Because It’s (Finally) the Cup!
By Miranda Martin
With the Los Angeles Kings and the New Jersey Devils facing each other in the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL fans are prepared for a series of surprises and firsts this postseason.
This is the first time since the 1994 playoff format change that a team seeded sixth or lower is guaranteed to win the Stanley Cup. It is also the first time a division champion team of either conference has not appeared since the new layout. The last time that a team seeded 8th in their conference made it to the Final was the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. More so, an 8th seed has never won a cup, and the lowest seed to win the cup was the New Jersey Devils, who were 5th place in the Eastern Conference, in 1995.
If the Kings win it all, it will be a franchise first for them. The team, which was part of the original 1967 expansion, has yet to win a Stanley Cup in their 45-year history. No Western Conference team that made it to the second round had won a Stanley Cup. The Kings have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals once in 1993. They lost in five games to the Montreal Canadiens. On the other hand, the New Jersey Devils have won three cups in the past seventeen years (1995, 2000, 2003). They made it to the 1994 Eastern Conference finals, yet lost to the soon-to-be champion New York Rangers—the team they just knocked out of the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals four times, only losing to the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.
Although many are surprised by the result of the playoffs so far, it isn’t a fluke. Both of these teams fought hard to get this far, thanks to every component of their playing styles and abilities. Once again, as it has been said for many series, physicality and goaltending will be major components to the Finals. Both teams are also very deep with solid lines throughout their roster, as well, with both rookies and veteran players tallying for each team. One should expect a very long and drawn out series between the two teams, as they have worked hard enough to get here.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Newark, New Jersey, is set for Wednesday, May 30, on NBC. NBC will also show Game 2 on June 2nd; they are scheduled to show games 5, 6, and 7 if necessary. NBC Sports Network will televise games 3 and 4 from Los Angeles. All of the games start at 8 PM EST (7 PM CST).
Statistics and Notes:
New Jersey Devils:
102 points, #6 Eastern Conference Seed (4th, Atlantic Division)
Los Angeles Kings:
95 points, #8 Western Conference Seed (3rd, Pacific Division)
Devils: 12-5-1, Kings 12-2-0
Regular Season Series:
Devils: 2-0-0, Kings 0-1-1
Conn Smythe: In the past 10 years, the Conn Smythe has gone to 3 goaltenders—J.S. Giguere in 2003, Cam Ward in 2006, and Tim Thomas in 2011. This year could surprisingly be no different, as the goaltending is once again the biggest story of this series. The play of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, whose 1.56 GAA and .946 SV% shows just why he is a Vezina Trophy candidate this season. His record is a remarkable 12-2 and is undefeated on the road, while only allowing 22 goals in 406 shots. However, one could see the Conn Smythe go to Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown leads the Kings in goals (7), assists (9), and points (16) this postseason, with his passionate and physical play being a major factor for the Kings long and dominating run. For the Devils, the play of Martin Brodeur must, as always, be mentioned. His name has been engraved on the Jennings Trophy five times, the Vezina Trophy four times, the Stanley Cup three times, and even won the Calder Trophy his rookie year. One thing he has never won is the Conn Smythe, although many thought (and still do) that he should have won the Playoff MVP in 2003. His hall-of-fame goaltending has once again helped the Devils to prevail to their fourth Finals appearance.
American Pride: In lieu of Memorial Day weekend and American pride beginning to show around the country, it’s only poetic that Devils’ captain Zach Parise and Kings’ captain Dustin Brown are both American-born. This guarantees the first hoist of this year’s Stanley Cup will be to an American player on an American team. Parise was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while the Brown was born in Ithaca, New York. This is the first time that an American captain has led their team to a Stanley Cup since Darian Hatcher led the Dallas Stars in 1999, and it is only the second time in NHL history.
On the road: The New Jersey Devils will finally see home ice advantage for the first time this playoff series. This is the second time in the team’s history that this has occurred—the other time was when they won the cup as the #5 seed in 1995. However, this won’t be much of an advantage with a road-dominating Los Angeles team. The Kings have gone undefeated 8-0 on the road the entire playoffs, breaking the NHL record for most road wins. The Devils have won 6 of their 12 games on the road though, and the only losses the Kings have had were on their home ice.
Predators Connection: New Jersey Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky is the only former Nashville Predator making the trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Zidlicky was a member of the Predators from 2004-2008, posting 175 points in 307 games. He became a Predator in 2003 from the New York Rangers as part of a trade involving Predators then-goaltender Mike Dunham.
Predneck Nation Prediction: LA Kings in 6.