The Stanley Cup Finals between the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils begin Wednesday, but before the puck drops we need to take a look at the key veteran players that each team will be relying on. Both teams have a few key veterans whose performances could very well make or break their chances to hoist the cup after all is said and done. Let's take a look at who these players are, how they've helped their respective clubs get to this point and how they intend on making their mark in the series.
Anze Kopitar is vital to the Kings' success on offense. The Kings' road to the finals has already gone through three great goalies, and if they want to hoist the cup they're going to have to beat possibly the greatest goaltender in Martin Brodeur.
Kopitar is going to have to be a huge part of that. In 14 games this postseason, he's registered 15 points (six goals, nine assists) and a plus-minus of 13. He's scored in all but three games this postseason, and if the Kings are going to win this series, he is going to have to continue that production.
Ilya Kovalchuk is every bit as important to the Devils' success as Kopitar is as the Kings'. In 17 games this postseason he has registered 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists). He has such a great blend of power, speed, and skill that he will have to continue to be a force to be reckoned with if the Devils are going to win this series.
The bad news for Kovalchuk is, while his point production has been good, he is sporting a plus-minus of minus-four for this postseason and will be going up against the hottest goaltender in this postseason in Jonathan Quick.
While getting pucks past him won't be easy, the Devils have already taken on and beaten great goaltenders this postseason, and Kovalchuk will be looking to add Quick's name to that list.
Trying to stop Kovalchuk will be Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. Apart from his defensive prowess, Doughty will also be contending with the Devils' formidable fore-checking abilities.
The Devils have been able to create turnovers and good scoring chances off the forecheck throughout this postseason, and Doughty will have to be solid in avoiding any game changing turnovers. In addition, he'll have to slow down Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Zac Parise and Adam Henrique, which is no small task.
Bryce Salvador registered nine points in 82 games this regular season, all on assists. Through 18 games this postseason, he has 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and is rocking a plus-minus of 10.
Salvador has been invaluable to the Devils thus far, stepping out of his presumed role as just a defenseman.
If Salvador can continue any semblance of this production in the finals, the Devils will be hard to stop as they'll have legitimate scoring opportunities coming from the point, below the goal line and the slot. If Salvador can provide the Devils with that offensively, the Kings' season could end quickly.
If anyone is surprised by this, you haven't been paying attention. Quick has been the most important part of any team's success throughout these playoffs.
This postseason, Quick has boasted a .946 save percentage while giving up 22 goals in 14 games. This includes two shutouts, and in one of those games he made over 40 saves. Quick has been the MVP for this team thus far, and if they win the Cup, it will be because of him.
Martin Brodeur is more or less a walking hockey god. At the very least he is in the discussion for the greatest goaltender of all time. He's already won the Cup three times, but if he wants to hoist one more time, it's on his shoulders.
No player will have a bigger impact on the outcome of this series than Brodeur. If he is able to stand on his head the way he has time and time again throughout this postseason, the Devils have a great shot at winning.
So there you have it. The six players who will have the biggest impact on the outcome of this year's Stanley Cup Finals.