It’s take us two months, but the Stanley Cup Finals are upon us. The Popblerd ice squad of Jay and Stephen have been following through it all, and now it all comes down to this. East vs. West. Quick vs. Brodeur. The Freeway vs. the Turnpike. Who will win? And how many more catchy ways can we describe this match-up! Find out, as we talk predictions, celebrities, and breakdown the Kings and Devils.
Jay: So here we are, two periods into game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and it’s 1-1. We’re going to preview the series, but what are your thoughts on this game so far?
Stephen: Man, for a while the Kings looked like they were going to continue their roll into this one, shutting NJ down early and striking first. But that Kings powerplay continues to be their weakness, and after squandering one and shifting momentum, NJ put a ton of pressure on Quick and got the equalizer.
Jay: Amazing that the Devils are still in this, given they were generating next to no offense for most of the game so far. Both goalies have made some great saves, and both teams have missed great chances. But let’s get back to our finals predictions: what’s your take on this series?
Stephen: I liked the Kings no matter who made it from the East, but admit that NJ is the better challenger: a cool-headed squad with a mix of veterans and new blood. But really, the Kings still look too hot to me, and while I think this one goes for some great hockey, in the end I think Kings hoist the Cup at home in 6 games.
Jay: I too think the Kings take it in 6, but I also think the Devils match up a lot better than the Rangers would have. Let’s break it down by position, starting with goalie. Very compelling storyline here, with three-time Cup champ, all-time wins leader, future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur vs. the white hot Jonathan Quick. Quite the matchup.
Stephen: Indeed, and so far both goalies have made some impressive saves, though Brodeur has had to work more. I think that, experience aside, Quick takes the advantage in sheer youth and litheness, though despite being an “old guy” Brodeur is still as impressive as ever.
Jay: In the first few minutes of the third, the Devils have come out strong. Brodeur has looked good, but he has had the occasional brain cramp, and that first Kings goal was definitely stoppable. Quick has been lights out all through the playoffs, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon. How about the defensive corps? The Kings have the flashier d-men in guys like Drew Doughty, but the Devils’ group has been solid.
Stephen: I think that the Devils D is the unsung heroes of this match-up and actually think they are, if not better, certainly more important to this series, as they’re protecting a slightly weaker target. The Kings D has been expectedly good tonight, but that first goal saw way too much pressure on Quick.
Wow! And what a mess there! Somehow the Kings kept that one out. Parise should have kept his hands to himself.
Jay: Whoa, Parise pushed the puck in with his glove and the ref made the right call in disallowing it.
Stephen: I guess he was hoping no one saw it, but that’s a bad call by him. Killed any chance of a goal.
Jay: The Kings forwards have been impressive, from the top line to the fourth. Darryl Sutter has them forechecking like madmen, dishing out huge hits and creating offensive chances. Then you’ve got offensive threats like Carter, Kopitar and Brown, and the fact that plenty of others have contributed. Meanwhile, Kovalchuk and Parise have led the way for the Devils, but they too have a deep, hard-hitting collection of forwards.
Stephen: The Kings take the edge in physicality and depth, but both teams have more than enough threats on the offensive end. Don’t forget Elias too for NJ. And I have a friend (diehard Pens fan) who thinks Parise looks the closest to pre-concussion Sidney Crosby. But overall, I agree, the Kings just have so many threats. Brown has been all over the place, and Kopitar and Carter are constant threats. For a team that some thought couldn’t produce this post-season this forward squad has proven them wrong
Jay: Parise’s good, but he’s not THAT good.
Special teams are a huge factor in any series, and this is no different. As you mentioned, the Kings’ power play is struggling, but obviously it hasn’t really hurt them. Much like last year’s Cup champs, Boston, who had an absolutely horrendous power play. But the Kings’ penalty kill is thriving, and has even been dangerous on the offensive end. The Devils’ power play strategy is basically “give the puck to Kovalchuk,” but the guy’s pretty amazing when he has a little room to move.
Stephen: Yeah, if there’s one place the Kings could find themselves in trouble, it’s special teams, especially if they can’t capitalize on penalties. But that PK has been able to carry them out of trouble more than a few times. And while it may not be that creative, the “Kovalchuk strategy” has been effective and the Kings want to keep out of the box as much as possible to avoid seeing his fancy stick work. Overall though, I like the Devils special teams overall just a bit more.
Jay: The Kings’ best penalty killer is, of course, Quick. But I’ve been impressed with how well they move the puck out of the defensive zone. Sutter’s really shown me something with the way he turned this team around since he took over as coach in December.
Stephen: Yeah, if he’s not coach of the year after this amazing Kings run, I don’t know what criteria you’re using.
And that whiff by Fayne is going to haunt him. Wide open look at Quick.
Jay: Yeah, I was just going to say if the Devils lose this game, they’re going to regret whiffing on some great chances. Clarkson had two huge chances that went awry in the first.
Stephen: Definitely. They connect on even one of them and this game has an entirely different cadence in these final nine minutes.
And hey, it’s Rex Ryan in the audience! I can’t wait to see all the celebrities at the first Kings game. It’ll be interesting to see if it becomes the “it” sporting event of the summer. And by can’t wait I mean so sarcastically. They’re making tickets impossibly expensive for plebes like me.
Jay: Wow, Brodeur just robbed Doughty and Penner on back-to-back chances.
Stephen: Amazing his presence after 200 playoff games.
A lot of chances there for LA, but even some weird bounces couldn’t break Brodeur and the NJ defense.
Jay: As for Rex Ryan, I’m guessing he was lured to the arena by the promise of fancy footwork. The Kings are finally pushing the play after some dominance by the Devils.
Jay: Yeah, you know NBC is desperate for celebs when they’re showcasing the trainer for I’ll Have Another in the stands.
Stephen: Indeed. 3:40 to go. Are we going to OT, or do you predict a big play before regulation ends?
Jay: Normally, I’d say OT but there’s been a lot of action the last few minutes. These teams aren’t waiting around for OT.
Stephen: I agree. Too much energy on the ice. Someone’s breaking through in the last 2.
Jay: I’m sure the coaches aren’t loving this end to end action, but I sure am. I’ve gotta think this series will be a lot tougher for LA than the last three.
Stephen: No question there. Which is what you want to see in the finals.
Jay: And here we go to overtime. I have no idea who will win this game.
Stephen: No real surprise in this post-season, the year of the OT. Devils have battled back and look just as capable of breaking out as the Kings do at this point
Jay: I’d say other than the first 10 minutes of the game being fairly mundane, the rest of the game has been excellent. Certainly not a mismatch here.
Stephen: Not at all. But since ambivalence is boring, I say Kings take it within the first 5 minutes.
Jay: Who scores it? I’m going to say LA in the late stages of the first OT on a Mike Richards goal.
Stephen: I like Kopitar. He’s been quite for a lot of this game but he has to come out big soon.
Kopitar did in fact score the game winner 8 minutes into overtime, confirming with a sample size of one the psychic prowess of the Cold as Ice team. We’ll be back next Wednesday to discuss the series, midway through its game 4.