2012 Stanley Cup Preview and Prediction ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
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By UltimateCapper.com Contributing Writer, Mike Ivcic
Well, itâs down to this â the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils will play for Lord Stanleyâs Cup beginning Wednesday, May 30. The Kings knocked off the Canucks, Blues, and Coyotes â the top three seeds in the Western Conference â in stunning fashion, winning all eight road games theyâve played this season and going an impressive 12-2 overall this postseason. Theyâre well-rested heading into their matchup with the Devils, who avenged their loss in 1994 with a win over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals after dispatching the Panthers and Flyers in the first two rounds. It should be a great series featuring two high-scoring teams with solid defense and outstanding goaltending, so one side has to give. Which side? Well, since you askedâ¦
On the flip side, six games with the Rangers will look like a cakewalk to the Devils as they fact the high-powered Kings attack. Jeff Carter may have gotten on track in the Coyotes series, joining Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Mike Richards to provide two legitimate scoring lines. Theyâve also gotten some contributions from their fourth line as well â though not as much as the Devils â so at least head coach Darryl Sutter has to feel comfortable playing all of his lines right along with Pete DeBoer. Despite some of the common thinking, this will likely be a decently high-scoring series, but the Devils are a little deeper than Los Angeles.
The Devils havenât been the best team in their own zone this postseason, as evidenced by blowing a 3-goal lead in game 5 and a 2-goal lead in game 6 against the Rangers in the conference finals. They will have to be much better in their own end against the Kings, who havenât needed much time or space to put the puck in the net. Marek Zidlicky was a big addition at the trading deadline to the Devils back end, especially offensively, and Bryce Salvador has been the best blueliner defensively, but Andy Greene and Mark Fayne will have to be even better than they were against New York in order for the Devils to keep LA off the board.
And then thereâs Jonathan Quick. Thereâs really nothing this guy hasnât done this postseason. The frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP sports a .946 save percentage and a 1.54 goals against average, both of which lead all goaltenders in the playoffs. The stingy netminder has allowed just 22 goals in 14 playoff games this season, and his technique of crouching low to the ice to see through screens and give himself the greatest amount of reaction time has proven to work wonders for the Connecticut native. The Devils will have to figure out a way to get pucks past Quick, something the top three seeds in the West couldnât manage to do. Theyâll probably have to move the puck quickly and shoot high, which is much easier said than done, and even that might prove to not be enough.
If anyone can, though, itâs LA, which has used an aggressive penalty kill forecheck to bottle teams up in their own end and ultimately score five shorthanded goals â more than their own power play. The Devils can match that success, though, as they did by stopping a potent Philadelphia power play in round two. NJ was the best penalty killing unit during the season, and after a rough time against the Panthers they are now back on track. One big aspect to watch, though, is that the Kings use their top players â Brown, Kopitar, Richards, and Carter â to kill up front, which could wear them out a bit if the series is extended past five games, something that hasnât yet happened to Los Angeles this postseason.
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