Tuesday, May 29, 2012

NHL Stanley Cup Finals...Because it's the Cup

Who wants it?!
Last Wednesday night, the LA Kings beat the Phoenix Coyotes in overtime of game 5 just a few minutes into it.  There was a questionable knee on knee hit given by Kings Captain Dustin Brown and several Coyotes players were upset about it.  It was painfully obvious during the handshake line between Coyotes Captain Shane Doan and Brown.  Brown tried pleading his case but Doan was not having any of it.  Phoenix goalie after the game thought it was a joke there was no call and jestingly said Brown should be suspended forever in his angry state.  The NHL is currently looking into several of the comments made.  Nonetheless, Kings forward Dustin Penner, much ridiculed, buried the game winner as the Kings advance to their first Cup final since 1993 when they lost to Montreal.  

Friday night the New Jersey Devils beat the New York Rangers in overtime of game 6 barely a minute into it.  This sealed the fate of the Rangers as their curse continues (1994!).  The Rangers had the initial energy in their first shift but missed a couple prime scoring opportunities.  This led to the Devils coming down and having a great forecheck of their own.  In an ironic twist for the Rangers, as a couple players were laying out for blocked shots, the puck got free around the crease and rookie Adam Henrique buried the series winner.  The Rangers really got this far thanks to their shot blocking prowess but in the end it was their demise as guys laying on the ice can't cover guys standing wide open in the crease.  Ha!

The Devils now advance to take on the red hot Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals starting tomorrow night in Newark.  As the 6 seed, New Jersey is the lower seed over #8 LA, thus the home ice advantage.

There's nobody like Ray Bourque trying to win his first championship after playing 20+ seasons in the league.  However there are several storylines to keep your eye on throughout these Finals.  I think the first has to be the schedule.  The Kings haven't played since last Wednesday's overtime victory and the Devils will also have over 4 days rest.  While the first two games are in New Jersey, game 2 is not until Saturday.  This is mainly due to the TV broadcasting.  NBC is showing games 1 & 2 and likes having their games in prime time slots.  Here's what to expect:

The whole Wednesday - Saturday thing is odd but whatever!

In regards to player storylines, here are 3 players for each team to follow throughout the series:

Goalie Marty Brodeur
I think you have to start here.  As a 40 year old, the Devils netminder has struggled in years past including getting benched in the 2010 Olympics for Canada.  Many thought he was done and should retire.  Now people are hoping he comes back for another year!  I hate this team and especially this guy but he's legit.  Having already won 3 Cups, the pressure is on him to carry this squad.

Forward Ilya Kovalchuk
At 29, Kovy is one of the premiere scorers in the league today.  However he spent the first several years of his career wasting away in the now defunct Atlanta Thrashers organization.  The Devils illegally signed him to an enormous $100 million contract a couple years ago but eventually got the league's approval after losing some draft picks.  It's time for him to live up to the hype in pressure time, he's been good in the playoffs, he'll need to be the BEST player on the ice now.

Captain Zach Parise
One of my favorite American players in the league, Parise (Puh-reese-a) has a lot to play for in these Finals. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and it seems New Jersey won't have the finances to keep him in a Devils sweater.  If the Devils do win this thing, I will be happy for this guy but only in hopes he lands somewhere else this summer!

Goalie Jon Quick
Again, I start with the goalie.  Quick was superb in the first two rounds basically beating Vancouver and St. Louis by himself.  He wasn't great in the Conference Finals vs. Phoenix but didn't have to be.  Is it a downward slide or just a blip?  He can't afford to be off many nights against a much more prolific offense that New Jersey brings.  If he steps up, count him a lock to win Playoff MVP.

Defenseman Drew Doughty
Similar to the Kovy situation, Doughty signed a massive contract this past offseason (he in fact held out early on until he got it).  The Kings fan base was rather perturbed during the whole ordeal but he's been sensational in these playoffs.  He's their go to guy on the defensive side of things both ways and he'll need to stay great in order to stop Parise and Co.

Forwards Mike Richards & Jeff Carter
After losing the Stanley Cup in 2010 to Chicago, the Flyers held onto these guys one more season before trading them both.  Richards was their Captain and was sent to LA.  Carter was shipped off for a tumultuous stint in Columbus before getting shipped to LA himself this past trade deadline.  These 2 will be out for blood to get the Cup they missed out on as well as showing Philly they screwed up big time.


  • Devils top defensemen pairing of Salvador-Zidlicky up against Kings top line of Brown-Kopitar-Williams.  ADVANTAGE: KINGS
  • The special teams battle
    • LA's power play is abysmal but the Devils penalty kill isn't that much better, will the Kings finally get their one man advantage going?
    • LA's penalty kill has been great and so has New Jersey's power play, defense wins championships but will the Kings have enough to stop a dynamic Devils power play?

I like the Kings goalie situation just a little better than the Devils even with a Hall of Famer between the pipes.  That also translates into my feelings about each team defensively.  However, I like New Jersey's offense overall better especially the power play.  If the Kings can figure out their power play, I think the Kings can win in 5-6 games.  If they don't, I like this series going the distance.  KINGS IN 7!