New Jersey appears to be the team to beat

May 22, 2001 11:18 AM

We're almost to the Stanley Cup Finals.

At deadline on Monday, both the New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche hold 3-1 series leads in their Conference Finals.

In Game 4 New Jersey defeated Pittsburgh 5-0 in Pittsburgh Saturday. The Devils now go back home to the Meadowlands for Game 5, Tuesday at 4 p.m. PDT.

Meanwhile, Colorado, without an injured Peter Forsberg, is surprising everyone and could have clinched the Western Conference title Monday against St. Louis in Game 5 in Denver.

Both teams were in the driver’s seat. The team that might have a little more trouble clinching before a Game 7 is Colorado. New Jersey was expected to win, but Colorado wasn’t even favored going into its series. Both the Blues and Avalanche were -110 to win their series.

But expect these two teams to meet in the Stanley Cup Finals. Both teams were the best in their conferences.

Both goalies, New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur and Colorado’s Patrick Roy, have been stellar. Brodeur’s save average is .909 percent, while Roy’s is .930.

Looking at clutch situations however, Roy has given up three goals in overtime or in close third-period situations.

Roy gave up an overtime goal in Game 3 to St. Louis, and also gave up critical goals against the Los Angeles Kings in the Conference semifinals in Games 5 and 6. In the clutch situations, Brodeur has the edge - and there will be crucial moments.

The offensive stats are nearly even.

Joe Sakic and Chris Drury both lead the Avalanche in playoff goals with eight apiece in 15 games. Petr Sykora leads the Devils with seven goals in 17 games. Teammates Patrik Elias and Brian Rafalski both have seven goals apiece in the playoffs.

As for points, Colorado’s Milian Hejduk leads with 19, while Elias and Sykora both have 17.

In a New Jersey-Colorado final, the Avalanche have the home ice, but the Devils are strong on the road, take for instance Games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh, winning by a combined 8-0.

New Jersey does have the experience factor on its side for a possible showdown with Colorado. The Devils played in some pressure pact situations last year against Dallas in the Finals during Games 5 and 6.

If all goes as planned this week and we have a New Jersey-Colorado final, New Jersey would be the play to win in five or six games. New Jersey would be favored going into the series as well.