The Los Angeles Kings have blown through the Stanley Cup Playoffs, needing just two more games than the minimum necessary to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. By any standard, that's pretty darn impressive.
In mowing down the top three seeds in the West, Darryl Sutter's hearty gang took a similar path. It opened each series with a pair of road victories to take a 2-0 lead. In all three instances, the guys in silver and black never looked back.
With a perfect 8-0 road record, the Kings will try to read from the same script in Newark.
That's why I feel Game 1 is absolutely vital for the Devils.
If Pete Deboer's team is going to knock the Kings off message, they'll need to do it in the opening game. The Devils have to bring a little adversity into the Kings' nearly perfect spring. They need to make them a little uncomfortable. They need to make them chase a series for a change.
NHL.com's expert Stanley Cup Final PicksBy NHL.com Staff
Can the Kings keep up their remarkable postseason run or will the Devils bring home a fourth Cup? See what the experts have to say. READ MORE ›
On the flip side, a series-opening home-ice loss would put the Devils into must-win territory in Game 2. I don't think that's where they want to be, especially against the Kings, who've shown a keen ability to go for the jugular.
If the Devils want to add a fourth Stanley Cup banner to the rafters in Newark, they'd better be at their best in Game 1. More than that, they'd better find a way to win.
On Tuesday, the Express rolled into Cup Final Media Day. Here are a couple of random observations from that event.
Darryl Sutter has impacted a lot of his players since stepping behind the Kings' bench in late December. Captain Dustin Brown believes that Sutter's straight-forward approach has opened a lot of eyes in the dressing room.
"There were games where I thought I didn't play my best," Brown said. "He brought attention to it pretty quickly. That goes a long way, whether you're a younger player or an older player. When you have a guy that's pushing you to be better -- not just you, but everyone -- it goes a long way. He has helped guys look at themselves in the mirror."
Center Jarret Stoll thinks Sutter's willingness to trust the players has made a difference, too.
"Different guys have different roles and he believes each guy is going to do his job," Stoll says. "It says something to a player when a coach has confidence in your ability to do a particular job."
Big Dustin Penner says he's inherited his sense of humor from his parents and extended family.
"It's a genetic thing," says Penner, who looks like he could have been an extra in the History Channel mini-series, "Hatfields and McCoys," with his bushy beard and missing a tooth.
Of course, Penner understands there's more humor in his life when things are going well on the ice -- as they have been during the postseason.
"When I'm playing well, I'm funnier than I really am," he said.
Penner's best line was reserved for a question about goalie Jonathan Quick's decision to pull his hoodie up over his baseball cap for his media-day session.
"He was channeling his inner Emimem," Penner said.
"Last year, Jacques would have me work on simple things for days at a time," Fayne said. "He'd tell me to work on a particular pass for a couple of days, then when he felt I was comfortable with it, he'd move on to something else.
"And, Larry is just so great to work with and be around. There are so many things -- all kinds of little things -- that he's taught me about the game."
In his just his first Stanley Cup Playoffs spring, Fayne has been rock-steady, averaging more than 20 minutes per game, playing to a plus-5 rating.
Clearly, he's been a good pupil.