In October, no one expected the Los Angeles Kings or the New Jersey Devils to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The Kings were expected to make the playoffs, but the main concern was the team wasn’t scoring enough goals. The Devils were expected to make the playoffs, but the main concern was did they have enough to make it in the playoffs, and once they got in, did they have enough depth to make a deep playoff run? At the end of the season, the Kings finished in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Devils finished 6th in the Eastern Conference by winning their final 6 games of the regular season. In the Conference quarterfinal, the Kings faced the Presidents’ Trophy champion Vancouver Canucks, while the Devils faced the biggest surprise of the season, the Southeast Division champion Florida Panthers. The Kings shocked the hockey world by dispatching the defending Western Conference Champions in 5 games by limiting the Canucks to just 8 GOALS. Despite the slight advantage the Panthers had against the Devils, the series went the distance, and Adam Henrique won it for New Jersey in the second overtime of the deciding 7th game. In the Conference semifinal, the Kings faced another division champion, the St. Louis Blues, while the Devils faced their division rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings pulled off another upset, sweeping the Blues in 4 straight games while only allowing 6 goals. As for the Devils, they steamrolled over a physically and emotionally drained Flyer team in 5 games. In the Conference final, the Kings faced off against the last division champion standing in the Western Conference, the Phoenix Coyotes. The Devils faced off against their Hudson River rival, the top seed in the east: the New York Rangers. Against the red-hot Mike Smith, the Kings found a way to beat the Coyotes. In 5 games, Phoenix’s Cinderella story came to an abrupt end thanks to an overtime goal from Dustin Penner. As for the Devils, they tried to exorcise the demons of 1994, Messier’s guarantee, and “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!” It didn’t go the distance, but instead of “Matteau, Matteau, Matteau!”, it was “Henrique, Henrique, Henrique!” as Adam Henrique scored his second overtime winner in the playoffs to give the Devils their first Eastern Conference Championship since 2003.
And now, here we are…2 teams left. When it comes to Final experience, the Devils have a lot of experience thanks to Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias, and Petr Sykora. The Kings have recent Stanley Cup Final experience in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who were with the Philadelphia Flyers along with Simon Gagne in 2010. Yet the only person on the Kings roster with a Stanley Cup ring, Colin Fraser, did not play a game throughout the entire 2010 postseason. Both teams have balanced scoring, led by Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar for Los Angeles, and Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, and Ilya Kovalchuk for New Jersey. In net, Jonathan Quick has consistently been solid. No wonder he was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy this season. On the other side, Marty Brodeur has become the Marty Brodeur that has won 4 Vezina Trophies and 3 Stanley Cups. But as Game 1 approaches, the Kings are 8-0 on the road. And with these two teams meeting for the first time since the beginning of the season, Game 1 will set the tone for the series to come.
Prediction: LA in 6