After a grueling 82-game season, followed by three playoff series, teams always welcome any kind of rest in their quest to win the Stanley Cup.
The Los Angeles Kings haven't played since May 22, when they notched a 4-1 overtime victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in Phoenix to send the Coyotes home for the summer. In contrast, the New Jersey Devils wrapped up their series on May 25 after a grueling, hard-fought series against the New York Rangers which saw six games of extremely physical play.
It only took the Kings 14 games to get to this point, as they put on a miraculous spectacle in a postseason which saw the team outplay the No. 1 seed Vancouver Canucks in a five-game series that they dominated in nearly every facet of hockey. They then went on to obliterate the St. Louis Blues, outscoring their opponent 15-6 in the series with the help of some impeccable goaltending by Jonathan Quick, as well as their ability to kill all 17 of the Blues' power plays in the series.
I'll spare you the recap of the series against the Coyotes, because we all know how that turned out.
This postseason hasn't been anywhere near the same for the Devils, as the team has played 18 games since April 13, with their only "easy" series coming in a five-game victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, But even that wasn't easy for Martin Brodeur and company, as the Flyers-Devils rivalry is always closer than the final score may indicate.
The advantage that the Kings have cannot be understated. The Devils have played four more games, which may not seem like a lot, but once a team gets down to the end of the season, even one extra period can impact your future schedule.
The discrepancy of games played between the two will have an extremely adverse effect on the Devils because of Brodeur. The three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender is 40 years old and the extra mileage for him this postseason will show in the Stanley Cup Finals that begin on Wednesday, May 30.
Jonathan Quick is just 26 years old and will suffer from much less fatigue than Brodeur. Quick has been superb in the playoffs and has allowed more than two goals on just two occasions in his last 14 games. Brodeur did so three times in the Eastern Conference Finals alone.
In Game 5 against the Rangers, the Devils won 5-3, but Brodeur didn't look like his usual self between the pipes. On a first period goal by Brandon Prust, Brodeur awkwardly laid out sideways in an attempt to prevent him from scoring on a breakaway. The shot wasn't well-placed, but Brodeur was out of position and the puck slid under his right armpit. We usually don't see Brodeur put himself out of position too often, so that gives reason to believe that these playoffs are taking a toll on him both physically and mentally.
The Kings are trying to put an exclamation point on a storybook postseason that saw them defy all odds and beat teams that were supposedly better equipped for playoff hockey. They play in a city where they are completely overshadowed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers and Dodgers, and they will be looking to grab the attention of L.A. residents by hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup.
The momentum alone would be enough to give them an advantage against the Devils, but now that they've had some extra time off to rest up and wind down a bit, they should have no problem proving the doubters wrong knocking off the Devils.
This is a hockey tale that can only be rivaled by the 1980 Miracle On Ice and it would be naive to think that the Kings won't end this season with the Cup in their possession, thanks to their young star goaltender and their extra rest.