2012 Stanley Cup Finals Pick and Prediction: Devils Kings
2012 Stanley Cup Finals Pick and Prediction: New Jersey Devils Vs LA Kings – The Devils will win the Stanley Cup
This is the Stanley Cup Finals series that everyone who likes hockey was hoping for. The open-ice offense of the LA Kings faces off against the dynamic skaters of the New Jersey Devils. The LA Kings score shorthanded goals, the Devils allow them. Both teams are defensively sound on the whole. There’s an exciting goaltending matchup between the ageless Martin Brodeur on a final push for the cup and a red-hot Jonathan Quick. The boring Rangers and undermanned Coyotes are out, and we’ll finally have the exciting hockey we deserve in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals.
I loved the way the New Jersey Devils matched up with the New York Rangers and my conference finals preview and prediction proved to be exactly how the series went. On the other side of this matchup, my top team in the power rankings is on an incredibly hot playoff run. Both teams are hot, and the winner of this series will be the lowest seed to ever win the Stanley Cup in what proved to be one of the most unpredictable NHL playoffs in a while, possibly in NHL history.
The LA Kings are coming off a truly dominant series against the Phoenix Coyotes where they owned a strong matchup advantage over nearly every skater on the ice. The Kings were the more physical, consistent team. Phoenix’s “bend but don’t break” style of hockey finally snapped, but it seemed inevitable. Dominating the top two seeds in the Western Conference were the more impressive wins for the Kings on a magical playoff run from the bottom seed in the conference. In the playoffs, the Kings have been the best team in the West by far. In two matchups with the Devils, New Jersey outscored the Kings 4-1 and dominated the series. However, this is clearly not the same Kings team and LA’s terribly inconsistent play in the regular season doesn’t matter much now.
The Devils vanquished two divisional rivals to make it to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Their most exciting series came in the Conference Finals, which either means fatigue or momentum. The Kings coasted through the playoffs without a loss on the road and have yet to be tested. They’ll be rested, but will they be rusty? The LA Kings are as hot as they’ve ever been, but can they keep it going in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils? I say that they won’t.
The New Jersey Devils have a pair of the most dynamic skaters in hockey. Zach Parise was dominant against the best defensive team in hockey and the Rangers, as defensively sound as they are, did not have an answer for the tandem of Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. The beauty of these two skaters is the way Peter DeBoer has been using them. When they’re on a line together they’re impossible to cover, but when split up they give the Devils the best scoring depth in the NHL. Travis Zajac has been an incredible boost on offense after missing most of the year due to injury. The fourth line has provided a spark, the third line turned the Devils’ season around after the acquisition of Alexei Ponikarovski gave the Devils much needed versatility, and New Jersey surged into the playoffs en route to another Stanley Cup appearance. Granted the Rangers were tired, but can the Kings stop the power of the Devils offense? If you believe Jonathan Quick can do it himself, Henrik Lundqvist’s performances should be a prime example of exactly how unstoppable the Devils can be. The bigger question in my mind is will it matter?
LA has similarly explosive offensive weapons, though I believe the Devils have significantly more depth. I believe that depth will be what turns the series in the Devils favor. Still, former-Flyers teammates Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have reunited to solid results and Anze Kopitar is one of the best young scorers in hockey. Justin Williams and Dustin Brown are hot and coming through when it matters most. Drew Doughty is a powerful presence on the point. There is a ton of talent on both sides of the puck for the Kings and Jonathan Quick can steal a game – even a series.
The Kings have been explosive on penalty kills, tallying enough shorthanded goals to make New Jersey nervous. The Devils allowed an atrocious amount of shorthanded opportunities this season and nothing changes a game like a shorthanded goal. The Kings buried the Coyotes in Game Five and the Blues never recovered from Game One after shorthanded goals stole momentum. The Devils’ penalty kill was the best in hockey history this year, but their power play will need to be crisp or they’ll concede a special teams advantage to the Kings.
Still, it’s impossible to bet against the Devils right now. They hold the advantage of having two of the three best scorers in this series, which will certainly lead to high-caliber scoring opportunities. Martin Brodeur, arguably the greatest goaltender in the history of the NHL, is playing some of the best hockey of his illustrious career. A long layoff could cool off the Kings, who have yet to truly be tested this postseason in terms of having a loosely competitive series. The longer the series goes on, the better the chances for the rested Kings, but New Jersey is hot enough to end this one relatively quickly.
I think the Devils will deliver the Kings a true challenge, and expect LA to fall like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards from a dry-island barstool.
Devils in five
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