Here we are. Seven weeks later, and with plenty of playoff memories in the bank, we’ve arrived at the last stop in the quest for hockey’s ultimate prize. Looking back at my own picks tells me it hasn’t been the best year to be a prognosticator, and thankfully, the same can be said for many who have tried to handicap the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings are the eighth seed in the Western Conference.The New Jersey Devils are the sixth seed in the East, so what does this prove? Parity is at its highest point in years, yes, but it shows me the league isn’t just balanced – it’s deep. One of the most impactful groups of players for the Devils has been the fourth line of Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter and Stephen Gionta (brother of former Devils great Brian). Rookie forward Dwight King has been a surprise offensive force for the Kings, who are riding the shoulders of one of the top goaltenders in the business in Jonathan Quick.
These clubs are pretty evenly-matched:
5-ON-5 SCORING RATIO (playoffs):
FACEOFFS WON (playoffs):
Why did I pick these three stats? No, not solely because the teams are most similar in these categories (but it helps). I believe these three aspects of the game will be most important in deciding the outcome of the series. One team will have to score more than the other (great analysis, right?), the Cup final is usually light on penalties (except last year’s was a bit messy), and faceoffs dictate the game. The team that starts with the puck the most often will be able to control the game in the middle of the ice. And if that team is the Kings, they’re in good shape with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, and Jarret Stoll.
MIX’S PICK: Really tough to call here, especially with two goaltenders playing so well and each club getting production from all reaches of its lineup. In the end, I like the Devils to win the Stanley Cup. It’s hard to pick against a guy like Martin Brodeur who has done it thrice before, and whose team makes the most of its high-tempo, pressure forechecking style. I’m going with New Jersey in six games.
Now, let’s hear from a couple of our friends in the #CBJ community!
ALISON LUKAN (@ALISONL): This is a "who should" vs. "who will" argument for me. Logically, if I factor in confidence, goaltending and scoring power, the stats tell me the Kings will win. I'm particularly sensitive to goaltending as a deciding factor and between Quick's performance, the string of wins and the incredible number of shorthanded goals, LA presents itself as a confident and formidable opponent. I also think LA has the slight edge when it comes to offense: their four lines are rolling right now. But the Devils have Brodeur and were able to overcome the Rangers, who were my pick in the East, so....
As someone who is always a fan of intangibles, I think that if New Jersey can "break the spell" by securing 1-2 wins in the first three games, it shakes up the LA attitude, disturbs Quick’s routine and we go the length of the series with potentially New Jersey winning - and this is what I want. If the Patriots can lose at their last two Super Bowls, anything is possible ;)
MATT WAGNER (@BZARCHER): As impressive as the Kings are, I feel like Devils in 6. New Jersey has run into some very good goaltending this postseason (two of the postseason shutout leaders, in fact), yet overcame both talented netminders and defensive schemes to stand at the top of the Eastern Conference heap.
I think this is going to be a competitive series, but the Devils have shown that they know how to win, they're getting clutch play from guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, and they're still offering a strong defensive front of their own. I think they're primed for another Stanley Cup parade in the Garden State.
JEFF LITTLE (@JEFFLITTLE_10MM): Los Angeles in seven. Barely. The Kings will find the going much tougher against New Jersey than in their romp through the West, and the Kovalchuck/Parise/Zajac/Henrique force will stack up well against Richards/Kopitar/Carter/Brown. Quick has a slight edge over Brodeur at this point, so the mobility and offense of Los Angeles’ blue liners will be the difference. However, if the Kings offense goes into hiding, as it often does, the Devils could take this in five.
MARK ERICKSON (@REDDITCBJ):This is actually a pretty tough one for me to call. All evidence points to the Kings rolling over the Devils, but I really don't want to see the Kings to win. While I'm not a fan of the Devils either, I'd love to see Marty get one more just for the storyline. My brain wants me to pick the Devils in seven, but my gut is telling me Kings in six games.
What do you think, #CBJ fans...Devils or Kings? Tweet us @BlueJacketsNHL and join the conversation as the Stanley Cup Final gets under way!
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