Stanley Cup Preview: How the Kings and Devils match up

The Stanley Cup final begins Wednesday night in New Jersey as the sixth seeded Devils take on the eighth seeded Los Angeles Kings for supreme NHL glory. Both teams are very similar, so it would be very surprising if the series went any fewer than six games.

In this edition of Two For Roughing, we’ll take a look at the teams and try to figure out who has an edge by matching up the various aspects of each team.

  •     Goaltending

Tim Kolupanowich: Jonathan Quick has been lights out for the Kings the entire postseason with a .946 save percentage, 1.56 goals-against average and two shutouts while veteran counterpart Martin Brodeur had a few struggles, but was able to shut the door when he absolutely needed to and has a .923 save percentage, 2.04 GAA and one shutout. It’s close between the two, but, while the numbers may point to Quick, I believe that when in doubt go with experience. Who do you think has the edge in goal?

Jeff Blay: It’s definitely a tough battle. You’re right about Brodeur; he’s certainly got the repertoire and knows how to deal under pressure, but Quick has done an exceptional job in that department as well. Quick is younger, more energetic and he and the Kings have everything to prove in the Final after cruising through the earlier rounds. It would be a picture perfect ending to Brodeur’s career to win another Cup, so goaltending will certainly be an interesting storyline to follow throughout the Final.

  •     Defense

JB:The Devils have been used to competing in high-scoring, offensive-first games in most of the series they’ve played thus far, while Los Angeles has faced and eliminated some of the league’s most impressive defensive-minded clubs. Looking up and down each roster, I have to give the defensive edge to the Kings (they also have some of the best defensive forwards in the game) although Jersey has had some great success stories on the backend such as Bryce Salvador, who has really stepped up in the postseason. Who do you think has a stronger d-core?

Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky has been a key factor towards their postseason success after being acquired from the Minnesota Wild. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

TK: Looking at individuals, you have to give an edge to the Kings. Drew Doughty is a budding superstar and Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi are among the most reliable stay-at-home defensemen in the league. They also have solid depth with veteran Matt Greene, Alec Martinez and rookie Slava Voynov. The Devils don’t have any top-end names on their blueline, but rather a collection of capable, veteran defenders. I don’t think there’s a single player in the playoffs who has raised his game from the regular season more then Bryce Salvador and Marek Zidlicky has found a groove in New Jersey after struggling in Minnesota. Behind them, Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne, Peter Harrold and Andy Greene have been steady. If Doughty can play like he did in the Vancouver Olympics, then the edge goes to Los Angeles, but it’s very close right now.

  •     Offense

TK: It’s the forwards that give the Kings a slight edge in my opinion, as you pointed out. Their top skilled players, including Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, are also great two-way players so there is no risk of a defensive breakdown even when their first line is one the ice. That brings us to the forward units themselves. New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk is leading the playoffs in scoring, but Brown and Kopitar are right there, too. Who do you think has an edge?

JB: Another tough one. When it comes to all-around play, I think the Kings have a more balanced roster. Darryl Sutter can essentially play all four lines in both defensive and offensive situations. The Kings forwards are very physical as well – not to take away from guys like David Clarkson on New Jersey, but overall, the Kings have a tougher presence up front. That said, Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique are all very capable scorers and have done an excellent job generating offense throughout the playoffs. Not to mention, essentialy out of nowhere, Jersey’s fourth line of Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter have played excellent hockey throughout the postseason, creating both offense and energy as well as playing sound defensively. In my opinion, the Devils have a bit more flash up front, but the Kings forwards are all capable of playing various roles, which compliments their strong defense.

  • Verdict

On paper and judging from the teams performances in the previous rounds, it seems as if the LA Kings have the slight edge overall. We know the Devils can bring the heat and they seem to come up with some big goals even when being outplayed or pressured, but the Kings just seem like the more dangerous team. One thing is for certain, we shouldn’t expect this series to be as high-scoring as the Devils have been used to. That said, it really could go either way and it will certainly be a close battle between the two Cup contenders. Six or seven games seems like the most likely outcome for this series.

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