Kings vs. Devils: Why 2012 Will Be the Devils' Most Impressive Stanley Cup Win
Despite battling injuries for the entire season, the sixth-seeded Devils find themselves in prime position to earn their fourth Stanley Cup championship since the franchise moved to New Jersey in 1982.
The first three—1995, 2000 and 2003—were led by defensive guru and tough guy Scott Stevens as well as the phenomenal goaltending of Martin Brodeur, who was in the prime of his career.
So what makes the 2012 run so special for the Devils?
Well, for one, they're winning despite 40-year-old Brodeur in net.
A career 2.23 GAA and .913 save percentage goaltender, Brodeur posted similar numbers this season—2.41 GAA and .908 save percentage—showing that he's still one of the top goaltenders in the league.
New Jersey was tested immediately by No. 3-seeded Florida Panthers, who many believed should have been swept by the Devils.
After edging Florida in seven games—which took two consecutive overtime wins to close out the series—the Devils endured two brutal rivals in the No. 5 Philadelphia Flyers and the No. 1 New York Rangers.
After an extremely physical series between the Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the conference quarterfinals that saw Philly win in six, it looked as though the Flyers had the edge heading into the semifinals against New Jersey—even though the two teams split the season series three apiece.
But unlike past Devils teams, the 2012 squad is winning with both offense and defense, which helped them eclipse Philadelphia in five games.
Ilya Kovalchuk faced some adversity of his own. After being benched during the Flyers series due to an injury that affected his effort on the ice, Kovalchuk has come back to lead the NHL in postseason points with 18.
New Jersey scored four goals in three of its wins and was able to take advantage of the inexperience of Ilya Bryzgalov.
Even more impressive in this run is that the Devils are getting excellent production from the fourth line of Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter, who have combined for nine goals and 19 points during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The energy and forecheck presented by the Devils, who seemed to come out of the gates hungry in the first period of every game against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, is a new look for New Jersey.
Usually a defensive-minded squad, this year's Devils played excellent on the forecheck, led by captain Zach Parise.
Facing arguably the best goalie in the NHL during the Eastern Conference finals, the Devils were able to defeat Henrik Lundqvist and the top-seeded New York Rangers in six games.
In the end, it's about the adversity that the Devils have overcome. For most of the season, they looked like an easy out in the postseason.
But after some impressive wins down the stretch, New Jersey caught fire heading into the playoffs and now finds itself four wins from a fourth championship.
The Devils have never won a Stanley Cup as the No. 6 seed, as they were a 5 in 1995, a 4 in 2000 and a 2 in 2003.
They'll look to do it starting tonight.
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