Who Will Kiss the Cup?
As an avid New York Rangers fan, I have avoided writing this article for a few days now. One of the best ways to get over a defeat to your hated rival is to get away from it all, which is what I was able to accomplish this Memorial Day Weekend. However, it is time to pay my respect to a team that is very deserving. The New Jersey Devils proved that they were the most complete team in the Eastern Conference this season, playing excellent hockey all season long, unnoticed by the majority of the Tri-state area. If you have read my posts in the past few weeks in which I gave unlimited accolades to the Rangers leadership, tenacity and desire to win, all and more should also be said about the Devils. As much as it pains me to say, I believe New Jersey deserves to be where they are, but now they come up to their greatest challenge yet.
The Devils finished the season with more points than their opponents, meaning that for the first time in the postseason, New Jersey will have home ice advantage. Not that it really matters all that much to them, as New Jersey beat the Rangers twice at MSG and finished off both the Panthers and Flyers in their own buildings. If anything, this might actually be a disadvantage for the Devils. The Western Conference Champion Los Angeles Kings have steamrolled their way to the Finals. They have gone 8-0 on the road, taking the first 2 games of each of their series against the top three seeds in the West. They have gone up 3-0 in all three rounds, illustrating their dominance in all arenas this postseason. The Kings snuck into the playoffs as the #8 seed, but have since proved how worthy they actually have been. In a city defined by its basketball tradition, the 2012 Kings have given the hockey contingent a reason to be excited for the first time since 1993, when some dude named Wayne Gretzky led the Kings to the Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. However, the Kings fell to a legendary goaltender in that series named Patrick Roy. Now they get another try against maybe the only goalie in hockey history better than Roy.
The before mentioned legend of course is Martin Broduer, and the main matchup to watch will be the battle of the goaltenders. The 40-year-old Brodeur will be going up against the 26-year-old Jonathan Quick. While Brodeur has all the experience in the world on his side, Quick has been the most dominant goalie of the postseason thus far. Quick has posted a 12-2 record with a 1.55 Goals Against Average. He has given up more than 2 goals only twice in the playoffs and has yet to allow 3 in a game. Brodeur has gotten the job done, but has been a lot more shaky in doing so. He was able to outduel the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist, a goalie in a small group considered to be the best in the world. Brodeur did give up a few bad goals to the Rangers though, and was even pulled from a game earlier this postseason against the Florida Panthers. Quick has been much more consistent and its going to take a huge effort from Brodeur to keep up with the Kings net-minder. However, in my years watching hockey, there is one thing I know about Marty and that is to never better against him. I won’t start doing that now.
Though the Kings have picked up the scoring in the postseason, they are not a dynamic offensive team by any means. Jonathan Quick’s play has brought them to the Finals. The Devils on the other hand have somehow transformed themselves into an offensive juggernaut. Ilya Kovalchuk, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajak, Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and company have been lighting up the nets in the postseason. Zach Parise provides the scoring and leadership that Ryan Callahan gave the Rangers, though it might appear the Parise did an even better job that the blueshirts Captain. Head coach Peter DeBoer has kept his team calm and composed all season long, and feels confident in all four of his lines for a spark.
I think the Devils offensive push will finally get to Jonathan Quick, who has played in big games throughout the playoffs, but hasn’t been on this stage before. Marty on the other hand has seen it all before and has done everything you can in the sport, so I can’t see him getting flustered at all. I believe the Eastern Conference was tougher than the West this year, and the Devils battled through, proving they were the strongest willed team in their Conference. The Kings are scary and I might be sleeping on them a little bit, but as much as it sucks to say, I have to go with the Devils in the Cup Finals this year. (that doesn’t mean I’ll be rooting for them though!)
Devils in 7 games