Comparing the New Jersey Devils to the upstart Los Angeles Kings is a lot like looking through both sides of a mirror at the same time. They are either identical images or dead opposites.
Thus, determining a winner in this Stanley Cup Finals series could be more difficult than if the New York Rangers had instead captured the Prince of Wales Trophy as Eastern Conference champions.
However, when Devils rookie Adam Henrique tallied his second series-clinching, overtime goal of the playoffs, the Rangers, the best team in the East all season long, proved to be anything but in the postseason after posting a mediocre .500 record at 10-10 after playing 20 games over a 44-day span.
So here is a capsule look comparing key factors between the Kings and Devils in the Stanley Cup:
Martin Brodeur (NJ) vs. Jonathan Quick (LA): Brodeur, the wiley veteran with three Cups on his career resume, long ago learned his lessons after overcoming Mark Messier’s Game 6 “promise” in the classic 1994 Rangers-Devils series to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer whenever he retired.
Quick is a touch above where Brodeur used to be at that same point in their careers, yet experience always seems to be a difference-maker. Many will side with Quick based on his remarkable 12-2 postseason record (8-0 on the road). Others will say experience matters and will side with Brodeur.
The Kings’ No. 1 line centered by Anze Kopitar rests a +32 through three rounds of Stanley Cup play. They score 5-on-5 and in penalty situations they score in all four periods (including overtime), and its confidence factor is sky high.
New Jersey is fairly balanced from four lines – the hustling No. 4 line may be why the Devils ousted the Rangers – and aggressive forechecking has been a motto at The Rock for a lot longer than in L.A.
Style of Play
When you’re hot, you’re hot. The Kings’ forecheck and puck possession have been unbeatable. In the course of a few months, they transformed from a defensive hockey team into one that looks to score, albeit from a defensive posture. Some say that is conjecture, yet lookat the team’s shot total (and quality chances) as proof.
If you need someone to figure out a way to stop it, look to Devils assistant coach (and former L.A. standout defenseman and head coach) Larry Robinson to figure it out. He always seems to.
The media is making a stink because Kovalchuk used L.A. in order to get his $102M contract from New Jersey. Unless he can put the puck in the net more often – although he did collect an assist on the series-clincher vs. NYR – this is more hype than anything we can handicap with. Just ask NYR’s Marian Gaborik, another non-factor (again).
I am a big Brodeur fan. I am a big L.A. Kings fan. My loyalties are split. The Devils know how to win; the Kings (12-2 in SD play) are simply winning after 40-plus seasons of doing anything but. That’s always been a big impact for me, so here’s to L.A. in six games after gaining in road split in the series openers.
Henrique’s Game 6 goal for the Devils came on a play reminiscent of the entire Rangers playoff run: too many games, too many minutes, sapping away the team’s energy and leading to too many mistakes.
New Jersey gained a turnover, charged the net, then picked up a garbage – oops, I mean – a hustle goal to win the series just 63 seconds into overtime, as NYR goalie Henrik Lundqvist received little assistance.
Gaborik, a so-called “big gun,” proved not to be another Mark Messier. He never has; he never will. And Brad Richards was a non-factor, yet he tried to compete with good checking and shot-blocking to aid the defense.
What little scoring the Rangers gained came from just two lines at best – which just shows how average a team like the Washington Capitals are…which leaves us to ask: What are the Pittsburgh Penguins up to?
Last spring, New Jersey missed the playoffs due to numerous injuries leading to a terrible start, but now are playing for the Cup.
Our NHL Futures play for the 2012-13 season: Penguins.