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NHL Playoffs 2012: LA Kings vs. NJ Devils Stanley Cup Final Preview

Eric McKelvieSenior Writer IMay 26, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: LA Kings vs. NJ Devils Stanley Cup Final Preview

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    The New Jersey Devils begin facing off against the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals May 30. The Devils come in as the sixth seed in the east, and the Kings come in as the eighth seed in the west.

    The 2012 Stanley Cup champion will become the lowest seed to win the Stanley Cup under the current format. The 1995 Devils, a No. 5 seed, currently stand as the lowest seed to win it all.

    This is the Los Angeles Kings' second appearance in the final, the first coming in 1993 when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens.

    This is familiar territory for the Devils, who have won three Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

    The Kings have a remarkable 12-2 record in the playoffs, while the Devils are 12-6 thus far. With that in mind, here is a detailed preview of the 2012 Stanley Cup final.

How They Got Here

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    Eastern Conference Champion: No. 6 seed, New Jersey Devils

    The Devils finished tied with the Bruins with the fourth most points in the east.

    Defeated the No. 3 seed Florida Panthers in seven games. Series winning goal: Adam Henrique (2OT)

    Defeated the No. 5 seed Philadelphia Flyers in five games. Series winning goal: David Clarkson

    Defeated the No. 1 seed New York Rangers in six games. Series winning goal: Adam Henrique (OT)

     

    Western Conference Champion: No. 8 seed, Los Angeles Kings

    The Kings finished two points behind the Phoenix Coyotes in the Pacific division.

    Defeated the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in five games. Series winning goal: Jarret Stoll (OT)

    Defeated the No. 2 seed St. Louis Blues in four games. Series winning goal: Dustin Brown

    Defeated the No. 3 seed Phoenix Coyotes in five games. Series winning goal: Dustin Penner (OT)

Offense

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    Goals For

    Devils:  2.83 goals per game

    Kings: 2.93 goals per game

     

    The Faceoff Circle

    Devils: 47.5 percent

    Kings: 48.2 percent

     

    The Devils and Kings both have fast, skilled forwards who can play well at both ends of the rink.

    Ilya Kovalchuk leads the playoff scoring race with 18 points in 17 playoffs games. The Russian star has scored seven goals, five of which have come on the power play. Captain Zach Parise has 14 points and is tied for the team lead in goals with seven.

    Look for rookie Adam Henrique to continue to have success offensively and to improve in the faceoff circle. Veteran forwards Stephen Gionta, Petr Sykora and Patrick Elias will need to step up their play in the final and provide secondary scoring.

    The Kings were 29th in scoring in the regular season, but have consistently found the back of the net in the playoffs. Captain Dustin Brown and Anze Kopiter are both plus-13 and sit third and fourth in playoff scoring with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

    For the Kings to have success offensively against the Devils, they will need their second and third lines to continue to be strong on the forecheck. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter bring experience to the Kings second line, having played in the 2010 Stanley Cup final with the Philadelphia Flyers. Third line centre Jarret Stoll played for the Edmonton Oilers during their cinderella run in 2006. The 2006 Oilers are the only other No. 8 seed to make it to the Stanley Cup final. 

Defense

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    Goals Against

    Devils: 2.33 goals against per game

    Kings: 1.57 goals against per game

     

    Blocked Shots

    Devils: 11.27 blocked shots per game

    Kings: 14.07 blocked shots per game

     

    The Devils and Kings both have depth on the blue line. In fact, every defenseman on the Devils and Kings has a plus rating in the postseason.

    Marek Zidlicky leads all Devils’ defensemen in ice time and boasts an impressive 33 hits, 25 blocked shots and eight points in the playoffs. Anton Volchenkov, who is only averaging about 15 minutes of ice time per game, is a plus-7, with 37 hits and 17 blocked shots.

    The Devils commitment to team defense has given them the opportunity to win when needed most. The Devils faced elimination in overtime of both Game 6 and Game 7 versus the Panthers. However, they managed to hold off a Panthers’ offense that had scored three or more goals in four of the first five games of the series.

    The Kings’ defense is led by 22-year-old Drew Doughty, who is coming off an impressive performance in Game 5 against the Coyotes. Doughty displayed great offensive and defensive abilities, as the Kings eliminated the Coyotes.

    Willie Mitchell has also been a key defenseman for the Kings, averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game. Mitchell has 23 hits in the playoffs and leads the Kings in blocked shots with 45, more than double what the next best player has.

Goaltending

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    Playoff Numbers

    Martin Brodeur: 12-6 with a 2.04 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and one shutout.

    Jonathan Quick: 12-2 with a 1.54 goals-against average, .946 save percentage and two shutouts.

     

    Martin Brodeur’s name is synonymous with winning. Stanley Cups, gold medals, individual awards and records. At age 40, Brodeur has done it all. He will go down as one of the greatest to ever play the position. The question now is whether he has enough left in the tank to bring a fourth Stanley Cup championship to New Jersey.

    Jonathan Quick is up for the Vezina trophy and is currently a top contender for the Conn Smythe trophy as well. Quick has been an instrumental part of the Kings’ playoff run, in the same way Tim Thomas was with the Bruins last year. Quick doesn’t have the experience Brodeur does, but he has shown maturity and the ability to bounce back following a tough goal.

    If the Devils win, Brodeur may choose to call it quits and retire a champion. If the Kings win, it may be the first of many championships for Quick, who appears to just be entering his prime.

Special Teams

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    Power Play in the Playoffs

    Devils: 18.2 percent

    Kings: 8.1 percent

     

    Penalty Kill in the Playoffs

    Devils: 74.2 percent

    Kings: 91.2 percent

     

    The Devils' power play has been average in the playoffs, scoring 12 goals and allowing two shorthanded markers. Even though their penalty kill was first in the regular season, it has struggled in the postseason.

    Perhaps the Devils’ penalty kill can improve against a Kings’ power play that comes into the final having scored on only 8.1 percent of its opportunities. A solid power play is usually important in the playoffs, but the Boston Bruins proved last year it’s not a necessity. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup with a power play operating at 8.7 percent.

    Led by Jonathan Quick, the Kings’ penalty kill has been brilliant throughout the playoffs, allowing only five power play goals. The Kings have matched their opponent’s power play with five shorthanded markers, two each from Brown and Kopitar. 

Prediction

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    The Los Angeles Kings will win the Stanley Cup in six games, with Jonathan Quick taking the Conn Smythe trophy.

    The Kings will benefit from a few days rest after eliminating the Coyotes in five games. The Devils’ skilled forwards will provide Quick with his toughest task yet, but they won’t be able to generate as much offense as the Kings’ forwards.

    Even though Martin Brodeur will step up his game in the final, he will not be able to match the brilliance of Jonathan Quick. It will be the closest series yet for the Kings, but their depth will ultimately be the difference, as they take the Cup back to Los Angeles for the first time.

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