The finals of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs are now upon us. The HabsWorld contributors have made their final predictions, looked into their crystal balls one last time to predict the last round of the hockey playoff’s future.
NJD vs. LAK
Brian La Rose predicts LAK in 6
Alexander Letourneau predicts LAK in 6
Justin Wright predicts LAK in 6
Mitchell T predicts LAK in 5
Norm Szcyrek predicts LAK in 7
(Brian) The early stages of this series will be an adjustment period. New Jersey will need to adjust to playing a team with an actual offensive style while the Kings just need to adjust to actually playing again, they’ve sat for so long. Neither side has really faced an opponent that roles consistent lines and keeps players fresh which means we’ll likely see a lot of line matching early on. Although Los Angeles has a more prominent big name, both bluelines are pretty similar. They’re mostly comprised of gritty players who aren’t afraid to get engaged physically or drop to block a shot. Offensively I’d give an edge to Los Angeles but not by much.
Up front, depth has been crucial for both squads. If one line isn’t going, the one below it has picked up a good chunk of the slack. Looking at the lineups, I think the Kings are more likely to have that continue here although Ilya Kovalchuk is in his own class when it comes to potential game breakers. In goal, it’s hard not to give LA the advantage here. Both goalies so far have for the most part followed their respective paths from the regular season – Quick has the miniscule numbers and has stolen the momentum where necessary while Brodeur has been shaky at times but good enough to the win in the end which is what matters most. If both trends continue, goaltending will be the key reason why the Kings take this series.
(Alexander) Had anyone told me these would be the teams facing off for the Stanley Cup, I’m not sure what I would’ve said but I’m sure it would’ve been rude. Maybe even insulting. Luckily, no one I’ve spoken to thought these two would be battling for the cup, let alone any of the analyst predictions I had read prior. Yet here we are. The Los Angeles Kings, with a goalie that I didn’t think had enough to get out of the first round and a captain that has stepped up his game to an elite and punishing level have led this team to within four games of absolute victory. This team on a whole has been beyond impressive. You can see they’ve bought into a concept they believe in and have a brick wall to bail them out when they get away from their game plan. Unbeaten on the road through three rounds, having significant rest throughout the playoffs and with considerable depth on the roster, LA is looking good.
New Jersey’s struggles to beat an upstart and surprisingly tough Florida team in the first round put enough in my head to think they were doomed against Philadelphia. And so continued the 15th consecutive year where I have misjudged this franchise. While Martin Brodeur has not been stellar throughout the postseason, he’s been stellar when it counts the most. Save percentages and stats aside, the 40 year-old has been excellent when needed and the Devils respond to it. This is a disciplined hockey team that sticks to a system and gets results from all of its players on a nightly basis. Going into the playoffs pundits said this team had the best four lines in the NHL and we’ve seen it. New Jersey is looking good.
So who looks better? I don’t think one looks better than the other, both these teams are coming into the final looking strong. New Jersey beat LA in both meetings this season but I wouldn’t put too much into that. It’ll be interesting to see what special teams brings to the table, with LA having a horrendous powerplay in the playoffs and New Jersey having a pedestrian penalty kill while LA has an excellent penalty kill and the Devils have had success on the powerplay. I don’t think it’ll decide the final but it will certainly shift momentum for either team during the series. In goal, I’ll go against Brodeur in this one. As mentioned earlier, he’s good when it matters most but brain farts in the Stanley Cup final can kill a team and he’s had a few more than Jonathan Quick has had in these playoffs. Also, the numbers on Quick speak for themselves. He hasn’t just been great when needed, he’s been great throughout. I don’t see LA dropping more than two on the road and I expect Dustin Brown to lead them to a Stanley Cup in six games.
(Justin) I think that these Stanley Cup finals have the makings of a classic. The high flying Kings with their large skilled forwards will give New Jerseys defensive system a challenge. Both teams have the scoring to make the series interesting but it will ultimately come down to Quick vs Brodeur. Quick has back stopped the Kings to a 12-1 record in these playoffs and Marty has his legendary playoff status to call upon. In the end I think Los Angeles will have too much offensive depth for the Devils to handle.
(Mitchell) The Devils versus the Kings. It is a series with little past meaning to either club and one that will not come up in discussion of traditional rivalries. But this unknown variable that the series presents, the new rivalry that will be written not in any way shaped by the past makes the series highly intriguing. Neither team enters the series as favourites, the Kings were the 8th seed in the Western Conference and surprised the 1,2 and then 3 ranked teams in the conference en route to the Stanley Cup Final. All of this with only two losses suffered. Meanwhile the Devils also pulled off their fair share of upsets. After having some difficulty dispatching a team in Florida who many considered to be the weakest team in the playoffs they defeated the heavily favoured Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers had just defeated one of the biggest favourites in the playoffs in their state rivals the Pittsburgh Penguins. Finally, the Devils shocked yet another cup favourite and the 1st seed in the Eastern Conference the New York Rangers. In my past predictions I picked the Devils only once (vs Florida) and the Kings the same number of times (vs Coyotes). Both of these teams made my predictions look foolish on more then one occasion. However, while both teams are evidently talented and have shown plenty of resilience one stands out over the other in my eyes. The Kings, in my opinion, are the better team in almost all aspects. They have one of, if not the best goaltender in the world at the moment in Jonathan Quick. Their defence includes several exciting players including Drew Doughty and after struggling during the regular season their forwards have finally started scoring. The Los Angeles offence, including Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown is both powerful and deep. New Jersey will have a far tougher time dealing with this team then they did a fatigued New York Rangers team that overplayed its star players. This Los Angeles team under Suter values all of its players and plays them far more than the Rangers. Finally, let’s not forget that the Kings are still well rested having played only 14 playoffs games so far. The only case generally brought up against the Kings is that they haven’t had any adversity yet while the Devils have. I don’t consider that a problem as they won’t have any adversity in this series either in my opinion. The Kings will take the Stanley Cup and they will do it in a hurry.
(Norm) Los Angeles has certainly been the kings of the road this playoff. They’ve always been the underdog in each of the first three series, but have managed to defeat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd highest teams in the Western conference. They have been the Cinderella story of the post season and there’s no reason to think they won’t end up wearing that proverbial glass slipper. The Devils have an interesting collection of youth and veterans in their mix, between the players and coaching staff. They’ve also managed to upset some higher ranked teams to get to the fourth round. Both teams have a few Cup winners in their presence. New Jersey has the likes of Martin Brodeur, Petr Sykora, while Los Angeles has Rob Scuderi and Dustin Penner. Special teams have been similar for penalty killing, but Los Angeles has been very poor on the power play while New Jersey has been good. For both teams, their 3rd and 4th lines have been solid contributors in both ends of the ice. In goal, the Kings have had outstanding performances from Jonathan Quick, and New Jersey has had good-to-great work from Brodeur. I am predicting a very close series, with the Kings reigning over the Devils.
Here is an update to the score chart for our predictions from round three, where a correct prediction of the winning team earns one point, and an exact prediction of the series winner earns two points. Here are the results:
Norm 12 points (3 points for correctly NJD in 6, & 1 for LAK)
Alexander 6 points
Brian 9 points (3 points for correctly picking NJD in 6, 1 point for LAK)
Mitchell 8 points (3 points for correctly predicting LAK)