2012 Stanley Cup Finals: Top Storylines of Kings vs. Devils
In the next two weeks, hockey fans will witness history. There is something special about every Stanley Cup Final that has every hockey fan talking about it.
Remember last year's riots and finger-biting? Remember Kane's goal in 2010? Remember Geno vs. Hank in 2009? How about the Kariya-Stevens incident in '03?
This matchup between Los Angeles and New Jersey will certainly produce some memorable moments. Here's a list of what to watch for that makes this Stanley Cup Final unique.
Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images
The Golden State Road Warriors, as I like to call them, have won all eight playoff games on the road this postseason and have taken 3-0 leads every series. This is something that we have never seen before, and the fact the Los Angeles is a No. 8 seed makes it that much more remarkable.
However, in the last three Stanley Cup Finals, the home team has won every single game EXCEPT for the clinching game, and a team has not won the Stanley Cup on home ice since 2007.
Also, the Devils have had trouble in the past winning in the playoffs at Prudential Center, holding a record of 3-7 at "The Rock" in the playoffs. This year, however, the team has turned it around, going 6-2 at home in the postseason.
Something has to give this year...good luck trying to make a prediction.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Some know the Los Angeles Kings as "Philadelphia West," as many former Philadelphia Flyers now play, or have recently played, for the Kings.
Most notable are Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who led their 2010 seventh-seeded Flyers team to a first-round upset of the Devils and a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, Carter and Richards have been ridiculed in recent years after pictures were taken of them partying and drinking in Philadelphia during playoff time.
Now that they are Kings, they seem to have turned it around, leading their team to a Western Conference championship. They will face off against New Jersey—one of Philadelphia's top rivals—in the Finals.
Will they get the job done this time and have their names forever etched into history?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The greatest goalie of all time turned 40 earlier this month. Now he's back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the fifth time in his career and is looking for his fourth Stanley Cup. Even more impressive, despite his age, Brodeur is one of the top candidates for the Conn Smythe Trophy...which may be the one of the only trophies he has never won.
However, the question lingers. Should New Jersey win the Stanley Cup, will we have seen the last of hockey's greatest goalie? Retirement rumors were swirling earlier in the year, (albeit not as intensely as Nick Lidstrom's) and if he wins the Stanley Cup, I would have to believe that Brodeur would hang 'em up.
If Los Angeles wins, however, I could see Brodeur returning for at least one more year.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
With his contract up after this year, many have been expecting that Devils captain Zach Parise will leave the Garden State in July. Many of those people, however, had no idea that the Devils would make it this far.
If Gary Bettman hands the Cup off to Parise some time in the next two weeks, one would have to believe that he would stay. In fact, the fact that the Devils have made it this far in the playoffs may already have convinced him to stay.
Devils vs. City of Angels
Harry How/Getty Images
At least the Staples Center's crew won't have to worry about three playoff games in one day...
As the conference finals began, many were hoping to see a championship round between Los Angeles and New York: America's two biggest markets.
Two weeks later, Los Angeles is in, but the New York Rangers were upset by New Jersey: their smaller neighbor.
Los Angeles is not known as a hockey market, but being the country's second-largest city, it has definitely drawn many movie stars and music artists to start supporting their Kings.
Many people regard Newark as a suburb of New York City, as it is much smaller and not exactly as glamorous. Even during winning seasons, the Devils have had a history of not selling out and not getting as much support as the Rangers.
Things have been better recently, however, as the new Prudential Center (which, in my opinion, is by far the nicest of the 12 NHL stadiums I have visited) has become a cornerstone of Newark and draws many fans to games.
Wayne Gretzky even called the Devils a "Mickey Mouse organization" due to their lack of fan support in the 1990s...wouldn't it be something to see the Devils, who have already knocked out the Rangers, knock out another one of Gretzky's teams?
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
The Devils last won the Stanley Cup in 2003, when they defeated the seventh-seeded Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Now, in their next appearance in the Finals, they are facing Anaheim's neighbor.
There are a lot of similarities between the '03 Ducks and the '12 Kings: both were low seeds who upset the defending Western Conference champion in the first round; both were 12-2 in the first three rounds of the playoffs; and Jonathan Quick, like Jean-Sebastian Giguere, could reasonably win the Conn Smythe Trophy even if his team loses.
To me, the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals were the most entertaining of the past decade: could this year's be even better?
Harry How/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Kings are one of the NHL's original expansion teams, beginning play in the 1967-1968 season. Yet, they have only made the Stanley Cup Finals one time and were beaten by the Montreal Canadiens in five games in 1993.
The Kings have had some memorable playoff moments, like the Miracle on Manchester against Edmonton and the Stunner at Staples against Detroit, but their playoff runs throughout history have been marred by failure.
Most recently, the Kings blew a 4-0 lead at home last season in Game 3 of the first round against their rival San Jose Sharks and eventually lost the series in six games. Also, they did not make the playoffs from 2003 through 2009.
While Los Angeles has had some bright moments in sports (mostly thanks to the Lakers), it has not been regarded as a sports city due to its lack of a football team and the Kings' struggles. A Stanley Cup championship in Los Angeles would be great for Los Angeles and also for the NHL.
Did Ilya Kovalchuk Make the Right Decision?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to the New Jersey Devils from the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010. That summer, he became a free agent and it soon became clear that two teams were in a bidding war for his services: the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings.
The Devils originally signed him to a contract that the NHL deemed to substantial and the league rejected it. Later on, the league and the Devils made an agreement, and Kovalchuk was a Devil again.
After a lackluster 2011, Kovalchuk has been terrific in this year's playoffs and has been a key to New Jersey's success.
He will now try to continue his success against the team that he almost signed with two years ago.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
I really regret laughing at my grandpa when he told me the Devils would win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the playoffs...just like my friends probably regret laughing at me in early March since I had the Kings getting to the Finals before the season (I'm too embarrassed to tell you who I picked to beat the Kings...I'll just say Rick Jeanneret would have liked my pick).
Cinderella stories have been no strangers to the Stanley Cup Finals recently, ('99 Sabres, '03 Mighty Ducks, '04 Flames, '06 Oilers, '10 Flyers) but none of them have prevailed to win the Stanley Cup. The last team someone could consider to be a Cinderella story and win the Cup would probably be the 1995 Devils.
This year, a Cinderella team will win the Cup for sure, as the Devils are a No. 6 seed an the Kings are a No. 8 seed. Nobody would have predicted these two to meet in the Finals this year, but that's what makes the NHL playoffs so great.
This will be an historic series...I can't wait until 8:00 on Wednesday night.