Reasons New Jersey Devils Have to Be Confident of a Cup Victory
The New Jersey Devils steamrolled past the Florida Panthers, defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in five games and shocked the NHL world when they beat the No. 1-seeded New York Rangers in six games.
The Jersey team should be confident that they could be holding up Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the 2012 season.
Here are a few reasons why.
The Power Play
The New Jersey Devils knew how to score power-play goals during the regular season, and they've been taking advantage of that strength during the playoffs. The Devils have a playoff power-play percentage of 18.2 percent, which more than doubles the Kings' 8.1 percentage.
The Devils have had 12 power-play goals in the playoffs so far, and Kovalchuk has scored the most with five. If the Kings want to avoid the wrath of Jersey's power-play strengths, then they should make sure to avoid penalties at all costs.
Something important to keep in mind is that despite New Jersey's abilities on the power play, the Los Angeles Kings have been phenomenal during the playoffs with their penalty kill at 91.2 percent.
The Stanley Cup finals will be one to watch this season because it will be a team that knows what to do with their power-play opportunities against a team that has a superior penalty kill. If the Kings aren't careful and commit too many penalties, the Devils will be right behind them with a group of guys who know how to score goals when they're up a man.
Martin Brodeur isn't your average 40-year-old. He has been playing for the New Jersey Devils for 20 years and has led his team to three Stanley Cup championships. Brodeur's age may be on the rise, but his skills haven't seemed to change at all.
So far in the playoffs, Brodeur has gone 12-5-1 with a 2.04 GAA and a .923 save percentage. The Canadian-born goalie also has had four assists in the playoffs, something no goalie has ever done in the postseason.
Brodeur continues to prove that age isn't a factor. His record against New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was 6-23-5 going into the third round of the playoffs, and Brodeur finished with only one loss. To put Brodeur's experience into perspective: By the time he was Lundqvist's age, he had already won two Stanley Cups.
There is no doubt that Martin Brodeur will go down as one of the best goaltenders in NHL history, but he will have to be on his A-game at all times since the Los Angeles Kings have arguably the best goaltender this postseason.
Jonathan Quick has been playing phenomenally with a 14-2 record, 1.52 GAA and only 22 goals against. It seems that this matchup in the finals will be between one of the best goaltenders to have ever played the game and the best goaltender in the 2012 postseason.
The Fourth Line
When you think about impact players, it's probably common for the team's captain or a regular season leading scorer to come to mind. But for the New Jersey Devils, it's all about the fourth line.
The Devils have an incredible group of players, but the fourth line has been a standout this postseason with their forechecking and game-changing plays.
Steven Bernier, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta combine for a gritty, fierce fourth line that has proved they can hang with the big boys. This postseason, they combine for nine goals, 10 assists, 15 takeaways and 125 hits. The Devils have the advantage of resting some of their star players, like Kovalchuk and Parise, while still being able to rely on their fourth line.
The Los Angeles Kings will definitely feel a threat from this line because while fourth line players are sometimes viewed as the underdogs, Bernier, Carter and Gionta are changing the game. They're setting up goal opportunities, making necessary blocks and putting pressure on their opponents. If the Devils hope to beat the Los Angeles King and leave with a Stanley Cup championship, they're going to have to give their fourth line plenty of deserving ice time.
Last season was a rough one for Ilya Kovalchuk. The forward who signed with the Devils for a 15-year, $100 million contract had a slow start to his 2010-2011 season, and his team failed to make the playoffs.
This season was a different story. Kovalchuk was fifth in the league this season with 83 points and is leading his team in the playoffs with seven goals and 11 assists.
Kovalchuk skates down the ice with an unmatched veracity and intensity. He has a rocket shot and likes to blast shots on net whenever he sees an opportunity. Before Kovalchuk signed with the New Jersey Devils, the Kings had offered the Russian star $80 million for five years, but he declined in order to sign and retire his career with the Devils.
Now, both teams are headed to the Stanley Cup finals and the advantage of acquiring Kovalchuk will come into play.
While Kovalchuk is a goal scorer, he is also a playmaker, and his passing efficiency makes it easy for his teammates to get the puck and hit the back of the net. Kovalchuk set up the puck and sent it out to Adam Henrique for his overtime game-winner against the New York Rangers in Game 6. Kovalchuk will need to be impressive in the finals in order for the New Jersey Devils to remain successful.
Stanley Cup Experience
There are some youngsters on the New Jersey Devis like Zach Parise and Adam Henrique, but they also have players who have had their experiences in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora have each been named Stanley Cup champions twice, and Martin Brodeur has won three. With championships come experience, and with experience comes advantage.
The Devils, who won three Stanley Cups in 1995, 2000 and 2003, are more familiar with playoff territory. This will only be Los Angeles' second appearance in the finals. The last time they were in this position was in 1993 when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens. However, four players on the Los Angeles Kings have won Stanley Cup championships.
Justin Williams won the cup with the Hurricanes in 2006, Dustin Penner with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007, Rob Scuderi with the Penguins in 2009 and Colin Fraser with the Blackhawks in 2010.
Experience will be a significant advantage in the final round, but it could go either way depending on offensive plays, impact players and power-play opportunities.
The Devils and Kings matchup will be a fascinating one. Brodeur vs. Quick. Kovalchuk vs. Penner. East vs. West. It will be a matchup between an East Coast team who has won three Stanley Cups in 17 years and a West Coast team who has a chance at the Stanley Cup victory for the second time in their team's history.