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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stanley Cup Finals Preview

New Jersey Devils vs LA Kings

New Jersey finished the regular season with 102 points and a 48-28-6 record. The Devils finished in a tie for the fifth most points in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Bruins. Forward Ilya Kovalchuk led the Devils in points with 83, and goals with 37. Forward Patrik Elias had 52 assists to lead the team. Bryce Salvador, a defenseman, led the team with a plus/minus of +18. Goaltender Martin Brodeur finished the season with a 31-24-4 record, and a goals against average of 2.41.

In the Playoffs, the Devils; defeated the Florida Panthers in seven games (with Adam Henrique scoring the OT winner in game seven), the Philadelphia Flyers in five games, and the New York Rangers in seven games.

New Jersey's leading scorer in the playoffs is Iyla Kovalchuk; he leads the team in goals(7), assists(11), and points(18). Forward, Adam Henrique, has ended two playoff series in OT. (Panthers and Rangers.) Martin Brodeur has a 12-5 record, and a 2.04 Goals against average in the playoffs.

LA finished eighth in the Western Conference, off a 40-27-15 record in regular season play. The Kings were second to last in goals per game, scoring just 2.3 per game. LA's leading scorer during regular season play was forward Anze Kopitar. He finished with 76 points. Kopitar, also led the Kings in goals(25), and assists(51). Defenseman, Willie Mitchell, led the Kings with a +20, in the plus/minus statistic. Goaltender, Jonathon Quick, finished the regular season with a 35-21-13 record. He recorded a 1.91 goals against average, good for second in the league.

Dustin Brown, a forward, and Jonathon Quick are been the biggest reasons the 8th seeded Kings are in the Stanley Cup Finals. In the playoffs, Quick leads all goalies with a 1.54 goals against average, and a .946 save percentage. He also is 12-2 in the playoffs. Brown has 7 goals, and 9 assists for 16 points. He, and teammate Anze Kopitar, are the only players averaging over a point per game left in the playoffs. 

The Kings have rolled through the playoffs, needing only 14 games in three series to make the Finals. LA defeated; the Vancouver Canucks in 5 games in round 1, the St. Louis Blues in 4 games in round 2, and the Phoenix Coyotes in 5 games in the Western Conference Finals.

The advantage at the forward position is a wash between these two teams. LA has two great scoring lines, and a very productive third and fourth line. New Jersey has more depth at forward than LA. They also have two stars in Kovalchuk and Parise, so this is a really tight matchup.

The  Kings have a slight edge at the defensive position. Drew Doughty is a stud D-man and he leads the Kings D corps. LA also gets big contributions from veterans Willie Mitchell, and Rob Scuderi on the back end. New Jersey's defense is led by Anton Volchenkov, and Bryce Salvador. Peter Harrold is able to chip in offensively, for the Devils.

This is a great goaltending matchup between these two teams. Jonathon Quick is the best goalie in the NHL, and has been the best goalie in the playoffs. Martin Brodeur was the best goalie for many years in the NHL, and is the best goalie of all-time. This is the most important matchup of the Finals. Whoever wins the goaltending duel, will win the Stanley Cup.

The Pick: Devils in 7
LA is the favorite and they should be, as they beat the top three seeds in the West on their way to the finals, and it only took them 14 games to do it. The Kings are also undefeated in eight games on the road this postseason. The Kings have had eight days off since their last game though, and could be rusty. The Devils are peaking right now. They have the momentum from beating their hated rival, the New York Rangers, in the Eastern Conference Finals. NJ is also playing for Martin Brodeur, as he may be retiring after this series is finished.

Both teams will forecheck and play aggresive hockey, which should make for a thirlling Stanley Cup Finals. This should be a long series with multiple ovetime games, because the two teams are so evenly matched. In the end, I believe Brodeur's experience will win out in the seventh and deciding game for New Jersey.

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