Stanley Cup Finals 2012: Highlighting the Best Matchups
The sixth vs. eighth seed? In the finals? Yep, it must be the Stanley Cup Finals. In a sport where there is no such thing as an underdog, the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings have defied all odds in their missions to hoist the Holy Grail of Hockey.
Each took down the top ranked teams in their respective conferences, so how do these giant-slayers match up against one another?
Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils provide two of the most compelling stories in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Quick, at 26 years of age, will be playing in just his 27th postseason game, while Brodeur, 40 years old, will be asserting his dominance in his 188th Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.
Quick: It’s as simple as this: there is not a hotter goaltender in hockey right now. Quick has posted a 12-2 record in this year’s playoffs. He has a .946 save percentage and has shut out his opponents twice.
In only his fourth NHL season, Quick has led the eighth-seeded Kings past the top three teams in the Western Conference. Steam-rolling their way into the playoffs, the only question seems to be whether too much rest presents a problem.
Can Quick remain the same stone-wall goaltender he was in the first three series? Or will the butterflies and nerves of the Holy Grail tuck the youngster into bed early?
Brodeur: He is the only NHL goaltender to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a teenager and as a 40-year old. His first playoff appearance dates back to the 1991-1992 season when he was just 19 years old (Jonathan Quick was probably just starting the first grade). The man is a legend.
According to ESPN, Brodeur is looking to become the ninth player in history to win the Stanley Cup in three different decades. Anyone who can sustain that kind of success has to have the edge in the spotlight of the finals.
Brodeur is the all-time leader in wins and shutouts, and you better believe he is bringing his A-game Wednesday night when the puck drops in New Jersey.
The Kings and Devils each have a winger who is playing high above the competition. New Jersey’s RW Ilya Kovalchuk and Los Angeles’ LW Dustin Brown each rank in the top three in points in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kovalchuk: It would be quite a sight to see Kovalchuk lift the Stanley Cup for the first time, especially if that feat comes on the road in LA. In the summer of 2010, the Kings tried to sign the free agent but were trumped by the Devils in the deal.
Kovalchuk has sounded the siren more than any other player in the playoffs, leading the league with 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists).
Brown: The captain of the Kings does it all for his team. He is an offensive juggernaut, ranking third in the playoffs in points (seven goals, nine assists) and posting a plus-13 plus/minus in just 14 games.
However, one of Brown’s strongest attributes is his physicality on the ice. He averages 4.8 hits per game and is arguably the most explosive defender in the team’s aggressively styled forecheck.
The Kings' powerplay has been horrendous. They have scored just six goals in their 74 chances (8.1%) this postseason, with two of those goals coming on 5-on-3 powerplays.
This is a crucial part of the series when you consider that New Jersey had the number one penalty kill in the regular season with an 89.6 percent success rate.
The Devils are a fairly disciplined team as well. They have averaged less than 10 penalties in minutes per game in the playoffs. With Brodeur in net, the Kings' chances of scoring become that much slimmer, stressing the need to start taking advantage of every man-down opportunity.
Whether or not the Kings score those special teams goals could determine the NHL’s newest champion.