This year’s Stanley Cup final consists of two teams who were neither considered powerhouses, nor obvious playoff contenders during the regular season. And then the unexpected.
The No. 8 team from the Western Conference and the No. 6 team from the Eastern Conference claimed the title of championship finalists. And this ice looks like an even playing field. Both teams have been to the final Cup before. Both teams are lower-seeded teams that beat out the top seeds. Both teams have a lot to prove. And to be honest, both teams could really use a victory. L.A. just got tossed out from further advancement in the NBA playoffs. And New Jersey...well New Jersey has not really had anything going on for a while.
This year, the Stanley Cup could be the saving grace—that shining chalice of hope in an otherwise disappointing hometown.
But there are three key reasons why the Devils have a better chance of bringing the famous cup home to New Jersey.
Ilya Kovalchuk has made important plays and produced game-winning results as a power forward for the Devils. Kovalchuk leads the team with seven goals and 11 assists in the playoffs, displaying his ability to bring the heat, as well as light the fire. He is averaging a little over 20 minutes on the ice per game and that has been 20 minutes well spent for the Devils.
In three out of four overtime wins during the playoffs, Kovalchuk gave the right pass at the right time. Of his already impressive 11 assists, three of those have been for game-winning goals in overtime. With the help of Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique, Kovalchuk should be an even bigger presence on the ice during this final round against the L.A. Kings.
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur has a lower save percentage than L.A. Kings goalie, Jonathan Quick in both the regular season and the playoffs. However, the difference is not by much. And Brodeur has proven that he can compete. New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had fairly high save percentages, closer to those of Quick, and Brodeur was still able to outplay him as the Devils took four out of the six games to advance to the Cup final.
Brodeur’s saves, combined with his command of the defensive play, will help the Devils maintain a strong presence on the ice when it comes time for Game 1 on Wednesday. Brodeur has more NHL experience than Quick and has seen it all. The well-decorated Brodeur has experienced three Stanley Cup Championship wins already. A patient Brodeur, has been to the finals with the Devils in the past and now that he’s back at age 40, he could be pulling this one for the old guys.
The Kings have breezed through the playoffs to make it to the Cup final, never having to force or fight a Game 7. In fact, this lowest seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs, polished off each round in less than six games. The Devils on the other hand, have fought and clawed their way on the ice. After an exciting overtime win against the Florida panthers in Game 6 of the first round, the Devils tied it up and forced a Game 7, which they also took in overtime on the road. They continued on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers, taking the second round in just five games. The third round was where Devils fans really endured struggle and scrappy play, as the team was defeated in two shutouts against the New York Rangers. Powering through Game 4 and 5, the Devils just barely fought off a Game 7 with a close overtime win in Game 6.
Now this could go either way, the Kings could clinch this Stanley Cup and bring home the over-sized goblet in less than six games. But I have a feeling that the Devils are on a hot streak with the excitement of their recent win over the top seeded Rangers. The Devils have gone through more experiences of possible elimination than the Kings have, and because they have made it this far, the Devils have that edge. The Devils have that itch of pushing their playoffs, that only a sweet final victory can scratch. Both Kings and Devils fans may be anxious as the Stanley Cup Championship could go all the way to Game 7.
Don’t expect this final round to be an easy one for the Kings, as the Devils are sure to give them hell.