Devils/Kings Stanley Cup Finals Preview: Proud to Be An American
Added by Michael DiGiacomo on May 30, 2012.
Zach Parise (L) or Dustin Brown will be the first American born captain to raise the Cup since 1999.
So, not only is John Denver full of you know what, so is Bing Crosby. The most wonderful time of the year starts at 8pm on May 31st when the New Jersey Devils host the Los Angeles Kings for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at The Prudential Center.
Devils fans have been patiently waiting for another chance at Lord Stanley since reaching the finals against the Colorado Avalanche in 2003-2004. For some on the Devils roster, it’ll be their first chance to bring home hardware that they’ve been dreaming of since they first heard tape unraveling off a roll, skates slice the ice, and watch their own heroes of the game lift that 34.5 lb most prized trophy in the sports world. For other Devils skaters, it’ll be a chance to add a 2nd, 3rd, 4th ring to the shelf while one member of the coaching staff, Larry Robinson, will have his name potentially etched for a 10th time.
Martin Brodeur well be playing in his 200th Stanley Cup Playoff game tonight.
“I didn’t know that,” Brodeur said. “I’ve been playing a long time, it’s always nice to compete, especially in this situation. For myself I always approach my game the same way, from Day 1 until now. I want to give my team the best chance to win. I’m probably not gonna steal too many games, but I try not to hurt my team and be there for them when they need me, and go on with what I do. I think it’s working out pretty good, I don’t put extra pressure on me. Especially now – this is fun. I’m really enjoying the moment probably more than in the past because of the situation.”
Marty knows more than anyone that the experience is the experience of playing the game. There’s one constant carrying over in the 4th and final round. Each player knows what’s at stake. Someone’s going home a winner and someone isn’t. Now is the time to put everything you have into every shift you take. Anyone playing the game knows you never know when you’ll have another chance to play for a Stanley Cup. Seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
Every Devils player is healthy on the roster, as are the Kings. Come 8pm tonight, the predictions, the assumptions, and unanswered questions will start to be put to rest.
While Martin Brodeur is clearly the most seasoned guy on the ice, there’s no lack of hunger for any first timers making a cup appearance. Both Dustin Brown and Zach Parise, who are the locomotives of these clubs, have quite a bit of history and know that one of them will be the first American born captain to lift the cup since Derian Hatcher did for Dallas back in 1999.
I see very similar styles of play in both of them. While Brown possesses more of a get under your skin type of game, Parise brings an extremely tough, in your face, never give up forecheck and work ethic. Both players will offer everything they have to give as Brown tries to end his city’s cupless history and Zach tries to make his mark in an already successful franchise and maybe lock up a long term contract in the Garden State come summer of 2012.
“There’s so much that has to be done before you can even start to think about that [raising the cup],” Zach stated. “It’s a great game in the U.S. and that says a lot for American hockey.”
Both Brown and Parise have rich history together and tons or respect for their individual games. Both work hard, both play passionately, and both create plays when they are on the ice. Zach likes to show up early for practice and end late. Players are seeing that and feeding off what he brings to the table. Just as Scott Stevens brought that same intensity and work ethic out of everyone captaining the team to three cups, maybe Parise can do the same for the future of Devils hockey in NJ.
There is a lot of talent on this roster and it’s going to be a fun final to watch. Ilya Kovalchuk will also appear in his first Stanley Cup Final. For a player who’s never made it past a first series win, this has been a dream season for him as well now leading all players in post season points at 18. He knows it doesn’t get any easier going forward.
“They won’t give us anything for free,” Kovalchuk said.
If Kovalchuk can elevate his game even more, it’ll make the Devils that much more dangerous for the Kings.
So what will the Stanley Cup finals get to offer those awaiting for puck drop? You’re going to see two remarkable goaltenders battle it out, physical play from both defensemen and forwards on both benches along with some fast paced hockey to keep you on the edge of your seat. While the Devils come in as underdogs again, here are my 3 keys for the Devils to lock up a 4th title.
1) Defense – The Kings have 18 of 20 players who’ve registered a point or more this post season. While the Devils defense has done a pretty good job through the last 2 rounds preventing pucks from being banged through Brodeur’s pad, they are going to have to be ready to clear out a Kings team that plays in your face and likes to crash the net. They need to be calm and play solid positioning and not give the Kings any chances to beat them to Marty.
2) Goal tending – Everyone knows this will be a huge topic of conversation for the finals, and it already it. Jonathan Quick is probably quickly, see what happened there, running away with the Vezina trophy, and Martin Brodeur is not showing any signs of a 40 year old goaltender. He’s playing better than expected and giving his team a chance to win night in night out against some impressive offensive teams. With Jonathan Quick registering a .946 save % and Brodeur a .923 save %, don’t count on any blow outs, despite teams full of offensive studs.
3) Pressure, pressure, pressure – The Devils know they have to do one thing going forward: play the game that’s made them so successful. The Devils know how to throw a team off their game, but relentless forechecking, puck control in their offensive zone, and help from their defense through the neutral zone and along the blue line. The Devils will face the same challenge with Jonathan Quick as they did Henrik Lundqvist. A goalie that doesn’t make many mistakes at chances he sees all the way. Devils will have to put traffic in front and just keep firing away the puck. They need to be over the top with their pressure on the Kings in their end hopefully crack their confidence coming into the Prudential Center 9-0 on the road this post season. They need production and pressure to come from all 4 lines.
My prediction. Devils win in 7 games.