DevilsSeed: 6 • 48-28-6 • 102 Pts.
KingsSeed: 8 • 40-27-15 • 95 Pts.
|In two weeks or less, the National Hockey League will have an unexpected Stanley Cup champion.
When the toughest tournament in sports started almost two months ago, nobody expected the new Jersey Devils or Los Angeles Kings to reach the Final.
New Jersey, seeded sixth in the East, was in a draw with Boston, the defending champions; the top-seeded New York Rangers; and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, two of the game's hottest teams heading into the postseason. None of those teams are left in the East, though, with New Jersey ushering the Flyers and Rangers out of the playoffs. In the first round, New Jersey outlasted the third-seeded Florida Panthers, winning in double overtime in Game 7.
The Devils are in their fifth Final since 1995 and will be looking for their fourth championship and first since 2003.
The march of the Kings, in the Final for the first time since 1993, has been even more unexpected and, perhaps, more impressive. Los Angeles did not secure its postseason spot until the penultimate day of the season and lost its final two games to fall to the No. 8 seed. No matter, the Kings marched through the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks, the second-seeded St. Louis Blues and the third-seeded Phoenix Coyotes -- amazingly losing just twice during their perilous journey. They are a perfect 8-0 on the road this postseason, and dating back to last year's playoffs, have won 10 straight road playoff games.
Now, one of these teams will continue its incredible journey to the Stanley Cup. The other, sadly, will see its magical quest fall just short.
There is little to be gleaned from the regular season as to which team will prevail. The clubs met twice in October and New Jersey won both games, 3-0 shootout and 2-1 in a shootout. The 3-0 game featured backup goalies Johan Hedberg and Jonathan Bernier -- 3-0.