New Jersey Devils (6) vs. Los Angeles Kings (8):
Regular season head to head:
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While reading into regular season records against each other can sometimes provide insight into a playoff matchup in this case I would not read too much into it. Both of these matchups were in October 2011 and since that time both teams have made transformations into the playoff survivors they have become.
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Offensively these teams stack up pretty close together. The top offensive performers for New Jersey thus far have been Ilya Kovalchuk with 7 goals and 18 points, Zach Parise with 7 goals and 14 points, Travis Zajac with 7 goals and 12 points. The top offensive performers for Los Angeles have been Dustin Brown with 7 goals and 16 points, Anze Kopitar with 6 goals and 15 points, Mike Richards with 4 goals and 11 points. The biggest difference is that the Kings top three performers combine for a plus 29 rating, while the Devils top three combine for a minus 8 rating.
The Devils top three defensemen in ice time per game are Marek Zidlicky (24:08), Bryce Salvador (22:36) and Andy Greene (22:29). They have combined for 4 goals, 20 points and a plus 11 rating. While the Kings top three defensemen in ice time per game are Drew Doughty (25:52), Willie Mitchell (25:27) and Rob Scuderi (21:11). They have combined for 3 goals, 13 points and a plus 26 rating. Again the Kings appear to have the overall advantage on the blue line.
While the Devils do have the experience of the 40 year old future hall of famer Martin Brodeur on their side, Jonathan Quick has been absolutely lights out for the Kings in these playoffs. He will continue his dominance in the Stanley Cup Final. I have been very impressed with his overall clam demeanor.
While the Kings have the vastly superior penalty kill they will need it against a New Jersey power play that has many options. The Kings will need to be more disciplined than they have been in the past three rounds to avoid giving the Devils power play chances. On the flipside the Devils have a poorly rated penalty kill thus far in these playoffs. But after ranking as one of the best in the league through the regular season expect the Devils to pull up their socks in the Cup Final and pull through with a much better penalty kill.
The Los Angeles Kings will defeat the New Jersey Devils in six games and win Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in franchise history.
The Kings are incrementally better than the Devils in most areas, but the big winner in this series will be goaltending. I believe that Jonathan Quick will outplay the veteran Martin Brodeur and win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.
Other heroes for the Kings in this series should come in the form of Captain Dustin Brown (3 game winning goals), Dustin Penner (2 game winners), Dwight King (2 game winners) and Jarret Stoll (2 game winners).
As well the Kings can expect more offensive depth in the lineup with the anticipated return of veteran forward Simon Gagne. While he only saw action in 34 games and has not played since December 26, 2011 Gagne is a proven clutch goal scorer. Of his 283 career regular season goals 52 have been game winners (18%) and of his 37 career playoff goals 7 have been game winners (19%). If he does play he will not be a dynamic force due to his layoff but watch for him to pot a key goal for the Kings.
All in all this will be a good entertaining series to watch as both teams like to be aggressive on offense. But do not expect more than 3 goals to be let in by either goaltender in one game, they are simply playing too good.