Popblerd’s stalwart hockey columnists Stephen Mapes and Jay Kumar are back with a look at NHL playoff action, which has the Los Angeles Kings already in the Stanley Cup final. Stephen and Jay chatted last night while watching the third period of game 5 of the Rangers-Devils series.
Jay: This has been a great game. Devils blow it open early, Rangers claw back. So while we watch this pitched battle, the LA Kings are sitting back and relaxing, already set to play in their first Stanley Cup final in 19 years. What did you think of them after they took out the Coyotes in 5?
Stephen: Another nailbiter and I thought maybe PHX was going to make a statement, but the Kings held strong becoming only the fourth team in the new format to make it with only two losses to the Cup final.
I still think they present the best mix of heart and skill of the remaining teams but if you’re superstitious, none of the other three have made it all the way.
Jay: Thoughts on the controversial OT non-call on Dustin Brown, who took out Phoenix d-man Michal Rozsival with a knee-on-knee hit just seconds before the Kings won the series?
Stephen: It was a surprise, but I am not sure intent was there. It’s a shame it has to overshadow the ending but PHX has plenty of other places to lay blame then one call.
Jay: Yeah, I agree. Coyotes captain Shane Doan was upset afterwards at that and other calls in the series, but ultimately the Kings were just the better team. And don’t doubt the NHL bigwigs are breathing a sigh of relief to have big-market LA in the final instead of Phoenix. So who’s going to win this Rangers-Devils series, which will be 3-2 in favor of one of the teams by the time this column is posted?
Stephen: Gosh, I don’t know. Devils take the edge in discipline and skill I think, so my gut goes there. But Rangers have the grit and drive. They have been resilient and chippy enough to keep from losing momentum. But I still go with the Devils, subject to change after tonight if NY wins.
Jay: I fully believe that whoever wins tonight will lose the next game. That’s just the way this series has gone. It was destined to go 7 from the start. Have to say I’m rooting for the Devils because they’re playing more interesting hockey than the Rangers. But I still think the Kings take the Cup no matter who they face.
Stephen: I agree. They just look too solid on all sides and I energetic and goalie Jonathan Quick is coming into his own.
It will be a great series either way, though. And it starts on May 30 (next Wednesday)!
Jay: Whoa, Devils just took the lead with 4:24 left in the third.
Stephen: And Devils score! Still time left though.
Jay: The Kings have impressed me with how deep their roster has proven. They’ve got two proven scoring lines but their third and fourth lines have been contributing offense and provided tough forechecking. In that respect, they remind me of the Bruins last year, right down to the crappy power play.
Stephen: Haha. Too true.
Jay: One question for you: Given the propensity for NHL teams to copy whatever style works in the playoffs, can we expect tough clutch-and-grab defense and plenty of shot blocking next season? Between the Caps and Rangers, we’ve seen that style do pretty well.
Stephen: I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s a theme we saw all post season and teams like my Pens who couldn’t play that way went away fast. For better or worse that’s their trend next season.
Jay: Parise scores into the empty net to make it 5-3 with 31 seconds left. Looks like it’ll be 3-2 Devils going back to NJ…And the Devils win. It would have been a tough loss for them if they lost after having a 3-0 lead.
Stephen: Yeah, good to see them hold on. But based on your theory it will be NY tomorrow. We shall see. And we’ll be back next week to preview they Cup.
Jay: Yep. And I predict a 12-second press conference from Rangers coach John Tortorella tonight. What a jerk.
Stephen: I really do hate that guy. But I love to hate him.
Jay: Keeping that in mind, it’d be good to see him and Kings coach Darryl Sutter screaming at each other in the final. That scene of NJ coach Peter DeBoer and Torts going at it in game 4 was classic.
Stephen: Yeah, it was. It will be on retrospectives for years to come.