Stanley Cup Finals 2012: What the Devils Must Do to Beat the Red-Hot Kings

Daniel Mano Herberholz@danielmanoherbCorrespondent IMay 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals 2012: What the Devils Must Do to Beat the Red-Hot Kings

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    The Los Angeles Kings could barely be hotter coming into the Stanley Cup Finals, but there are some steps the New Jersey Devils can take to quell the fire.

    Los Angeles has yet to lose a game on the road, and have allowed the fewest goals per game of any team in the playoffs. The Kings have disposed of three teams to get here, never needing more than five games.

    Meanwhile, the Devils had to battle the Florida Panthers to Game 7 and nearly went to another Game 7 against the New York Rangers.

    But New Jersey has a few aces up its sleeve.

    Beside the level-headed skating of captain Zach Parise and the offensive power of Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils have a breakout youngster and a longtime veteran who has been here many times before.

    Here are eight aspects of play New Jersey must capitalize on to defeat Los Angeles.

Find an Answer for Dustin Brown

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    Captain Dustin Brown leads his team by example. The Los Angeles Kings forward is in the top two on his team in every offensive category.

    He leads his team in shots and goals, is tied for assists and plus-minus rating and is second in penalty minutes and shooting percentage.

    Brown has the most grit of any player in these playoffs. The captain skates without abandon, and has been praised by Sports Illustrated for his physical play.

    Perhaps most impressive are his shorthanded skills. Brown has tallied two goals and assisted on three others while the Kings were a man down.

    The New Jersey Devils will have to flush the fire from Brown if they want to stand a chance of winning the Cup.

Skate Past the Los Angeles Kings Defenders

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    The top two tiers of the Los Angeles Kings' defense is formidable, and the New Jersey Devils will have to overcome that to win the Stanley Cup.

    Drew Doughty and Willie Mitchell have spent the most time on ice for the Kings in these playoffs, stabilizing a defense which has allowed just 22 goals in 14 games.

    Obviously goalie Jonathan Quick has a great deal to do with that. But without those two and linemates Rob Scuderi and Slava Voynov, Quick couldn't have been quite as dominant.

    While the recent Los Angeles surge has been attributed to its offense, and reasonably so, the Kings rely just as much on a staunch defense that ranked second-best in the league this season.

    The Devils will have to change up that rhythm and make the Los Angeles defenders play on their heels.

Keep Adam Henrique Magical

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    It's not often that a skater finishes off opponents in three straight series, let alone a rookie like Adam Henrique.

    The New Jersey Devils center has been the best rookie in these playoffs.

    Not only did Henrique score two Game 7 overtime eliminators, he added a goal and an assist in Game 5 to advance the Devils past Philadelphia.

    This guy's just been magical, plain and simple.

    The Los Angeles Kings haven't faced anything like Henrique in these playoffs, and the Devils will have to show the Kings why they were lucky for that.

Kill the Kings' Penalty-Kill Goals

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    Somehow the Los Angeles Kings have equalized the penalty kill during these playoffs, and the New Jersey Devils cannot allow that.

    In the 57 times the Kings have been a man down, opponents have scored five times and Los Angeles has scored five times.

    Much of that has to do with the aforementioned grit of captain Dustin Brown, who has helped account for each of those shorthanded goals.

    Regardless, the Devils will have to keep pace. It helps that New Jersey has found the net 12 times while a man up in the playoffs, led by Ilya Kovalchuk and his eight power-play points.

    Kovalchuk and Zach Parise must keep the puck in the offensive zone during power plays to avoid the Kings' penalty-kill goals.

Don't Worry about Patrik Elias

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    Though he was a main cog for the New Jersey Devils during the regular season, Patrik Elias has essentially disappeared—but that's OK.

    Elias has the most assists on the team during the year, but just two in these playoffs. His four goals have helped, but his minus-six rating has not.

    Yet, the Devils have come this far without Elias playing at the top of his game. The assistant captain has, however, contributed in other ways.

    A breakout points performance by Elias would certainly help, but New Jersey has to play like that won't happen.

Score First

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    The New Jersey Devils would be well-served to tally the first goal.

    While the Los Angeles Kings are 12-2 in these playoffs and thus stand a chance whether they score first or trail first, the Devils are much better when they net a puck before their opponent.

    The Devils have an .800 winning percentage when scoring the first goal, but are just .500 when falling behind first.

    Stats like that matter only so much.

    However, the Devils want to attempt to avoid such scenarios, especially since scoring first puts a team in a better place mentally.

Rely on the Experience of Martin Brodeur

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    Leading the charge for the more experienced Stanley Cup New Jersey Devils is goalie Martin Brodeur.

    The last time Brodeur played on this stage he shut out the Anaheim Ducks three times, tied for most all time in the Stanley Cup Final.

    Over his career, Brodeur has blanked opponents more times than any other netminder, both in the regular season and the playoffs. The list of bests for Brodeur could go on and on, but what's important to remember is that he gets it done. Even offensively, as he has the most assists by a goalie in these playoffs.

    He'll certainly have stiff competition in Los Angeles Kings goalie and Vezina Trophy finalist Jonathan Quick.

    Brodeur will have to match up with the flaming hot Quick for him to win his fourth Cup with New Jersey.

Forget about History

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    Of course, no New Jersey Devils are going to admit the Los Angeles Kings' NHL record of playoff wins on the road is intimidating.

    But how can it not be?

    The Kings have only lost at home during this postseason, all the more scary since they are the road team four times in these Stanley Cup Finals.

    But streaks can't go on forever, so the Devils must forget that Los Angeles has won eight straight on the road. The most important test is Game 1.

    The first contest will set the tone for the entire series, so New Jersey can't afford to drop that game to the Kings.