©MMXII Tank Productions. Predictions Made by Frank Fleming on May 29, 2012 at 12:30 am ET
Devils in 6
When the Stanley Cup Playoffs began both the New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings were off the radar, as teams like the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues were favorites in the West, while the deeper East had teams like the reigning champion Boston Bruins, first place New York Rangers, and the red hot Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers all considered to be worth title contenders. However, as we head into June all of those teams are playing golf as the Devils and Kings meet to see who will hold hockey's most prestigious trophy.
The Kings come in as the ultimate Cinderella on a miracle run as they barely made the playoffs after a season of underachieving with one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL. As the eighth seed the Kings have run through the top three teams in the West like a chainsaw through a forest, losing just two games in the first three rounds, each after being up 3-0. The Kings have been masters of the road, winning eight straight. The Kings have hardly seen the Staples Center, posting a modest 4-2 record at home. The Kings goal scoring woes have yet to show in the playoffs, while their defense led by Goalie Jonathan Quick has been especially stingy; with Quick have a staggering 1.54 GAA in the playoffs.
The Devils at the start of the season were thought to be passed their prime, with Goalie Martin Brodeur approaching 40 they were coming off a terrible season where they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. However, under new Coach Peter DeBoer the Devils had an excellent rebound season, posting 100 points. As the playoffs began they did get a break as they faced the Florida Panthers in the first round. However, the Panthers would prove to be the Devils toughest foe in the first three rounds, as the Devils won two elimination games in overtime. The Devils than went on to dispatch their two biggest rivals the Flyers and the Rangers, seeming to get stronger as each round advanced thanks to a balanced scoring and a terrific forecheck.
While the Kings are seeking their first ever sip from the Stanley Cup, the Devils are seeking their fourth and a possible swan song to the legendary Goalie Martin Brodeur. This Devils team is different than their past championship squads, while still a very capable goalie, Martin Brodeur at the age of 40 is not quite what he used to be, though Marty at 40 is still better than most goalies in the NHL. Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick is not an ordinary goaltender he is a Vezina Finalist for the first time this season and likely will be a Vezina contender for many seasons to come, as the 25 year old will likely get even better over the next few years. The Kings have an overall better defense with Drew Doughty leading the way off a strong Conference Finals. However, with Bryce Salvador leading the way the Devils have gotten a solid defensive effort all around. The Kings offensive attack is led by Captain Dustin Brown, while the Devils have gotten strong offensive games from several players including Captain Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. However, it has been the performances of players like Rookie Henrique, Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias. These Devils unlike the trapping Devils of the past are dangerous on offense with a pressure forecheck that wore down the Flyers and Rangers. If they are able to continue their strong play on the forecheck the Devils will be nearly impossible to beat.
The secret weapon for the Devils is their fourth line with Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter each providing a spark throughout the playoffs for the Devils. It is for this reason and their forecheck that the Devils will win the series in six games. It is impossible for a team not to face adversity in the playoffs, and the Kings have not been challenged so far. While the Kings are 8-0 on the road, the Devils won six games so far away from the Rock themselves. The Devils also have a strong home ice winning six at home as well. The Devils have also faced a tougher road and for this reason they are more battle tested to win the Cup in six games.
Whether or not the Kings win the Stanley Cup, Jonathan Quick for his play in the first three rounds may still take home the Conn Smyth, while the Devils can see Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and maybe even Martin Brodeur winning it for sentimental reasons.