would be the Rangers or the Flyers. But the depth of the Kings could be the undoing of New Jersey. They play aggressive, they play big, and Jonathan Quick may be the best in the world. Kings, in six… and your Conn Smythe might be Anze Kopitar.
Topics: Anze Kopitar, David Clarkson, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Brodeur, Mike Richards, New Jersey Devils, Patrik Elias, Zach Parise