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2012 Stanley Cup Finals Preview & Analysis

(6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS (EAST)

VS.

(8) LOS ANGELES KINGS (WEST)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

SCHEDULE:

Game #

Road Team

Home Team

Date

Start Time (Eastern)

TV Channels

Final Score

1

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, May 30

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

2

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 2

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 2-1 in 1st OT

3

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 4

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

LA wins 4-0 in regulation

4

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Wednesday, June 6

8:00

NBCSN, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 3-1 in regulation

5

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Saturday, June 9

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

NJ wins 2-1 in regulation

6

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Monday, June 11

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

LA wins 6-1 in regulation

7

Los Angeles

New Jersey

Wednesday, June 13

8:00

NBC, CBC, RDS

SEASON SERIES:

New Jersey won season series 2-0-0

OFFENSIVE STAT LEADERS:

Stat

New Jersey

Los Angeles

Goals

7- Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac

7- Dustin Brown

Assists

11- Ilya Kovalchuk

9- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams

Points

18- Ilya Kovalchuk

16- Dustin Brown

Plus-Minus

+10- Bryce Salvador

+13- Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar

GOALTENDING MATCHUP:

Player

Record (Wins-Losses-Overtime Losses)

Goals Against Average

Save Percentage

Shutouts

Martin Brodeur (New Jersey)

 12-5-1

2.04

.923

 1

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

12-2-0

 1.54

 .946

2

Jonathan Quick is certainly one of the favourites to win the Conn Smythe should he continue his stellar play.
PHOTO CREDITS: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

HOW THEY GOT HERE:

New Jersey (4-3 over Florida in round 1, 4-1 over Philadelphia in round 2, 4-2 over NY Rangers in round 3)

Round 1:

It all started with a first-round tilt against the surprise Florida Panthers, who pushed the Devils to a 7th and deciding game.  A combination of blown 2-0 and 3-0 leads and some inconsistent goaltending led up to this climax, which saw game 7 go into a second overtime.  It was early in that period where rookie Adam Henrique potted the series clincher, as they would move on to the second round.

Round 2:

It would be the first of two divisional rivalries, starting off with the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round.  Many penciled in the Flyers as the victors, considering the way they manhandled the Penguins coupled with the Devils’ poor play against the Panthers at times.  The Flyers would take the first game, but that would be the only game they would take in the series.  Ilya Bryzgalov would continue to struggle between the pipes, allowing at least three goals in games 2-5.  Martin Brodeur would settle down, making some timely saves en route to the series victory.  Ilya Kovalchuk would awaken, collecting 7 points in just 4 games.  This would then set up a date with the New York Rangers.

Round 3:

Once again, the Devils were seen as the underdogs as they took on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.  It was deja vu for the Rangers, as they continued to alternate wins and losses in a similar fashion against the Caps in the second round.  With the series tied at two games apiece, game 5 would be a crucial point in the series for both teams.  It looked like it was quickly over as the Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but the Rangers would erase that to draw even at 3-3.  However, a late tally by Ryan Carter would put the Devils back on top, with an empty netter by Zach Parise sealing the deal.  In game 6, the Rangers climbed back from another deficit, as they negated the 2-0 lead New Jersey built up in the second period.  It would take overtime to find a winner, where Adam Henrique played hero once again, sending the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2003.

Los Angeles (4-1 over Vancouver in round 1, 4-0 over St. Louis in round 2, 4-1 over Phoenix in round 3)

Round 1:

Despite being one of the hottest teams down the stretch, no one really gave the Kings much of a chance against the Vancouver Canucks, who captured their second Presidents’ Trophy in as many seasons.  Well, they sure proved their critics wrong.  They would shock the hockey world by taking the first two games in Vancouver by identical 4-2 scores, which would prompt Canucks coach Alain Vigneault to make a goaltending switch.  However, despite Cory Schneider’s brilliance in game 3, his one mistake would prove to be the difference maker as the Kings needed just one goal to win it.  The return of Daniel Sedin sparked the Canucks in game 4, helping them stave off elimination.  The Sedin twins got off to another quick start in game 5 by striking quickly on the PP, but the Kings would tie it late to send it to overtime.  A turnover by Dan Hamhuis in the OT session would lead to a 2-on-1, where Jarret Stoll would finish off the Canucks, as they eliminated one of the Cup favourites in shocking fashion.

Round 2:

Their next roadblock to the Cup finals would be the next highest seed in the West, the St. Louis Blues.  Despite missing Jaroslav Halak, they still had to deal with Brian Elliott, who had a monster year as he and Halak teamed up to create arguably the league’s best goaltending duo.  Well, that goaltending was soon forgotten, as Brian Elliott quickly fell down to earth as he struggled mightily.  The Kings would score early and score often, leading to a quick sweep of the Blues.  Jonathan Quick was superb in the series, allowing only six goals.  As you would imagine, the PK was just as effective, killing all 17 penalties in the series.  #1 seed in West- gone.  #2 seed in West- outta here.  Next up?  You guessed it, the #3 seed in the West – the Phoenix Coyotes.

Round 3:

If you predicted a Kings-Coyotes Western final, give yourself a pat on the back.  Or maybe you’re just extremely lucky, and should consider purchasing a lottery ticket.  The Kings would get off to another fast in the series once again, capturing both opening games on the road thanks to Jeff Carter’s game 2 hat trick and Dwight King’s three goals in games 1 and 2.  It was a much closer affair in game 3, despite the Kings having controlled much of the action.  It was none other than Dwight King who would score the clutch goal early in the third period to send the Kings within one game of the Stanley Cup finals.  The Coyotes would rally back in game 4, thanks to a brilliant performance from Mike Smith, who stopped all 36 shots he faced.  Shane Doan provided both of Phoenix’s goals, as they headed back to Glendale with another breath of life.  In game 5, the teams would go back and forth throughout the game.  They would remain tied after regulation, sending the game to overtime for the first time in the series.  Despite two PKs during the overtime session, the Kings were able to kill both off, before Dustin Penner’s marker late in the first overtime period sent the Kings onwards to the final round.

ANALYSIS:

Los Angeles in 6.  If the Devils’ run has been impressive, then I’m really not sure what to call the Kings’ run.  What it really comes down to in the end is goaltending, where the Kings definitely have the advantage.  No disrespect to the one of the greats in Martin Brodeur, but Jonathan Quick has by far been the more consistent goaltender in these playoffs, never missing a single beat.  As well, the Devils seem to find themselves either behind early or in front early, only to lose a lead.  They cannot let either happen against the Kings, or this series will be shorter than six games.  One area that could use some major work is their PP, which is operating at only 8.1% in these playoffs.  If the Devils can shut them down even strength, then they could stand a chance in these series.  However, they had better be ready for a physical series, because that is exactly how the Kings have gotten this far.  Either way, it should be an extremely fun series to watch, but only one of these Cinderella runs will end with a happy ending.

Once again, I’m pleased to be joined by Nik of The News of Sports who will be adding his own perspective on the final series of the 2012 NHL playoffs:

Well, this is it! The entire 2011-2012 season comes down to this. Kings vs. Devils. Boy, will this series be a doozy. These two teams are as different as different can be. The Devils have the old but still strong goaltender in Martin Brodeur, while the Kings have Jonathan Quick, the American hero, who’s an up and coming superstar. Even last year, Quick wasn’t thought of as the bona fide starter, playing alongside Jonathan Bernier. Now? You can forget about Quick going anywhere. However, Quick hasn’t been a one man show for the Kings. The two Dustins, Brown and Penner, have been instrumental in the Kings’ run. Drew Doughty has been awesome blueliner and Jeff Carter has provided a veteran leadership that the Kings sorely lacked before.

For the Devils, their defense has been good, but not anything all that special. However, the offense of the Devils is top notch. Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise have been great as left wingers, and at center the New Jersey has Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac, both of whom have been with the Devils for a long time.

Lastly, I can’t help but think about the rough schedule. New Jersey and Los Angeles are on polar opposites of the United States, and I’ve got to imagine that the players will be tired, even after flying first-class, from across the country every few days just to fly back again.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see how this series turns out, but momentum is on LA’s side, and I think the Kings have what it takes to win their first Stanley Cup and defeat the Devils. This run has been incredible and I don’t think it’ll stop short of the target.

My pick: Kings in 6 games

Could this be Martin Brodeur’s swan song, should he capture his fourth career Stanley Cup?
PHOTO CREDITS: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

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