Stanley Cup Finals: 5 Reasons Casual Fans Should Watch Kings vs Devils
The start of June is a great time on the sports calendar.
Along with warm weather and girls in short shorts, sports fans are treated to the NBA Playoffs, NBA Draft, a Triple Crown threat, the French Open, the Euro Cup, and the Stanley Cup Finals.
With so many options, how does the casual sports fan know what's worth watching and what's a guy opening envelopes veiled as sports?
The Stanley Cup Playoffs have earned a reputation for being totally unpredictable and totally entertaining.
As evidence, the Devils entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. The Kings were the No. 8 seed. No matter who wins, they will become the lowest seeded team to ever win the Stanley Cup.
Also, 81 games have been played in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs so far. Twenty four of those games have been decided by an overtime winner, nearly 30 percent. By comparison, only four out of the 71 NBA Playoff games have gone to overtime, less than 6 percent.
As for horse racing, tennis, and soccer...we live in America, not Monte Carlo.
The Stanley Cup Finals are by far the most entertaining live sports on TV right now and here are five reasons why:
Martin Brodeur is trying to win his fifth Stanley Cup.
Brodeur's legacy does not hinge on winning another championship this year. Win or lose, he will remain one of the best goalies of all time.
But, this may be the last chance to see him play on the biggest stage. Brodeur also recognizes that this may be his last shot at the Cup, and he's been playing like it. In the last round, he out-dueled MVP candidate Henrik Lundqvist in helping the Devils eliminate the top-seeded Rangers in six games.
At 40 years old, Brodeur still has the quickness and instincts to lead his team to a Stanley Cup conquest. If you don't think a 40-year old can be quick, ask Marian Gaborik.
He's really the man behind the fiberglass mask, but no matter what is covering his face, Jonathan Quick is the best American goaltender right now.
Quick leads all playoff goaltenders in goals against average (1.49) and save percentage (.946), outperforming superstars like Brodeur, Lundqvist, and defending Conn Smythe winner, Tim Thomas. Quick has been so good in net, that even the puck knows not to go in against him.
If he keeps up this form, you'll see Jonathan Quick between the pipes for Team USA in the 2014 Olympics.
The Stars Shine in Hollywood...and Newark
The L.A. Kings are now an NHL record 9-0 in away games this postseason.
Overall, the Kings are 13-2 in the playoffs and have vanquished the Western Conference's No. 1 seed, No. 2 seed, and No. 3 seed, in that order. While Quick has been a big reason for the teams success, the Kings have scored four or more goals seven times so far.
Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar have been leading the charge for L.A., each with the identical line of seven goals, nine assists, and a plus-14 rating.
Travel east to the Prudential Center in Newark and you'll find Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise playing very good hockey.
Kovalchuk leads all skaters with 18 playoff points so far. I don't know if it's possible to live up to a 17-year, $102 million contract, but that's what Kovalchuk is trying to do. Lifting the Stanley Cup above his head will certainly help his cause.
Zach Parise is the captain of this Devils team and will become a free agent in the summer. Parise's future plans are unclear, but I bet the outcome of this series will impact his decision.
With American's Parise and Brown as the captains of each team, the winner of this series will be only the second team in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup with an American captain, USA Today reports.
The Refs Don't Spoil the Game
If you watched the Celtics vs Heat game Wednesday night, you got to watch 76 combined free throw attempts over 53 minutes.
If you watched Kings vs Devils Wednesday night, you saw three penalties called and this is how the game ended.
I have to imagine that even David Stern would rather watch a game decided by a breakaway goal in overtime than a free throw shooting competition. No doubt NBA refs have a difficult job to do, but NHL refs have to have exceptional eyes and positioning, and they do it on skates.
When Parise used his hand to shuffle in the puck during the third period (video above), the refs did a great job of getting it right initially and then using the replay to confirm it. Of course, the home fans were upset the would-be game-winning goal was disallowed but no one could deny it was the correct call.
However, if Mark Fayne had converted this juicy opportunity in the third, the refs would have allowed it and this would be a very different slideshow.
The Hits Keep Coming
Over the last twelve months, there has been a lot of talk about concussions, hitting, and fighting, in hockey and in other sports. If you haven't read The New York Times piece on Derek Boogaard, you should.
While it is unlikely we will see a fight in these finals, we'll certainly see a lot of hits. Big hits too.
We saw 89 combined hits from the two teams in game 1. As these teams battle back and forth vying for that cup-clinching 16th win of the playoffs, the hits will come bigger and faster.
That combination of size, speed and the unquenchable desire to win that almost seems visible in every player's stride, is why the Stanley Cup Finals are so entertaining.
Watch this series to see Brodeur, Quick, Kopitar, Kovalchuk, and to hear how good Doc Emrick is at his job.
Watch this series for the same reason all hockey fans keep watching: Whether it's L.A., New Jersey or somewhere in between, the Stanley Cup Finals is the best show in town.