Don't Expect Scoring Explosion As Devils, Kings Clash
By Stephen London
May 30 marks the beginning of the end of a remarkable NHL season, as the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils square off during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
For the Devils, the highlights of the playoffs have been the play of Martin Brodeur in net; Ilya Kovalchuk's playmaking ability; and the development of Adam Henrique, a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year). Henrique, 22, made series-winning goals in Game 7 situations against both the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers in overtime to send his team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Kovalchuk has the most points of any player during the 2012 playoffs, with 18 (seven goals, 11 assists). Although no player has eclipsed Claude Giroux's goal total of eight, which he accomplished during the Flyers' two series, Kovalchuk was the first player to eclipse Giroux's point marker at 17. Devils captain Zach Parise has also been an important factor during the playoffs, scoring six points against the Rangers (three goals, three assists).
On the Kings' side, goaltender Jon Quick has been the best between the pipes this postseason, ranking first in goals-against average (1.54) and save percentage (94.6). He has outperformed Brodeur, a future Hall of Famer, who is averaging 2.04 goals against per game during the playoffs.
Both goaltenders play a somewhat hybrid style, neither butterfly nor stand-up goaltending, yet they incorporate both styles in making their saves. Their abilities to react to the situation have helped their teams during the playoffs.
Brodeur and the Devils defense will have to contain the talented group of forwards the Kings have put together during the course of the year. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards played as teammates in the Stanley Cup finals before, but as Philadelphia Flyers, two years ago when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Other Kings offensive threats are Anze Kopitar, who has 15 points during the playoffs, and Dustin Brown, who has 16. Brown and Kopitar are tied for the lead in the plus/minus category with +13.
The deciding factor of the series may be power-play opportunities. The Devils have converted 18.2 percent of their man-advantage opportunities during the playoffs, giving them an edge against the Kings (8.1 percent). But the Kings are better on the penalty kill, with a 91.2 percent success rate, compared with the Devils' 74.2 percent.
The Kings defense is good about keeping the front of the net cleared, but the Devils' main strategy is to get bodies in front of the net. Players such as Drew Doughty (+10 plus/minus) and Willie Mitchell (+8) have helped the Kings take control of the front of the net in the defensive zone.
Given the two goaltenders involved with this series, it will be surprising if these teams combine for more than five goals during any game of the Stanley Cup Finals. The main battle of the series will be between the Kings' defensemen and the Devils' forwards.
The Kings have three players that have won the Stanley Cup before (Dustin Penner, Justin Williams and Rob Scuderi) and four others that came out on the losing end of the Stanley Cup Finals (Carter, Richards, Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll).
The Devils, on the other hand, have three players that have played and won the Stanley Cup finals, all with the Devils (Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Brodeur). The Devils also have two other players that have reached the Stanley Cup Finals, but ended up losing (Dainius Zubrus, Anton Volchenkov).
Posted May 29, 2012