When the playoffs began nearly two months ago when the NHL playoffs began, people never thought that the finals would be a matchup of the 8th seed in the West and the 6th seed in the East, but that is what it has come down to, the Los Angeles Kings vs. the New Jersey Devils. However, just because these two teams were written off coming into the postseason doesn’t mean were going to be in for a dull series. These two teams both play a different style of hockey. With the Kings possessing young players who are very quick, they are clearly the more versatile and fast past team in the series, while the Devils play an old school style of hockey led by veterans such as IIya Kovalchuk and goaltender Martin Brodeur.
With the two teams being polar opposites, it is going to be interesting to see who will come out on top in this series and make history by getting their names engraved with past legends and hall of famers.
I myself am rooting for the New Jersey Devils. After the Devils defeated us in the first round, I have earned a new found respect for them. The series between the Devils and the Panthers was a hard fought, well played series that brought nothing but the best out of the players from both sides. Even though the Kings are the most likely favorites entering the game, I am pulling for New Jersey, hoping that they can gain back the prestige to a well-respected franchise. In order for the Devils to come out on top there are a few things that they must do correctly.
1) Dominate Power Kill
During the regular season the Devils were known for their great power kill. Throughout the regular season the Devils dominated other teams while they were on their power play. The Devils ended the season with not only a conference best, but a league leading 89.58% on the power kill. When a team plays that well on special teams like the Devils did this past season, the chances of them winning that game goes up tremendously. With the Kings having a face paced offense it will be essential for New Jersey to get back to the penalty killing team that they were throughout the season as they continuously struggling on the penalty kill for a majority of the 2011-2012 postseason.
2) Marty Brodeur
When the Devils drafted Marty Brodeur in the 1991 draft, they were hoping he would be a great goalie for them. However, they never expected Brodeur to still be playing in the year 2012, but he is. It is without a question that Brodeur is arguably the greatest goalie in the history of the game and with the Devils making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals, they are looking for a big time performance from one of the all-time greats. The Kings possess great young speed and talent from players like Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, and Justin Williams who are always trying their best to attack the net and get the puck behind the goalie. Brodeur has to be aware of the type of offense he will be going up against, but with years of experience in between the pipes, Broduer should be fine as he knows that he is slowly running out of chances to once again hold up the Stanley Cup with his teammates in celebration.
3) IIya Kovalchuk Has To Bring His A Game
In July of 2010 the Devils attempted to give forward IIya Kovalchuk as contract that was good for 17 years earning him $102 million. However, the league rejected the contract saying that it would interfere with the league’s salary cap rules. After being turned down, the Devils came to an agreement with the league on a new contract for Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk and the Devils then went onto sign a 15 year contract worth an astonishing $100 million deal. With Kovalchuks record breaking deal in place, New Jersey was looking for some major production out of him and they got just that. In a combined 2 and half years under the Devils, Kovalchuk has accumulated 170 points. Despite the great production, none of that matters if he fails to produce in the playoffs. But, since the start of the playoffs, he has been putting up great numbers, while putting himself in serious contention for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Even though his numbers have been up the past couple of months, it all comes down to the last 7 game series of the NHL season. The Devils will be looking for big numbers from Kovalchuk as he looks to finally have his name put up with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and Steven Stamkos as one of the top few players in the league.
Even though I named these three things, that not the only thing. They need to play as a team. I named two players who I believe need to play the most aggressively in order for them to compete against a young Kings team. If those two players can step up, then they will have a better chance, but hockey is not a single person sport, and as cliché as it sounds, there is no I in team. The Devils have had the main core players together for a while now and I believe they will have the edge when it comes to knowing each other like the back of their hand. If they can play well together and not commit silly penalties that can put them in danger of losing, then they will have an excellent chance of coming out victorious.
Hopefully, the last series of the season will go to game season as all of us hockey fans would love to see a longer series, but if it fails to go to seven, we are all just hoping for a hard fought, clean, and well played hockey series. Even though the Kings have played great all postseason, I am wishing for a New Jersey victory. Predicting this series is going to be tough as you can make a case for both teams to come out with a victory, however, I am going with the team that is representing the East, the New Jersey Devils in six games. This is lined up to be one of the better finals in quite some time as both of these teams are complete opposites which would hopefully set up to be a great 7 game series.
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